The Oscar-nominated actress got real about her past struggles with addiction while playing Billie Holiday in The United States vs. Billie Holiday

By Salina Tsegai
May 11, 2021 05:09 PM
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Andra Day took away more than she expected after playing Billie Holiday.

The Golden Globe winner and Oscar nominee, 36, opened up about her past struggles with porn and sex addiction in InStyle's June cover, and talked about how playing Holiday in Hulu's The United States vs. Billie Holiday helped her embrace her femininity after battling her addictions.

The Grammy-nominated singer-actress admitted she "didn't want any element of sexualization" when portraying Holiday, who Day says constantly dealt with objectification and hypersexualization in the male-dominated jazz scene during her career. Day's hesitation stemmed from her own bouts with addiction.

"I had come out of something in my own life — dealing with porn addiction, sex addiction," Day said. "I'm being very, very candid with you because I'm not the only one. But I knew I wanted all of that very much gone."

Andra day - InStyle
Andra Day
| Credit: Chrisean Rose
Andra day - InStyle
Andra Day
| Credit: Chrisean Rose

However, once Day finished filming, she realized playing Holiday transformed her own ideas of beauty and sexuality.

"I feel now, after playing Billie, that I'm honoring her, and the strength that is femininity. I'm definitely in a healthier place to enjoy that because I'm outside of the addiction, if you will. So, yeah, it's been really fun, because it's been very new for me."

Day previously told PEOPLE the experience of portraying Holiday, who wrestled with drug addictions until her death at the age of 44 in 1959, took such a toll on her in her first major film role that she thought she "retired" from acting.

"I truly was definitely out of my depth the entire time," Day recalled of taking the role in the Lee Daniels-directed biopic.

"I started to smoke cigarettes. I picked up the habit and started drinking a lot of gin a lot," the actress — who doesn't recommend that to others for health concerns — said.

The actress said her smoking "turned from five months to a year and a half," until she decided to quit, and acknowledged that stepping out of the role of Holiday has been "a process."

"Coming down from Billie... the reality is, it's a process and it has been a process," she said. "I don't know how everyone else does it, but for me, my faith has been a big part of just kind of praying my way through. It's been a little scary trying to figure out, okay who am I? Because I've been Billie Holiday since the end of 2017."

Despite the intensity of the experience, Day told PEOPLE she'd likely act again if the part is right.

"The reality is, if I'm agreeing to do roles, it has to grab me, the way Billie grabbed me," she says. "And I don't mean like being intrigued, meaning my spirit has to be sort of be called out to it. Because that's really what Billie was."