Halle Berry broke her silence on the ongoing Oscars diversity controversy. The only woman of color to ever win a Best Actress Oscar, many have been curious to know what she has to say on the #OscarsSoWhite discussion that’s been so predominant. That curiosity is now satisfied.
Yes, in the 88-year history of the Academy Awards, Halle Berry is the only one. In 2002 she won Best Actress for ‘Monster Ball’ and delivered an emotional acceptance speech (which you can see below) that’s become a classic. She name checked many of the pioneers in cinematic history, as she celebrated her win as a victory for all, saying, in part, “This moment is so much bigger than me. This moment is for Dorothy Dandridge, Lena Horne, Diahann Carroll.”
In an appearance at the Makers Conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, California, she broke her silence on the Oscars diversity controversy which has been a predominant topic during awards season. She was on stage with CAA’s Kevin Huvane when she made her first public comments. As of yet, no video or audio has surfaced of her remarks (we’ll update, if it does), but according to Deadline she had much to say.
What began as a hash tag #OscarsSoWhite and a public statement from Jada Pinkett Smith, whose own husband was snubbed for his lead role in ‘Concussion’ has become the big topic in Hollywood and everyone clamors to see what someone has said. And we’ve seen statements that range from the eloquent to the bizarre and some have had to be “clarified” in the midst of further controversy.
Halle Berry told the audience, “Honestly, that win almost 15 years ago was iconic. It was important to me, but I had the knowing in the moment that it was bigger than me. I believed that in that moment, that when I said, ‘The door tonight has been opened,’ I believed that with every bone in my body, that this was going to incite change because this door, this barrier, had been broken.”
Halle Berry went on to reflect and lament, saying, “And to sit here almost 15 years later and knowing that another woman of color has not walked through that door, is heartbreaking.”
She continued, and echoed the famous words she had uttered in 2002, saying, “It’s heartbreaking, because I thought that moment was bigger than me. It’s heartbreaking to start to think maybe it wasn’t bigger than me. Maybe it wasn’t. And I so desperately felt like it was.”
Yes, it has been a long time Halle Berry made history as the first African-American woman ever to win the Best Actress Oscar and we have not seen a winner since, despite a handful of nominations.
Previously, black women had only won in the Best Supporting Actress category, including Hattie McDaniel, who was the first, in 1940 for her portrayal of a maid in ‘Gone with the Wind.’ Whoppie Goldberg won in 1991 for her portrayal as a con artist posing as a medium in ‘Ghost,’ opposite co-stars Demi Moore and the late Patrick Swayze. And that’s the crux of it, truthfully, the lack of substantive lead roles for women of color. Instead they’ve been relegated to these sideline, supporting roles.
Halle Berry addressed this lamentable and uncomfortagble saying, “It’s really about truth telling. And as filmmakers and as actors, we have a responsibility to tell the truth.”
She went on to say, “And the films, I think, that are coming out of Hollywood aren’t truthful. And the reason they’re not truthful, these days, is that they’re not really depicting the importance and the involvement and the participation of people of color in our American culture.”
And that goes far, far beyond awards, it’s the core issue — the kinds of movies that Hollywood is greenlighting — and Halle Berry has been one of a growing chorus to speak out about that larger issue. As the #OscarsSoWhite discussion widens we might yet see changes instead of endless headline-making statements from various public figures.
You can see Halle Berry’s famous Oscars acceptance speech below.