During Sunday night’s ceremony, Day became the second Black woman in history to ever take home the coveted award for Best Actress – Drama. The only person to have claimed the prize prior was Whoopi Goldberg for The Color Purple back in 1986. In between, seven other Black women have been nominated for the award, including Halle Berry, Viola Davis, and Ruth Negga.
Day was understandably shocked to hear her name announced at the virtual Golden Globes event as friends and family embraced her while cheering. This was her first-ever lead role in a feature film and her third acting credit overall, following some voice acting in Cars 3 and a brief role in 2017’s Marshall. While delivering her speech through tears, Day thanked her parents, relatives, director Lee Daniels, the film’s cast and crew, and the fellow Best Actress nominees who “inspire [her] so much” with their work.
“[Thank you] to the amazing, transformative, dynamic Billie Holiday, who just transformed me with this role and with her presence and spirit,” added Day. “Thank you so much to everybody who was part of this incredible project.” Watch her full acceptance speech below.
Day was a natural fit to portray the legendary singer in The United States vs. Billie Holiday because she’s a longtime musician by trade herself. After being discovered by Stevie Wonder as a young adult, Day released her Grammy-nominated debut album Cheers to the Fall in 2015 and followed it up with a Christmas EP the next year. She’s since collaborated with everyone from Kesha to Common on show-stopping performances.
Despite the fact that none of 87 voting members for the event are Black, the 2021 Golden Globe Awards were full of other well-deserved wins for people of color. Daniel Kaluuya claimed the title of Best Supporting Actor for his phenomenal depiction of Fred Hampton in Judas and the Black Messiah, Nomadland filmmaker Chloé Zhao became only the second woman ever to win Best Director, Chadwick Boseman was honored posthumously with a Golden Globe for Best Actor, Minari won the only nomination it was up for, and Soul nabbed both Best Animated Feature and Best Original Score.
Check out the complete list of winners here.