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Andra Day Shares How She Lost 40 Pounds to Play Billie Holiday

The Golden Globe winner admits that her weight loss wasn't always healthy and made her "very weak" over time.

Andra Day's powerful performance as late singer Billie Holiday in The United States vs. Billie Holiday won her not only a Golden Globe, but acclaim from her industry peers and critics alike. However, embodying the troubled vocalist wasn't easy for the actor—mentally or physically. To ensure that her performance was as accurate as possible, Day lost close to a quarter of her body weight, noting that the transformation made her "very weak." Read on to find out how Andra Day managed to tackle such a huge weight loss, and if you want to lose weight without sacrificing your health, check out these 15 Underrated Weight Loss Tips That Actually Work.

Day went from 163 to 124 pounds for the role.

andra day in white or gray gown at the golden globes
Myriam Santos via Getty Images

To properly embody Holiday, Day lost 39 pounds. "At first, I started by just shrinking my caloric intake, of course, and then exercising as well," Day told W magazine. "But honestly, I did kind of starve myself a bit when I was on set."

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Day says that she didn't want her body to look too fit for the part.

andra day singing into microphone with her hair in blonde cornrow braids
Earl Gibson III/Getty Images

While Day wanted to slim down to look more like Holiday, she knew that getting extremely toned wouldn't suit the period context of the film.

"I didn't want my body to look like a gym body of 2020. It had to look like loose skin and parts. That, for me, was important: having a body true to that period."

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She says feeling weak from the weight loss helped inform her acting.

andra day purple feather outfit
Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

Day says that, while her weight loss for the part may not have been entirely healthy, it actually made embodying Holiday, who struggled with substance abuse, easier.

"It made me very weak on set and slowed me down in a way that really helped with the scenes," says Day. For the average person, this is certainly not a tip to follow.

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Day says that she even took up some of Holiday's vices to better portray her.

Pouring whiskey drink into glass

While Day didn't smoke or drink prior to landing the part of Billie Holiday, she admitted to doing both in an effort to more authentically connect with the role.

"I started smoking cigarettes, which I don't do…It makes me feel like her; it slows me down. I'm very fast, and she's like molasses," Day explained to W.

Day added, "I did drink a lot of gin and bourbon and all of that stuff…Look, I was desperate. I didn't want to be terrible."

The actor certainly put her all into her role in The United States vs. Billie Holiday, and now, she's a Golden Globe winner and the second black actress ever to win "Best Actress in a Drama" (the first was Whoopi Goldberg in 1986), reports The Hollywood Reporter.

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Sarah Crow
Sarah Crow is a senior editor at Eat This, Not That!, where she focuses on celebrity news and health coverage. Read more about Sarah