At the 2002 Academy Awards, Halle Berry won an Oscar for the drama Monster's Ball. While the award was a first for her, it was more importantly a landmark win for the Oscars. After an emotional acceptance speech, she continues to succumb to emotion when thinking about the enormity of the moment.
In the prior 74 Academy Awards ceremonies, a woman of black descent had never won the Best Actress Award, but that changed in 2002 when Berry was awarded the prestigious award. Reiterating from her acceptance speech, she marvels at the broader significance of the award.
"This moment, although I'm standing here...it's really not just about me," Berry says in the pressroom after the show. "It's about so many people that went before me that paved the way and people who are fighting alongside with me and the ones that will come along whose path will be indelibly easier because of everyone.
"So, it's not really about me as much as it's about so many other women of color who have tried to permeate this system for so many years, and today this meant hope. That glass ceiling was broken wide-open and that just feels good for me and for all of them too."
The first woman to chip away at that glass ceiling was Dorothy Dandridge, whom Berry had portrayed a few years prior in the television film Introducing Dorothy Dandridge. Coincidentally, Berry had received the highest accolades for television (SAG Award, Golden Globe, Emmy) for the first time for portraying Dandridge in the TV film.
While her Monster's Ball role yielded her a historical Oscar, the part nearly went to another actress and Berry had to adamantly reiterate to the film's director and producer that she was a good fit for the role. As she assess, the fruition of her persistence is a major encouragement.
"I think fighting has always been my way, so I don't think now I'll change," the then-35-year-old Berry says. "I'm sure I'll still have to fight and pave the way, but this just inspires me and lets me know that it's all worth it and if I have to fight ten more years before I make another inroad then I guess that's what I'm going to do."
Berry has since been nominated for Emmys and Golden Globes but has not received an Oscar nomination since making history in 2002. As she predicted, another inroad has had to wait over ten years but may be soon on its way.