In her latest interview, Grammy-nominated singer and Golden Globe-winning actress Andra Day said that playing Bille Holiday in Hulu’s recently released biopic about the jazz icon helped her deal with the porn and sex addictions she faced in her personal life.
As Instyle’s latest cover girl, Day openly and honestly told the publication that she didn’t want her portrayal of Holiday in The United States vs. Billie Holiday to be one in which the icon and anti-lynching activist was hypersexualized. According to Day, it seemed like a necessary approach to the role since Holiday had been so objectified in the male-dominated jazz industry in which she carved out a space for her voice. On an even deeper and more personal note, Day also shared that since she was coming out of her addictions to porn and sex during that time in her life, she didn’t want “sexualization” to do a disservice to either her or Holiday and the strong femininity each of them hold.
“I didn’t want any element of sexualization,” Day said about playing Holiday. “I had come out of something in my own life — dealing with porn addiction, sex addiction. 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.”
“I feel now, after playing Billie,” she continued later, “that I’m honoring her, and the strength that is femininity. 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.”
Overall, we know that becoming Holiday was a whirlwind transformation for Day. In addition to losing 40 pounds, she also took up smoking as a way to become more in tune with the role. As she spoke with Instyle, Day noted that in the aftermath of portraying Holiday she feels like releasing the jazz artist from herself has been an “exorcism” or “a divorce.”
“I’ve had people ask me, ‘Do you feel prettier now that you’ve lost weight?'” she said later in the piece. Noting that she loved her body before the weight loss — but understood the importance of valuing all forms, shapes, and sizes of beauty, she continued, “I was like, ‘Hell, no! I liked being juicy! I was cool. 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.”
Speaking on that more — regarding whether she feels beautiful now in the place, space, and body she’s in, Day attributed the role as what helped her see the value in herself she claims she never did before. She answered, “I definitely do. And it has to do with Billie. 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 valuing myself in a way that I hadn’t fully before.”