Andra Day Warns Fans Not to Treat Their Bodies the Way She Did to Play Billie Holiday

Being a celebrity in Hollywood is not always about the glitz and glamour. Sometimes a demanding role requires an actor to undergo a physical transformation. Emmy-nominated singer/actor Andra Day did just that for her portrayal of the legendary jazz singer Billie Holiday in the Hulu biopic The United States vs. Billie Holiday.

The 36-year-old performer received the Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture, but the physical demands playing Holiday had on her body were tremendous.

Later, she advised fans to take better care of their bodies and warned them not to follow in her footsteps.

Billie Holiday actor Andra Day wearing a red dress and singing into a microphone.
Andra Day (Photo by Denise Truscello/Getty Images for RMG)

Andra Day transformed her physical appearance to play Billie Holiday

The iconic role took a toll not only on the actor’s appearance but on her health as well.

In an interview with People, the “Rise Up” singer discussed how she started drinking gin and smoking cigarettes while preparing for the role. Day explained how she operated on pure adrenaline for about four months, often going without sleep for days while working on the project.

The “Phone Dies” singer revealed to PBS NewsHour that she took up smoking and drinking “so she could sound as close to Holiday’s signature voice as possible.” Day said, “I don’t recommend it to everybody, but it did help me just for this project.”

To resemble Holiday’s physique, Day also reportedly lost 39 pounds to appear thin and distraught. Since Holiday struggled with drug addiction, producers did not want Day to look muscular and fit.

Day does not suggest following her weight loss regime 

Day told SHAPE magazine she needed to look like a jazz singer from the 1940s whose body was “ravaged by drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, staying out late, and not taking care.” The goal was for her character to look “dehydrated and gaunt.”

Losing 39 pounds was not an easy task. Day admitted to a dangerous weight loss strategy that consisted of binge-eating and starvation. She doesn’t recommend this regime to anyone, saying, “It doesn’t give you the brain clarity. It’s very disorienting. It makes you sleepy and confused.”

Day has always been inspired by Billie Holiday

Day amazed fans and critics alike with her portrayal of the award-winning singer Billie Holiday in The United States vs. Billie Holiday. It was Day’s first acting role, for which she received a 2021 Academy Award nomination for Best Actress.

The “Strange Fruit” singer is no stranger to the entertainment industry. The accomplished vocalist released her first album, Cheers to the Fall, in 2015. She received a Grammy nomination for her chart-topping single “Rise Up,” with the official music video on YouTube receiving more than 100 million views. In 2016, Day performed “Rise Up” at a presidential campaign rally for Hillary Clinton. She had the chance to sing the inspirational power ballad again at President Joe Biden’s inauguration ceremony in 2021. 

Born Cassandra Monique Batie, the raspy-sounding R&B artist was born to play the role of Billie Holiday. According to Hollywood Life, Day’s stage name is a tribute to the legendary performer: Holiday’s nickname was Lady Day. Andra Day revealed she started listening to the iconic singer at an early age, saying, “All I knew was that whatever I was listening to was extremely powerful, and I could hear the sacrifice.”

How to get help: In the U.S., call the National Eating Disorders Association helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

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