In 1986, Halle Berry made history by becoming the first Black candidate in that year's Miss World competition. Three years after she finished sixth in that competition, she moved into acting, landing a role on Who's the Boss? spinoff Living Dolls.
The now-54-year-old's big break came in 1991, when she landed a role in Spike Lee's Jungle Fever film. Major roles in Boomerang and Bulworth followed before she landed X-Men in 2000 and became known to viewers across the world as Storm. Two years later, she won an Oscar for her performance as Leticia Musgrove in Monster's Ball.
Her career has been fruitful ever since, but she faced hardships at the beginning, with a spate of homelessness in 1989, just before being cast on Living Dolls.
She also says acting wasn't what she wanted to do initially. In an In Conversation With... virtual event as part of the Toronto International Film Festival on Sept. 11, Halle shared that she had a much different career path in mind for herself when she started out.
"I think I was looking for a voice," she said about why she started acting. "I was looking to find an outlet where I could express what I had to say, explore what I had to say, and initially, it truly wasn't what I wanted to do. I wanted to be a journalist. That's what I thought I would do and I thought I would travel the world and report on world news...
"Acting sort of happened as I like to say many things in my life – that the universe sort of set forth what I should be doing."
Halle went on to say that her directorial debut, Bruised, happened in a similar way. The film, which is screening at TIFF, sees her playing a mixed martial arts fighter who is simultaneously trying to get her son back into her life while attempting to win a major bout. She also produced the flick, which just sold to Netflix for US$20 million.
"I sort of take the cues around me, and I don't always follow the path that I had set for myself, but I sometimes follow that path that was set before me," Halle said about how her career has unfolded at times. "That has served me really well in my life."
She went on to share some great advice for young Black women looking to make it in Hollywood during the event, urging them to write, create, take control of their stories and to know when to say no and not take no for an answer.
"I would say stay clear and in your vision," she shared. "Be clear about the stories you want to tell. Make them as authentic and as real as you can from your own personal gaze on the situation and fight for it. Fight. Stand up and fight and have the courage to fight. Be brave. Be brave; don't be led by fear, but be led by strength and knowledge."
You can see Bruised at the Visa Skyline Drive-in at Cityview in Toronto as part of TIFF 2020. Since Netflix just bought it, expect to see it on the streaming platform soon.