When asked, “What are your highlights on your road to this first Oscar?” Andra Day replied, “All of it.” She then laughed and reflected. “Yes really all of it. Being able to sit and be in this moment. Meeting these people. For me it’s amazing. I have experienced nothing but support from everyone I’ve encountered. Seeing women in these spaces where we’ve traditionally been given this idea that there is limited space for us, limited support for us, this experience has totally broken down that idea that needed to be broken down. I’ve received kindness and support from everyone. Support from Viola (Davis) (Davis is nominated for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom). This is the First time two Black women have been nominated since Diana Ross and Cicely Tyson and I appreciate that the significance of that. It doesn’t feel like this experience is a competition it feels like collaboration and I genuinely appreciate the social shift that it feels like is taking place.”
The question we posed to Andra Day, “What was the mental preparational stages like when portraying Billie Holiday?” she answered honestly and without fear, “THIS was NOT EASY!” then she took a deep breath and laughed. Andra, a newcomer to the big screen, let it be known that there were challenges attached to this role and we at Black With No Chaser deeply appreciated the sincerity of her response. Representing a legend can not be easy and we can assume that the pressure from so many different generations watching the film was more than heavy. For that role alone, we hold the deepest respect for Andra. She did this one for the culture.
First known from the music scene, Andra Day has truly lived up to her 2015 hit single, “Rise Up,” by snagging the Best Actress in a Motion Picture (Drama) while awaiting the Best Actress title for the Academy Awards for her role in The United States Vs. Billie Holiday. From “Rise Up” to “Strange Fruit” Andra was molded for this role for some time. What do I mean by molded? If you’re familiar with lyrics in “Rise Up” you’ll understand how necessary the song is for the culture and to be exposed to particular lyrics in the same way as “Strange Fruit.” They both serve as wonderful conversation pieces that lead to necessary conversations. Going from wonderful to necessary is a steep step that isn’t easy to take but can not be ignored.
Even today, Strange Fruit has indeed been falling from the trees, in the streets, throughout the country nonstop. Persecuted for singing the song decades ago, Holiday’s classic still rings true. Match the songs energy and relevance with assuming the role of Billie Holiday, and Andra pulled off a legendary role, effortlessly. We felt her through the screen, through her songs and through her relationships. To relive the life of Billie takes a particular skill and even for Andra to be considered a newbie, her skills obviously impressed committees for awards. We are still in awe. Andra morphed and gave life to Billie Holiday.
To be consistently harassed, while traveling over a nation, trying to do a job to sustain a lifestyle that is almost impossible for any person of color to obtain and fighting demons of the past, Billie made sure she never let the lyrics of “Strange Fruit” be forgotten and Andra made sure the feeling of it all stuck. It’s stuck then and it’s stuck now.
As previously announced this week, our flagship show The Black Lunch Break has received access granted into this years Oscars. This news happened after we received the opportunity to attend a live conversation presented by Disney. Although this opportunity happens to be virtual, next year, we will be on the red carpet breaking bread The Black Lunch Break style. We are wishing all nominees the best of luck but we keep things Black With No Chaser around here and ummmm we’re rooting for everybody black. Work to Issa Rae 😉.
As we await the Oscars, we want to thank Disney for allowing BWNC to sit in on the phenomenal conversation. The room was filled with so many talented individuals. It was an honor to witness discussions between diverse people from different walks of life merging to create some of the best films of the year! These pieces of art are not only classic but an easy second, third and fourth watch.
Tune in to the Oscars on April 25th to see who takes home how many awards! We will see you there!