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Listen to the newly minted Golden Globe winner in an in-depth conversation about her brilliant, wrenching performance

By David Canfield
March 01, 2021 at 03:34 PM EST
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In her first starring role, the Grammy-nominated artist ("Rise Up") has wowed as the musical icon, earning superb reviews across the board out of Hulu's Friday release of The United States vs. Billie Holiday. As directed by Lee Daniels, the biopic reframes Holiday's legacy and confronts the conspiracies to stop her from singing her bracing song, "Strange Fruit." Day rises to the challenge. On Sunday night, she won, in something of an upset, the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Motion Picture — Drama, cementing her standing as a major force in this year's Oscar race.

THE UNITED STATES VS. BILLIE HOLIDAY
Credit: Takashi Seida/Paramount Pictures

What great timing, then, for Day to join EW's Awardist for an in-depth conversation on the role and how it changed her. (Note: The interview took place prior to Sunday's awards show.) Particularly, Day gets into how the look of Lady Day helped her to find the soul of the character. The actress viewed Holiday's glamorous looks as defiance, starting with her diamond jewelry. "At that time, it was [considered] offensive…for her to be a Black woman wearing [all that]," she says. "A part of that was almost like armor: She should be free to wear what she wants, if she can afford it or [designers] want to give it to her."

The stunning gowns that costume designer Paolo Nieddu had constructed at the Prada Atelier (made possible in part due to Daniels' relationship with Prada) felt important for Day to wear with pride — "Her fashion was very much a part of her activism," she says — but there was joy in it, too: "Part of it was just fun." And when it came to performance scenes, Holiday's iconic flower sealed the deal. "As the flower went on, that was like the cake," Day says with a laugh. "I felt like myself and very much like her. So it felt like home a bit, but a crazier home."

Watch the interview at the top of this post, or listen to it in our podcast link below. The United States vs. Billie Holiday is currently streaming on Hulu.

Check out more from EW's The Awardist, featuring exclusive interviews, analysis, and our podcast diving into all the highlights from the year's best films.

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