Why Halle Berry calls her Oscar 'the biggest heartbreak'

By Heather Cichowski

Halle Berry's Best Actress Oscar win at the 2002 Academy Awards for Monster's Ball was a momentous occasion. It marked the first time a Black woman won the award, and her emotional acceptance speech reflected that.

As the actress gears up to premiere her directorial debut, Bruised, at TIFF 2020, she is reflecting on her career and that huge achievement – which she calls "one of my biggest heartbreaks." She says she hopes Hollywood is seeing a move toward greater diversity and actual, meaningful change in terms of representation of Black stars.

"The morning after, I thought, 'Wow, I was chosen to open a door,'" she said to Variety about what her Oscar win represents. "And then, to have no one … I question, 'Was that an important moment, or was it just an important moment for me?'

"I wanted to believe it was so much bigger than me. It felt so much bigger than me, mainly because I knew others should have been there before me and they weren’t,” Halle stated.

Halle Berry on the red carpet at the 74th Annual Academy Awards on March 24, 2002, where she won her historic Best Actress Oscar for Monster's Ball. Photo: © SGranitz/WireImage

The 54-year-old remains the only Black person to win the Best Actress Academy Award, despite several worthy nominees since her 2002 win. She referenced some of them in the interview.

“I thought Cynthia [Erivo of Harriet] was going to do it last year,” revealed Halle. “I thought Ruth [Negga, nominated for Best Actress for 2016’s Loving] had a really good shot at it, too.

"I thought there were women that rightfully, arguably, could have, should have. I hoped they would have, but why it hasn’t gone that way, I don’t have the answer.”

MORE: TIFF 2020 reveals more special events and new films that will screen at the festival

Reflecting back now, Halle admitted she could see why her win might not have had a massive impact right away.

Cynthia Erivo was up for Best Actress at the 2020 Oscars for her performance in Harriet. Photo: © Kevin Mazur/Getty Images

“Just because I won an award doesn’t mean that, magically, the next day, there was a place for me,” she said. “I was just continuing to forge a way out of no way.”

In her Best Actress speech, Halle highlighted women of colour from before her time and her colleagues who she hoped the award would help.

“This moment is so much bigger than me,” she said in the powerful speech. “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... woman of colour that now has a chance because this door tonight has been opened."

Halle's remarks come at the same time the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced new inclusion requirements for the Best Picture Oscar nomination eligibility to go along with standards in its Academy Aperture 2025 initiative.

"The standards are designed to encourage equitable representation on and off screen in order to better reflect the diversity of the movie-going audience," a post on the Oscars website stated.

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