Andra Day became the first Black woman to win the Best Actress Golden Globe in 35 years for her victorious depiction of Billie Holiday in The United States versus Billie Holiday.
Day astonished pundits and crowds the same in her first significant film role and secured the award Sunday night. In her acknowledgment speech by means of video link, she said she was “in the presence of giants” when referring to her fellow nominees, including veteran actress Viola Davis, who was nominated for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.
Likewise nominated were Vanessa Kirby for Pieces of a Woman, Frances McDormand for Nomadland and Carey Mulligan for Promising Young Woman.
In her acceptance speech, Day sorrowfully said thanks to “the amazing, transformative, dynamic Billie Holiday, who just transformed me with this role and with her presence and with her spirit.” The singer was surrounded by loved ones, who were all noticeably moved.
Davis’ co-star, the late Chadwick Boseman, won the Best Actor prize for his final performance in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. His and Day’s successes mark the first time in Golden Globes history that both the Best Actor and Best Actress winners were African American.
Fans took to Twitter to observe Day’s triumph, including Leslie Odom, Jr., who essentially tweeted her name followed by six exclamation points.
The last Black woman to win the Best Actress award at the Golden Globes was Whoopi Goldberg for The Color Purple in 1986. Halle Berry was nominated for in 2002 for Monster’s Ball and lost, yet then proceeded to win the Academy Award.
Diana Ross was nominated in 1972 for her depiction of Holiday in Lady Sings the Blues, which was additionally her film debut.
The Hollywood Foreign Press Association, whose individuals select champs for the Golden Globes, was recently outed as having no Black individuals. Truth be told, the association hasn’t had a Black member since 2002. Recently, the HFPA reported it was “fully committed” to differentiating its membership.
The United States versus Billie Holiday — which was directed by Lee Daniels and composed by Suzan-Lori Parks — dramatizes the final years of Holiday’s life when she was mistreated by the government for declining to stop singing “Strange Fruit.” That 1939 recording, with its haunting lyrical descriptions of Black American lynching victims, has been known as the clarion call that launched the modern civil rights movement.