There are only a handful of actors who have ever received Oscar nominations for their debut film role. Andra Day is one. The 36-year-old musician turned actor nabbed the coveted nom for her emotionally raw portrayal of Billie Holiday in The United States vs. Billie Holiday. Last month, she took home the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Motion Picture while surrounded by family, friends, a dog, and lots of tears.
But Day almost didn’t take the role when she was first approached by the film’s director, Lee Daniels. “For me, it was more than doubt. I didn’t want to do it at all,” says Day, who was blown away by Diana Ross’ performance as Billie Holiday in 1972’s Lady Sings the Blues and thought nothing could ever compare. “I was certain, certain, certain that I couldn’t act. Why were we even entertaining this? It felt like such a waste of time. I was trying to self-sabotage and figure my way out of it.”
Eventually, Day decided to put her trust in Daniels, her acting and dialect coaches, and her co-stars. But even being in the throes of the 1940s-set film didn’t fully calm Day’s feelings of imposter syndrome. “I thought they’d figure it out and fire me,” she says. “There was a lot of that kind of thinking. But I had to trust my spiritual relationship with God. It really was a leap of faith.”
Plus, Day’s stars have been pointing toward Holiday for ages now. Years before she became a Grammy nominee, Day—who was born Cassandra Monique Batie—developed her stage name with a little help from Billie Holiday. (Holiday was known as “Lady Day.”) And when asked about her favorite feel-good song, Day, who takes this interview while riding in a car, turns down the Marvin Gaye song currently playing on the radio. “The reality is, it’s a Billie Holiday song. It’s ‘God Bless the Child’ for me.”
As much as Day is inspired by Holiday herself, she is truly a modern-day original—an actor and singer who loves lingerie and Flaming Hot Cheetos and isn’t above traveling for the perfect pair of leggings. Read on for more of Andra Day’s favorites here with our latest installment of Your Fave’s Faves.
My go-to snack style
I love grapes and walnuts. Damn it. I’m in the car with friends and family who know me. They’re like, “You like chips.” OK, I do like chips. I like potato chips and Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.
Cheetos Flamin’ Hot Cheetos (Pack of 5)
My personal style
It’s unpredictable. I’ve never liked to feel like I’m stuck in a box—I like to be free and play with everything. I like to say that I started out in the thirties, and then you drag me through the decades, picking me up along the way and just dropping me off here.
The leggings I am willing to travel for
The only thing I ever wear anymore are leggings or sweatpants. When it comes to sweats, I like anything that’s loose and baggy. The more worn in, the better. I found my favorite pair of leggings at the department store Simon’s in Montreal when we were filming The United States vs. Billie Holiday. They are lined, super warm, and make my body look snatched. Once everything is better with COVID, I’ll be traveling back there to buy more.
The beauty brand I love
I’m not going to lie—I splurge when it comes to skincare. I love every single La Mer product. When I was young, I didn’t have money. We didn’t have much of anything. When I’d see it [in a store] I’d think, “Oh, I’d never buy that.” But once I had it for the first time, I was fully addicted. I was like, “Well, I’m just going to have to work my ass off so I can budget in my La Mer!”
La Mer Replenishing Oil Exfoliator
La Mer Crème de La Mer Moisturizing Cream
The lingerie I can’t wait to wear
I just started buying lingerie. Have I started wearing it? No. I do have pieces in my closet that will hopefully be put to use when I’m married someday. Lounge has really beautiful pieces. And Savage x Fenty, obviously. And it’s Black-owned. Team!
The books loaded up on my Kindle
I read multiple books at a time. I don’t know why, but it just works that way. I’m reading The Release of the Spirit by Watchman Nee. He’s an amazing Chinese Christian philosopher. I’m also reading Assata, the autobiography of Assata Shakur. And a friend just turned me on to Hermann Hesse’s The Glass Bead Game.
The most treasured pieces in my closet
There’s an outfit from Chanel that I wore to the Soul Train Awards that I love so, so very much. It’s a pink and fuchsia skirt and tank top set.
I also have some pieces from Hanifa, who’s a wonderful actress and designer. She makes beautiful pieces that are great on every woman’s body. It’s a Black-owned business, and it’s important to have a closet full of Black designers. Fe Noel is another one I like.
My favorite dish to cook
I make zucchini noodles with chicken, pesto, lemon zest and parmesan. I like it because I can indulge my pasta love without the actual pasta. I also started ordering Hello Fresh for my family, and I’m obsessed. The food is so damn good and they deliver all of the ingredients to you. I really like it because you still have that time to cook with your loved ones or for yourself, but everything you need is delivered right to you.
My favorite movies directed by women
Daughters of the Dust by Julie Dash is probably my favorite movie directed by a woman. But it’s hard to say. I also think everybody needs to watch 13th, the documentary by Ava DuVernay.
How I take my fruits and veggies
I’m a big green juice and smoothie type of person. I make one with kale, spinach, pineapple, apple, kiwi, and chia seeds. That’s my favorite beverage.
My go-to perfume
Kilian Love, Don’t Be Shy Eau de Parfum Spray
Kilian Woman in Gold Eau de Parfum
How I work out
Anything that makes my butt bigger! I like squats, glute bridges, calf raises, and dancing. I also turned my garage into a gym. I have a treadmill and an incredible Smith power squat rack and pulley cable system. It’s an entire multifunctional trainer and really gets the blood flowing. It helps me to think clearer.
How I made my house a home
My makeup artist and friend, Porsche Cooper, helped me decorate my house. She’s really great at home decor. I’m an artist so I thought I’d be great at it, too, but it turns out I’m terrible—like, the worst. Porsche helped me pick out this really rich, beautiful floral wallpaper from the Netherlands. The background is black and it has these really vibrant pink, blue and white flowers on it. The room feels bigger, warmer and cozier with the wallpaper. I also have some abstract African modern art downstairs from an artist named Blu Art that I love.
Caitlin Brody is the entertainment director at Condé Nast.