Andra Day’s been having a surreal week. On Sunday, the Grammy-nominated singer and actor won a Golden Globe for her portrayal of Billie Holiday in the Lee Daniels–directed drama The United States vs. Billie Holiday. Two days later, she received a congratulatory bouquet of flowers from Beyoncé, who wrote in her note that Day makes “us all so proud.”
“I wasn’t at the house when they came in, so my mom was looking through all the flowers,” Day recalled in a recent phone interview. “She opened the card and said she was so shocked, she had to close it back!”
Day’s big week isn’t over just yet. On Friday, the singer dropped a new music video, debuting exclusively on Vanity Fair, for her song “Tigress & Tweed,” from The United States vs. Billie Holiday. The song, a hypnotic number that evokes Holiday’s most iconic work, includes lyrics like, “Strange fruit come down off that tree / Cut it down under your feet.” For the music video, Day slips into the shoes of legendary activist and abolitionist Angela Davis, portraying her in her 1972 interview from a California prison cell. The interview, captured in The Black Power Mixtape 1967–1975, features Davis in an orange turtleneck, elegantly eviscerating questions from a Swedish journalist about the use of violence by members of the Black Panthers as a means of survival.
For Day, Davis is the kind of activist Holiday would have worked alongside had she lived long enough to see the rise of the Black Panthers. It’s the kind of work she would have supported through her artistry, Day says, likening her to actors like Harry Belafonte, who used their stardom to spotlight the civil rights movement. The “Tigress & Tweed” video includes a nod to Holiday, featuring a gardenia, the singer’s signature flower, on the table in the foreground.
“When they think of civil rights, when they think of the Black Liberation Army, when they think of the Panthers, I want [people] to think of Billie Holiday,” Day said. “Her spirit filled Angela Davis.”
Portraying Davis, while still paying homage to Holiday, was a surreal experience for Day. “The convergence of these two women felt really, really interesting in my mind and in my spirit and in my body,” she said.
“It’s a different headspace,” Day said of portraying Davis. “Rapping and singing these lyrics to this [interviewer] just felt really liberating.”
With The United States vs. Billie Holiday under her belt, Day now joins an exclusive trio of women who have portrayed Holiday for the masses, including Diana Ross (Lady Sings the Blues) and Audra McDonald (Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill). Each of them represents a different facet of the singer, Day says. “There was a Billie Holiday that I believe God and Billie wanted people to know through Diana, there was a Billie Holiday that they both wanted people to know through Audra. And a Billie Holiday that they wanted people to know through me,” Day said.
“There’s about 200 more iterations of this woman,” the singer muses. “The story could go on for quite a while.”
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