For the last thirty years, Halle Berry has charted a path for herself in Hollywood that wasn’t paved or in the footsteps of anyone before her. The 54-year-old actress is a memorable Bond Girl and a two-time big-screen comic book character. Berry has a wholly unique career from her peers, and from her perspective, becoming a role model in her own right was important to her because the one’s she had growing up were important to her upbringing in an interracial family.
Halle Berry is the daughter of a white woman from Liverpool, England who met her African-American father while working as a psychiatric nurse at the ward where he was a hospital attendant. The actress spent most of her upbringing alongside her mother and went to a predominantly white school in the suburbs. She was bullied as a child for coming from a multi-ethnic background. As she explained:
I was a Black child being raised by a white woman, so I didn't have those images in my household. Finding them on television and through movies became very, very crucial to me.
Halle Berry recently spoke about the importance of seeing Black women on the big and small screens growing up in the PBS documentary American Masters: How It Feels To Be Free. The doc highlights the careers of six Black women entertainers and how their stardom intersected with social justice causes. How It Feels To Be Free centers on Lena Horne, Abbey Lincoln, Nina Simone, Diahann Carroll, Cicely Tyson and Pam Grier, one of whom especially important to Berry:
I really struggled to find images of Black women or women that I could identify with. Early on, I remember seeing Lena Horne in Stormy Weather. I remember seeing Dorothy Dandridge in Carmen Jones. And then a little after that, I remember seeing Diahann Carroll in Julia and that just rearranged me. Seeing Diahann Carroll being the star of a show and playing a mother who was a nurse, who was educated, who was beautiful, just rearranged me and it made me realize I had value and I could turn to every week, a woman that looked like who I would aspire to be when I grew up.
The subjects we see everyday on screen do affect our perceptions of ourselves. A 2018 study focused on young girls provided data that they feel more confident if they were exposed to powerful female superheroes on film (via Women’s Media Center). Halle Berry didn’t have a ton of Black role models to look up to growing up in the ‘70s and ‘80s, but those who she did see shaped who she was.
Halle Berry has had the chance to “carry the torch” that started with the women she looked up to, like Lena Horne and Diahann Carroll, by becoming a relentless action hero in movies like X-Men and John Wick 3. She’s confident in her own body and refuses to have being over 50 change her decisions to rock a backless bikini and more.
Halle Berry just directed her first movie called Bruised, where she plays an ex-MMA fighter getting back into the game. Bruised does not yet have a release date, but it's expected to drop on Netflix sometime in 2021 alongside the many exciting streaming releases set for this year.