Andra Day lost nearly 40 lbs to get into character as Billie Holiday for Hulu biopic

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Andra Day lost nearly 40 lbs to get into character as Billie Holiday for Hulu biopic

Andra Day is already earning buzz for her upcoming feature debut in The United States vs Billie Holiday.And the two-time Grammy nominee went to gre

Andra Day delivers haunting performance as an icon in The United States vs Billie Holiday trailer
Andra Day channels Billie Holiday as she graces the cover of the upcoming spring issue of V Magazine
Hulu acquires Lee Daniels biopic The United States vs. Billie Holiday starring Andra Day


Andra Day is already earning buzz for her upcoming feature debut in The United States vs Billie Holiday.

And the two-time Grammy nominee went to great lengths to make her first leading performance a great one.

She lost nearly 40 pounds to get into character as Billie Holiday for the Lee Daniels-directed Hulu biopic, detailing her process to Leslie Odom Jr during Variety’s Actors on Actors.

Physically daunting: Andra Day 'abused' her body and lost nearly 40 pounds to get into character as Billie Holiday for the Lee Daniels-directed Hulu biopic The United States vs Billie Holiday

Physically daunting: Andra Day ‘abused’ her body and lost nearly 40 pounds to get into character as Billie Holiday for the Lee Daniels-directed Hulu biopic The United States vs Billie Holiday

The 36-year-old said: ‘I basically abused my body for a long time. I’m joking and not really joking. I got the role at the very top of 2018. Reading everything I could get my hands on. Listening to every interview. 

‘Apparently, I exhausted the internet of Billie Holiday photos. Apparently, the internet will tell you that you’ve reached the end.’

She added: ‘I put my family through it; I put myself through it. I went from 163 pounds to 124 pounds. I would talk like her and I don’t drink or smoke, but I started smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol. 

‘Not that I recommend people do this; I just was desperate because this is my first role. I just asked God to give me all of the pain and trauma. I asked him to give me her pain and give me her trauma.’

Abusing her body: The 36-year-old said: 'I basically abused my body for a long time. I'm joking and not really joking. I got the role at the very top of 2018. Reading everything I could get my hands on. Listening to every interview' (pictured in November, 2020)

Abusing her body: The 36-year-old said: ‘I basically abused my body for a long time. I’m joking and not really joking. I got the role at the very top of 2018. Reading everything I could get my hands on. Listening to every interview’ (pictured in November, 2020)

Cigarettes and alcohol: She added: 'I put my family through it; I put myself through it. I went from 163 pounds to 124 pounds. I would talk like her and I don't drink or smoke, but I started smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol' (pictured in February, 2019)

Cigarettes and alcohol: She added: ‘I put my family through it; I put myself through it. I went from 163 pounds to 124 pounds. I would talk like her and I don’t drink or smoke, but I started smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol’ (pictured in February, 2019)

Famous voice: Day also detailed why it was important for her to change her voice in order to sing as the iconic jazz songstress: 'There's victory and there is pain in her voice. So to me it was just like we've got to get it, we have to get it, you know what I mean?' (pictured in January, 2021)

Famous voice: Day also detailed why it was important for her to change her voice in order to sing as the iconic jazz songstress: ‘There’s victory and there is pain in her voice. So to me it was just like we’ve got to get it, we have to get it, you know what I mean?’ (pictured in January, 2021)

Day also detailed why it was important for her to change her voice in order to sing as the iconic jazz songstress.

She said: ‘That was an early decision that we made right away to do the singing. Every time I would sing a song I’d go, OK, Lee’s going to hear this and he’s going to fire me. But I wouldn’t have done it if they’d been, “Do it in your voice.” 

‘That for me would have probably been a no. There’s victory and there is pain in her voice. So to me it was just like we’ve got to get it, we have to get it, you know what I mean? It’ll have to be my interpretation of it, but it has to be there.’     

The Cheers to the Fall artist offers a haunting performance as she embodies Holiday in the first trailer for for The United States vs Billie Holiday, which premiered earlier this month.

