Black History Month: RADIO.COM LIVE Check In with Andra Day

Check out our talk with 'The United States vs. Billie Holiday' star

February 19, 2021

February is Black History Month and we’ll be celebrating all month long by speaking with activists, politicians, historians, musicians, athletes, and more to highlight the history and contributions Black individuals have made to the culture and this country.

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Fresh off her Golden Globe nominations and just a week before her debut as Billie Holiday in Lee Daniels’ The United States vs. Billie Holiday, Andra Day sat down with RADIO.COM’s Big Tigger to fill us in on what we can expect from the upcoming biopic, as well as highlighting the work that went into the movie’s soundtrack and original song, “Tigress & Tweed.”

Day has been nominated at the Golden Globes for both “Best Original Song” and “Best Actress in a Drama Motion Picture.” “It’s hard to really put it into words,” says Day as she tells us how it feels to be nominated in both these categories.
She continues, “The only way I can describe it is that God is great… it feels amazing.”

Andra reveals that initially, she didn’t want to take on the role because it was “terrifying” to step into such big shoes to portray on screen. Plus, she says, “I’m not an actress.” This is Day’s first role on the silver screen.

However, now the artist feels that the support she received from her cast and from Daniel is “just a blessing. I feel like I just get to share and enjoy… and indulge in them and in Billie Holiday.”

As a true fan of Holiday, the “Rise Up” singer is thrilled to show the world the real story behind the prolific and trail-blazing jazz singer. Andra tells us that what ultimately lead her to take on the role, “was meeting with Lee and actually seeing he was committed to authenticity, to telling Billie’s story, and that she would be vindicated because Billie Holiday is truly the godmother of Civil Rights, and that’s what the world doesn’t know and they were never supposed to know.”

Not only is Andra portraying Lady Day in her debut film role, but the singer also just performed at the Biden-Harris Presidential inauguration in January. “It was amazing, that moment was incredible. The incorporation of Kaitlyn Saunders…what she did was so simple,” says Day. The singer adds, “She was just being herself in the Black Lives Matter plaza right, but it just gave us so much hope for the future… you know it just felt like to see Black Lives Matter on such a grand stage like that, not in just the protest form, but also in… sort of this genesis of this new place of healing.”

In midst of Black History Month, in a year where the first Black and South Asian woman was elected Vice President, while also shooting a film about Billie Holiday, Andra says, “it feels exactly how you would imagine… good and Black! It feels incredible, and you know like I said it’s something about being seen, you know what I mean?” asks Day. “It’s something about being seen and it’s something about being heard, and telling Billie Holiday’s story. You know I think people are just starting to see. We’ve known that this has happened, even though there are stories, even within our own community that we didn’t know the full truth about, we just know that our narratives are constantly suppressed, or they’re lied about, or just re-told incorrectly intentionally… to continue this sort of system of oppression right, that’s the sort of subtly of it.”

Andra explains that playing Billie in The United States vs. Billie Holiday means “our story is coming to light… and being told in the full colors of who these humans are, and who Billie Holiday was. It’s a blessing and it’s about time because….
it’s harder to hate people if you know the depth of their struggle and the breadth of their contribution.”

“When we learn that Billie Holiday was fighting to stop lynching in America, that she reinvigorated the Civil Rights movement as we know it, that three black women in Hidden Figures were responsible for getting us to space and programming the first computer…. once you really know the contribution of people of color, of Black people, of marginalized community, it’s hard to just say ‘oh this is my country,’ well you wouldn’t have a country, as you know it, without us,” Andra elaborates.

“I love celebrating Black History Month,” declares Day. The artist continues, “but I tell people all the time ‘it’s just history… I really look at it as there’s no American history without Black history. I’m glad we’re celebrating it, but don’t compartmentalize it into its own thing. We are history.”

The United States vs. Billie Holiday arrives February 26 on Hulu. The film's soundtrack is out everywhere now.

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