The actress was honored with the SeeHer Award during Sunday's star-studded ceremony in Los Angeles.
Halle Berry was honored with the prestigious SeeHer award at this year's Critics Choice Awards on Sunday, and she used the platform to deliver an inspiring and impassioned call for representation in Hollywood.
After being presented the honor by Issa Rae, an excited Berry shared a behind-the-scenes story of how she came to star in her 2020 directorial debut, Bruised.
"The first time I read the script for Bruised... I realized the role wasn't written for someone who looked like me. So I went to the producers, and I asked, 'Why not me? Why can't it be a black woman?' They said, 'Why not?' Later on, they told me, 'Go find a director.' And finally, I summoned the courage to say, 'Why not me?' They said, 'Why not?'" she recalled. "Finally, when the film came out, I asked someone what he thought of the move. He said, 'I have a hard time watching a woman getting battered and beaten. It made me feel uncomfortable.'"
"And in that moment, I knew exactly why I had to tell the story. I knew exactly the power of the story," she continued. "Because I said, 'If you had a hard time, if it made you uncomfortable watching that story, imagine being that woman, living that story.'"
Berry said she's been in Hollywood for over 30 years, and "I used to think if I could play the part of a white man, I was winning. Do you want to know why that didn't work? Because if you didn't know, I am not a white man."
"So for those roles to work, they would have to be substantially changed. It would have to be written with the reality of my journey, in all its beauty and all of its pain. This is why I am so grateful to be standing and living in this moment where women are standing up and we are telling our own stories<" Berry continued. "Because you know why? We will write, we will produce, we will direct, and if we are brave enough, we will start in it, all at the same time!"
"We will tell stories that capture us fully in all of our multitudes and contradictions. We are confident and we're scared. We are vulnerable and we're strong. We are beautiful and we're bruised. We're everything and all of it -- and all at the same time!" Berry declared to cheers. "Because if we deny our complexity, then we deny our humanity. We won't always be pretty and we will never be perfect. But what we will be is always honest and true, no matter how uncomfortable that makes you."
Berry concluded by dedicating the SeeHer honor to "every little girl who feels unseen and unheard."
"This is our way of saying, to you, we love you and we see you! And you deserve every good thing in this world!" Berry said, as she walked off to a standing ovation.
Berry is only the sixth actress to receive the honor. Viola Davis (2017), Gal Gadot (2018), Claire Foy (2019), Kristen Bell (2020) and Zendaya (2021) are past recipients.
According to the Critics' Choice Awards, the annual SeeHer Award "honors a woman who advocates for gender equality, portrays characters with authenticity, defies stereotypes and pushes boundaries."
"Academy Award-winning actress Halle Berry continues to break down barriers acting in a multitude of critically acclaimed, diverse roles and most recently added the title of ‘director’ to her already impressive filmography," the organization said in a press release announcing their plans to celebrate the accomplished star.
Berry, of course, became the first Black woman to win an Oscar for Best Actress following her performance in the 2001 film Monster's Ball. Her career spans more than three decades, and in that time she's snagged some of the industry's top honors, including a Golden Globe, an Emmy, two SAG awards and five NAACP Image Awards.
This year's Critics' Choice Awards aired live on Sunday, March 13 at 4 p.m. on The CW and TBS.