Haunting performance: The Cheers to the Fall artist offers a haunting performance as she embodies Holiday in the first trailer for for The United States vs Billie Holiday, which premiered earlier this month

Haunting performance: The Cheers to the Fall artist offers a haunting performance as she embodies Holiday in the first trailer for for The United States vs Billie Holiday, which premiered earlier this month 

Civil Rights icon: She stars as the titular music and Civil Rights icon in the untold story of her 1939 song Strange Fruit, which protested the lynchings of Black Americans, making her a target of the FBI

Civil Rights icon: She stars as the titular music and Civil Rights icon in the untold story of her 1939 song Strange Fruit, which protested the lynchings of Black Americans, making her a target of the FBI 

Star-studded cast: Day stars alongside Trevante Rhodes, Garrett Hedlund and Natasha Lyonne in the film, which premieres February 26 on the streaming platform

Star-studded cast: Day stars alongside Trevante Rhodes, Garrett Hedlund and Natasha Lyonne in the film, which premieres February 26 on the streaming platform 

She stars as the titular music and Civil Rights icon in the untold story of her 1939 song Strange Fruit, which protested the lynchings of Black Americans, making her a target of the FBI.

Day stars alongside Trevante Rhodes, Garrett Hedlund and Natasha Lyonne in the film, which premieres February 26 on the streaming platform.

Although the long overdue story is a tragic one to behold, Day’s performance is sure to captivate audiences and honor Billie Holiday like few can. 

Day recently joined director Lee Daniels for her V Magazine cover interview, in which she revealed why she took the role: ‘The truth of it all actually mattered to me. Because, as Lee knows, and we’ve laughed about this a bunch of times—at first I was terrified. I was hesitant, and I was like, “I don’t know if this is a good idea.” 

She also credited Diana Ross’ performance as Billie in the 1972 biopic: ‘Also, I loved Lady Sings the Blues. I love Diana’s performance. So it was actually part of the reason I did not want to do this. She killed the role. It’s beautiful what she did. 

Cover girl: Day recently joined director Lee Daniels for her V Magazine cover interview, in which she revealed why she took the role: 'The truth of it all actually mattered to me'

Cover girl: Day recently joined director Lee Daniels for her V Magazine cover interview, in which she revealed why she took the role: ‘The truth of it all actually mattered to me’

Iconic role: She also credited Diana Ross' performance as Billie in the 1972 biopic: 'Also, I loved Lady Sings the Blues. I love Diana's performance. So it was actually part of the reason I did not want to do this. She killed the role. It's beautiful what she did'

Iconic role: She also credited Diana Ross’ performance as Billie in the 1972 biopic: ‘Also, I loved Lady Sings the Blues. I love Diana’s performance. So it was actually part of the reason I did not want to do this. She killed the role. It’s beautiful what she did’

Perfect tribute: Although the long overdue story is a tragic one to behold, Day's performance is sure to captivate audiences and honor Billie Holiday like few can

Perfect tribute: Although the long overdue story is a tragic one to behold, Day’s performance is sure to captivate audiences and honor Billie Holiday like few can

‘But Lee, I remember we sat down and had dinner at Soho House, and the first thing I really liked was actually your energy. We bonded over good stuff and bonded over the bad. It was your character and your need for authenticity that I really enjoyed.’

Meanwhile, Daniels admitted that he initially didn’t want her for the role: ‘My managers, people who work with me, they were like, “[Andra] is who you have to hire.” And I was like, “F*** y’all.” I was like, “Poor girl, she doesn’t stand a chance.” 

‘But then we met and when I first looked at her, I saw her spirit. I got chills. She wasn’t a desperate actress that just wanted to do it. I could tell she was questioning whether she was good enough. To me, that is when you know that you are really dealing with a perfectionist. She wanted to do the role justice. That’s all you’re looking for as a director.’

Catch Andra Day in The United States vs Billie Holiday, which premieres February 26 on Hulu.

Coming soon: Catch Andra Day in The United States vs Billie Holiday, which premieres February 26 on Hulu

Coming soon: Catch Andra Day in The United States vs Billie Holiday, which premieres February 26 on Hulu

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