Halle Berry Talks Being The Only Black Woman To Win Best Leading Actress At The Oscars, And What’s Changed In Hollywood

Halle Berry in Bruised
(Image credit: Entertainment 360)

Halle Berry has seen it all. Not only has she starred in countless comedies, dramas, and superhero blockbusters, she was also the first Black woman to win the Oscar for Best Actress in Leading Role. She’s unfortunately the only woman of color in that category that’s actually won the golden statue, but Halle Berry is certain that the future is bright for Black women in Hollywood

In an interview with AARP, Halle Berry reflected on Hollywood’s changing opinions on diversity in media. While a Black woman has not taken home an Oscar for Best Actress since Halle Berry’s win in 2002, she does believe that progress has been made in other areas. She explained: 

Definitely. When I won the Oscar 20 years ago, I didn’t see nearly as many faces of color in TV and film as I do now. There has been a 100 percent change. So while no other Black woman stands next to me [with a best actress Oscar] and it’s heartbreaking and I wish there were more, I also know that moment at the Oscars was inspiring and made people believe that anything was possible. Today you’ve got Ava DuVernay, Lena Waithe, Viola Davis. I can go on and on. Women of color are doing things, and you know what? They’re doing things on their own terms, in their way. They’re daring to say, ‘I deserve this.’

The Academy Awards have often been criticized for the homogeneity of their nominations (remember #OscarsSoWhite?), but that doesn’t mean the industry itself has not changed. Oscars aside, there have certainly been important advancements when it comes to diversified representation in movies and television. Halle Berry’s win for Monster’s Ball may have opened the door for other women of color to make a name for themselves in a field dominated by white male actors and directors. And, according to Halle Berry, awards are not the be-all-end-all of acting. She said: 

And I say to them, everybody loves an award. We all love when our industry says, “You did a great job.” But most people will never win an Academy Award or an Olympic gold medal or an MMA championship belt. That doesn’t mean the fight’s not worth it. It doesn’t mean you’re not winning. You’re working in ways you’d never dreamed of before and on projects that are reflective of you or your culture or your gender.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and it’s unlikely that an industry predicated on elitism will be able to transform overnight (the Oscars are proof of that). Luckily, there are people like Halle Berry who have fought for their rightful place in the Hollywood machine, and she in turn has inspired a new generation of Black women to strive for honest representation in popular media. Actresses like Maya Rudolph, who recently won back-to-back Emmys, and Zendaya, who never hesitates to speak up for her beliefs, are just a few examples of women of color who continue to make their mark on the media. 

Halle Berry’s directorial debut Bruised is now available to stream on Netflix. You can also check out more upcoming movies set to hit streaming in 2022. 

Rachel Romean

Actor, singer, and occasional dancer. Likes: fashion, books, old buildings. Dislikes: cilantro, the NJ Turnpike, sneaker wedges.