by Talia M.
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The Palm Springs International Film Awards today announced that Andra Day will be the recipient of the Breakthrough Performance Award for The United States vs. Billie Holiday.

“Few jazz vocalists are more beloved than Billie Holiday, and Andra Day brings Holiday and her iconic voice back to life through a sympathetic and nuanced portrayal that sheds new light on the U.S. government’s role in seeking to muzzle a homegrown legend,” said Festival Chairman Harold Matzner. “In her impressive feature film debut as an actress and her first leading role, it is our honor to present the Breakthrough Performance Award to Andra Day.”

Past recipients of the Breakthrough Performance Award include Mahershala Ali, Mary J. Blige, Marion Cotillard, Cynthia Erivo, Jennifer Hudson, Felicity Huffman, Brie Larson, Rami Malek, Lupita Nyong’o, David Oyelowo, Rosamund Pike and Jeremy Renner. In the years they were honored, Ali, Cotillard, Hudson, Larson, Malek and Nyong’o went on to receive Academy Awards, while Blige, Erivo, Huffman, Pike and Renner received nominations.

Day joins this year’s previously announced honorees Carey Mulligan (International Star Award, Actress), Leslie Odom Jr. (Spotlight Award, Actor), Riz Ahmed (Desert Palm Achievement Award, Actor), Gary Oldman (Chairman’s Award) and Chloé Zhao (Director of the Year Award) and The Trial of the Chicago 7 (Vanguard Award).

The Festival and Film Awards Gala will not take place as an in-person event this year, but honoree selections will be announced to recognize this year’s great performances and Entertainment Tonight will air a tribute to the honorees scheduled on February 11th and February 25th. 

The United States vs. Billie Holiday unapologetically presents the complicated, irrepressible life of an American icon. Billie Holiday, one of the greatest jazz musicians of all time, spent much of her career being adored by fans across the globe. Beginning in the 1940s, however, the federal government targeted Holiday in a growing effort to escalate and racialize the war on drugs, aiming to stop her from singing her controversial and heart-wrenching ballad, “Strange Fruit.” The Directed by Lee Daniels, The United States vs. Billie Holiday is an intimate tale of a fierce trailblazer whose defiance through music helped usher in the civil rights movement. The film will premiere on Hulu on February 26, 2021. Day received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama.

Powerful, inspiring, beautiful– those are just a few words that illustrate the force that is Andra Day. With a voice that can only be described as God-given, Andra has unapologetically chartered her own course for success. Hailing from Southeast San Diego, this SoCal native dedicated her life to the arts at a young age. Between singing in her church choir and diligently studying dance, theater, and music in school, it’s no surprise that she has become an internationally recognized and respected musician and singer. 

Her full-length debut Cheers to the Fall [Buskin Records / Warner Records] garnered a “Best R&B Album” nomination and her RIAA 2x Multi-Platinum single “Rise Up” received a nod for “Best R&B Performance” at the 2016 GRAMMY® Awards. The song has since become the anthem to the Black Lives Matter movement, providing the audio heartbeat for activists and changemakers across the world. Andra quickly followed in 2017 with the moving anthem “Stand Up For Something” [feat. Common] from the Marshall official soundtrack album and film. The song received a nomination for “Best Original Song” at the 2017 Academy Awards.

Andra’s ability to connect with audiences everywhere and her commitment to giving back has allowed her to share the stage with a diverse group of people from Michelle and Barack Obama to Stevie Wonder and Alicia Keys, Common and Bonnie Rait. Her undeniable beauty and vivacious personality have graced the cover and pages of Essence, The Hollywood Reporter, Billboard, The New York Times, Vibe, Vanity Fair and more.

In 2021 Andra will make her acting debut starring as her idol and biggest musical influence, Billie Holiday, in the biopic The United States vs Billie Holiday, directed by Oscar-winner Lee Daniels. Marking a life and career-defining moment, Andra Day is sure to gain critical acclaim for her fully immersive transformation into the legend that is Billie Holiday.

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