The 36-year-old has been nominated for a best actress Oscar for her debut role in “The United States vs. Billie Holiday”, which looks at the jazz singer’s part in the push for Black civil rights and the outcry caused by her singing the ballad “Strange Fruit”.
Holiday initially performed the protest song about the lynching of Black people in 1939 at New York City’s first racially integrated nightclub, Cafe Society.
“I believe that God used this role and Billie Holiday and her spirit to just make me a little braver,” Day told Reuters in an interview.
“I still will feel a little bit inadequate sometimes and still feel kind of scared but to just show up in any way ... I tried to make a practice of that before the movie, but this has pushed me to do that even more in a way.”
Grammy nominee Day said she was still “decompressing” from the weight of the role, adding she had only seen the film once.
“It was very emotional for me, it was difficult,” she said.
“I went through a roller coaster of sadness and hurt and resentment but also joy.”
Day won a Golden Globe for her performance and will compete against Frances McDormand, Viola Davis, Vanessa Kirby and Carey Mulligan for best actress at Sunday’s Academy Awards.
“I’m very, very grateful because we put a lot of work into this film,” Day said.
“While I’m grateful, I realize there’s still a lot we have to do in representation in this space ... There’s no parsing words, America is a racist nation so there’s a lot of spaces where we need to make sure that we’re fully represented and that other marginalized people are fully represented.”