Home ♃ Recent Stories ☄ Andra Day Becomes First Black Best Actress Winner in 35 Years

Andra Day Becomes First Black Best Actress Winner in 35 Years

Andra Day (c) reacts after being named winner of the Best Actress - Motion Picture Drama award for ‘The United States vs. Billie Holiday’ via video by Joaquin Phoenix onstage at the 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards held at The Beverly Hilton and broadcast on February 28, 2021 in Beverly Hills, California. (Christopher Polk/NBC/Getty Images)
By Jackie Strause
Holly Wood Reporter

Andra Day won the Golden Globe best actress in a drama trophy for her performance in Hulu’s The United States vs. Billie Holiday, becoming the second-ever Black actress to win the category and the first to do so in 35 years.

While virtually accepting the award during Sunday’s ceremony, an overwhelmed Day noted of her fellow nominees that she was “in the presence of giants” as she thanked those involved with Lee Daniels’ bio-drama about the immortal jazz singer for being “so engaged in the story.”

Andra Day, wearing CHANEL & CHANEL Fine Jewelry, gets ready for the Golden Globe Awards 2021 at The West Hollywood EDITION on February 28, 2021 in West Hollywood, California. (Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images)

She then thanked the “transformative, dynamic Billie Holiday, who just transformed me with this role and with her presence and with her spirit.”

In the press room following her win, Day noted the significance of the awards accolade. “The thing I take from Billie more than anything is the strength of a black woman,” she said. “To know that the last person who won this award was Whoopi Goldberg in The Color Purple is so not representative of how many black women’s stories have been told sensationally and need to be told by the amazing talented actresses who do this.”

She continued, “On set, they’d say, ‘Don’t worry, you’ll never have to go through this again. There’s not that many meaty roles for black women.’ And I go, ‘Who the hell else has meatier roles and meatier stories than black women?’ So I take that strength with me. This woman shouldered all of this all on her own. She is the godmother of civil rights and I take that strength with me.”

Day beat out fellow nominees Viola Davis (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom), Vanessa Kirby (Pieces of a Woman)Frances McDormand (Nomadland) and Carey Mulligan (Promising Young Woman). Going into the night, Mulligan was the frontrunner, as was noted in The Hollywood Reporter‘s predictions.

Day is a first-time Globes winner. She was also nominated for best original song with Raphael Saadiq for “Tigress & Tweed” from the film, which is now streaming.

Her win marks the category’s first Black winner since Whoopi Goldberg, who became the first Black actress to do so in 1986. Halle Berry famously lost the category for Monster’s Ball but went on to win the Oscar in 2002. And Angela Bassett, who was a presenter on Sunday, was the last Black actress to win best actress in a comedy or musical, in 1994.

Sunday’s Globes aired amid renewed backlash about the lack of diversity among the voting body behind the awards show, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. The group of Hollywood-based journalists for foreign media outlets does not count one Black voter among them, as was reported one week ahead of this year’s show in the Los Angeles Times.

Leading up to the show, several stars joined the Time’s Up organization in their #TimesUpGlobes protest campaign, highlighting the zero Black HFPA members among the 87 total. The report also detailed unethical practices from the awards body. On Thursday, the HFPA had vowed to do better, acknowledging in a statement: “We understand that we need to bring in Black members, as well as members from other underrepresented backgrounds, and we will immediately work to implement an action plan to achieve these goals as soon as possible.”

The group briefly acknowledged the backlash from the Globes stage on Sunday after being mocked by co-hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler to open the show. The returning duo led the mostly virtual ceremony from opposite coasts to a small, socially distanced audience that comprised health care and other frontline workers.

The 78th annual Golden Globe Awards ceremony is produced by Dick Clark Productions, a division of MRC, which is a co-owner of The Hollywood Reporter through a joint venture with Penske Media titled P-MRC.