It’s not every day you're given the opportunity to walk into a Hollywood time machine. Da'Vine Joy Randolph had the chance to do just that in the upcoming film, The United States Vs. Billie Holiday, available on Hulu starting February 26. Led by award-winning director Lee Daniels, the eye-opening movie transports us back to the 20th century. The premise of the film recounts highlights of the iconic Billie Holiday’s life, including when the federal government's backlash to the blues singer’s unapologetic protest of lynching in her lyrics for "Strange Fruit."
On the heels of the premiere, we spoke to Randolph about how she prepared for her role as Holiday's hairstylist Roslyn in the movie, representation in the entertainment industry, and the beauty secrets she learned on set.
On Preparing For Her Role As Roslyn, Billie Holiday’s Hairstylist:
"Unfortunately, Roslyn was a woman lost in history and there wasn’t much information about her. Thankfully, the director Lee Daniels gave me a photograph of her doing Billie's hair. I knew that she was Billie's childhood best friend and that she was blind in one eye, so she sported an eyepatch.
"But I had to dig deeper, so I did as much research as I could on the time period. I spent hours reading journals about Billy and interviews with Billie that mentioned Roslyn and Miss Freddy. Then, I kind of just let the spirit move me the rest of the way."
On The Beauty Trends of the 50s:
"Skincare and flawless skin were so important. In terms of makeup, blemish-free skin, bold lips, and thinly arched eyebrows were the trend. I was kind of shocked when they cut my eyebrows off because I really love my brows. I also noticed that short, natural nails were popular. For the movie, I wore crescent nails, which I loved.
"Honestly, there was a lot of stuff that we continue to do today, like wearing shapewear and flaunting stylish hair. [Back then], you needed to have your hair preset in rollers to be ready for the next day, even if you were just going to the grocery store."
On Black Culture's Influence
"Black culture has influenced [everything] from the beginning of time!
In my 34-years of life, we’ve always been the pulse. It takes a while for other people to catch up, but we've always been doing our thing. Then they catch on and sometimes try to make it their own.
It's cool to see the trends circling back. I mean, history really does repeat itself. I don't think it's a coincidence that in this time of social injustice and civil rights, that we're making grand statements of our Blackness. I just love that celebration of creativity."
On Inclusivity in the Entertainment Industry:
"My biggest wish is that entertainment could just reflect our authentic world. If someone from outer space was to watch our television, it would not reflect the world that we actually live in, and that's a problem to me. Television is supposed to tell the vision. It's weird that we're 20-30 years behind.
Why can’t we have more LGBTQ+ presence on television? Why can't we have more minority presence? It's dated, it's old, and it's played out. I think while many great strides are being done, I think we have a lot of catching up to do."
On How Her Life Changed Since The Start Of The Pandemic:
"I'm grateful and so blessed that my immediate family has been safe. It is very hard not to be around family and friends, as much as I would like. Thank God for technology allowing us to stay connected.
We, as a world, need to do better. In this time of stillness and dormancy, we’re supposed to be growing and building up muscle, if you will, to be our best selves and come out changed and renewed. Things are slowly starting to get a little better, but we've got a long way to go. I think the biggest disservice we could do to ourselves is to have wasted that time and come out of this the same old person. There has been a lot of self-reflection and check-ins with myself. It's forced me to slow down and use the time for self-care and self-love."
On Her Best Kept Wellness Secrets:
"Do exactly what grandma told you because she knew what she was talking about. Drink lots of water, take your vitamins, cleanse—in many senses of the word— eat your fruits and vegetables, go for a walk, stretch, get some sunlight, get plants. Get all that yummy goodness."