Golden Globes reminder: Before Andra Day, only one Black woman won best actress in a drama film

Andra Day as Billie Holiday
Andra Day stars in “The United States vs. Billie Holiday.”

Andra Day won the Golden Globe for actress in a motion picture, drama, for her performance in “The United States vs. Billie Holiday,” and in doing so became only the second Black performer to claim the prize.

The category is among the most emblematic of the challenges and controversies faced by the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. The structural conditions of who makes up the group’s membership and the projects and performers they have chosen to celebrate over the years mean that the only Black woman to win in the category ahead of Sunday night was Whoopi Goldberg for “The Color Purple” in 1987.

The other nominees in the category were Viola Davis for “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” Vanessa Kirby for “Pieces of a Woman,” Frances McDormand for “Nomadland” and Carey Mulligan for “Promising Young Woman.”

The HFPA, the 87-member organization that votes for the Golden Globe Awards, has faced widespread criticism this year in the wake of a Times investigation into ethical lapses. Among the investigation’s findings was the fact the group has no Black members. The fallout included an organized Time’s Up social media protest urging the HFPA: “A cosmetic fix isn’t enough.”


Day made her feature acting debut in the film, directed by Lee Daniels from a screenplay by playwright Suzan-Lori Parks. In the film, streaming now on Hulu, Day plays singer Billie Holiday as she faces tremendous pressure from the U.S. government from 1947 until her death at age 44 in 1959, largely spurred by her song “Strange Fruit,” which would become a protest anthem.

In accepting the award, Day thanked “the amazing, transformative, dynamic Billie Holiday, who just transformed me with this role and with her presence and with her spirit.”

A Times investigation finds that the nonprofit HFPA regularly issues substantial payments to its members in ways that some experts say could skirt IRS guidelines.

Feb. 21, 2021

Even before these recent revelations, the HFPA has long been criticized for overlooking people of color. While “Ma Rainey” also received a nomination for actor Chadwick Boseman (the eventual winner in the category), it was not recognized with a nomination for best motion picture. Other black-centered projects such as movies “Da 5 Bloods,” “Judas and the Black Messiah” and TV’s “I May Destroy You” also were overlooked in the top film and TV categories.

This was the first Globe nomination for both Day and Kirby. This was Davis’ sixth Globe nomination; she won for her performance in another Wilson adaptation, 2016’s “Fences.” Mulligan had previously been nominated for 2009’s “An Education.” McDormand has been nominated seven times, winning once for 2017’s “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.”

The organization said the perception that many members are not serious journalists is “outdated and unfair” and that it is committed to addressing the lack of Black members.

Feb. 21, 2021