Although some consider Day an activist (her single “Rise Up” has become the unofficial anthem for Black Lives Matter, for example), this is actually not a term she identifies with. “It’s so fun to hear the word ‘activist’ because I don’t consider myself one,” she chuckles. “I know people would say that probably sounds very clichéd and humble, but not humble, but I don’t. I want people to know that I love God, and I want people to know that meet when they meet me. I don’t give myself these ascribed titles, and neither do Billie. It’s just about helping people and serving more than anything. I’m a servant. That’s it, and so can I am best describe. In my mind I have this beautiful image of eternity, if only I see myself as higher than ourselves and everyone is loved, valued and cared for. “
God, says Day, was also one of the main reasons she chose to audition for her now award-winning role – a role that both she and the film’s director, Lee Daniels, initially felt had nothing to do with it With. Despite Day’s long-standing love for Holiday, which dates back to her teens, she had no professional experience as an actress. She had no acting experience at all except her early years in a performing arts school that did musical theater. “I always knew I wanted to do art and perform, but back then it was more about ‘Well, do I want to try doing Broadway, or do I want to try recording music? ‘“Never, she says, would she ever have believed she’d compete against Hollywood’s elite acting talents to win the most coveted awards in the industry. “I mean, I didn’t mean to do this movie. I was shocked. I said,” I’m going to audition, but I’ll be horrible. “Lee and I, we were forced upon each other,” she laughs.
“But then we started talking, and when I found out that the film was going to focus on the Federal Bureau of Narcotics and like Harry J. Anslinger, J. Edgar Hoover and [Joseph] McCarthy created this targeted drug war to get Billie to stop singing “Strange Fruit,” a song about lynching in America. I realized that this film would confirm their legacy. That was very tempting to me. That got me auditioning. “