Halle Berry made history in 2002 when she won the Best Actress Academy Award for her role in Monster’s Ball, becoming the first woman of color ever to take home the award.
“This moment is so much bigger than me,” Berry said in her emotional acceptance 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 nameless, faceless woman of color that now has a chance because this door tonight has been opened.”
However, in the 14 years since Berry’s win, the Academy has not awarded its top acting award to another woman of color, and in the last two years, has failed to even nominate any actors of color for acting awards. The actress opened up about the #OscarsSoWhite controversy at AOL’s 2016 MAKERS conference.
“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,” Berry reflected. “I believed that in that moment, 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. And to sit here almost 15 years later, and knowing that another woman of color has not walked through that door, is heartbreaking.”
The 49-year-old actress said she is disheartened by the thought that her win didn’t open up more opportunities for women of color. In fact, since Berry’s win, the Academy has only nominated seven women of color for Best Actress.
“It’s heartbreaking, because I thought that moment was bigger than me,” she added. “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.”
For Berry, #OscarsSoWhite is indicative of a larger problem in Hollywood, which is that the kinds of stories that are getting made into major motion pictures aren’t representative of life in America today.
“It’s really about truth telling. And as filmmakers and as actors, we have a responsibility to tell the truth,” she said. “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.”
AOL’s MAKERS is the largest collection of women’s stories online. For more information, check out www.makers.com.