The first woman of color to win the Academy Award for Best Actress spoke out today about the Oscar diversity controversy. Halle Berry, who won her statuette in 2002 for playing the widow of an executed inmate in Monster’s Ball, spoke out at the 2016 Makers Conference, a leadership confab near LA.
“Honestly, that win almost 15 years ago was iconic,” she told CAA’s Kevin Huvane. “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.”
During her tearful Oscar acceptance speech in 2002, Berry said: “This moment is so much bigger than me. This moment is for Dorothy Dandridge, Lena Horne, Diahann Carroll. It’s for the women that stand beside me — Jada Pinkett, Angela Bassett, Vivica Fox. And it’s for every nameless, faceless woman of color that now has a chance because this door tonight has been opened.” Watch the full speech below.
“And to sit here almost 15 years later,” she continued on Tuesday, “and knowing that another woman of color has not walked through that door, is heartbreaking. 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.”
“It’s really about truth telling,” added Berry — who, coincidentally, also played the first black woman to be nominated for a Best Actress Oscar, in the 1999 HBO biopic Introducing Dorothy Dandridge. “And as filmmakers and as actors, we have a responsibility to tell the truth. 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.”
Here is Berry’s Oscar acceptance speech: