Andra Day entered a "different world" when she embodied the spirit of Billie Holiday for her acting debut in The United States vs. Billie Holiday — a role that earned her recognition at both the Oscars and Golden Globes. But after stepping away from filming and going through "a divorce" of sorts from her on-screen identity, the singer-turned-actress told InStyle that she got much more from her portrayal of Holiday than some industry nods, including a new understanding of femininity that she had struggled with herself.
"I didn't want any element of sexualization. I had come out of something in my own life — dealing with porn addiction, sex addiction," Day told the publication. "I'm being very, very candid with you because I'm not the only one. But I knew I wanted all of that very much gone."
Holiday herself was objectified and hypersexualized during her time. However, Day's personal experience aided in her decision to focus less on that and more on the music, which ultimately helped to heal the actor as well.
"I feel now, after playing Billie, that I'm honoring her, and the strength that is femininity," Day said. "I'm definitely in a healthier place to enjoy that because I'm outside of the addiction, if you will. So, yeah, it's been really fun, because it's been very new for me."
Day also had to redefine the way that she thought about herself and her own beauty, especially after undergoing a physical transformation that included a 40-pound weight loss for the role. "I've had people ask me, 'Do you feel prettier now that you've lost weight?' I was like, 'Hell, no! I liked being juicy! I was cool,'" she said. "But I do like the way [the weight loss] feels on my body, I like the way it feels on my joints. You do notice a difference. Besides, to me, there is no such thing as a classic beauty. Beauty takes on so many different forms, in different times and depending on the nation. It's just about being confident, loving yourself, and understanding your value."
In fact, embracing a different version of herself while also reimagining the life of Holiday allowed Day to think about her beauty as a Black woman in a new way. "It has to do with Billie," she said of her newfound confidence and self-love. "It was almost like she said, 'Sis, we're going to have to close this, because I have to survive.' She opened me up to valu myself in a way that I hadn't fully before."
As for how Day wants to move forward in her acting career, she shared that it's "a season for beautiful Black girl love and unity" that she's happy to be a part of. "Somebody was trying to tell me the other day, 'Just make sure you don't get typecast, because you don't want to always be playing the powerful Black woman,'" she continued. "I was like, 'Yeah, I do. I also am one.'"
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