Halle Berry, First Black Woman to Win a Best Actress Oscar, Gives Emotional Tribute to Sidney Poitier

Berry followed in Poitier's footsteps when she became the first Black woman to win a Best Actress Oscar.

Halle Berry is remembering Sidney Poitier. After the actor's death on Thursday, Berry took to Instagram on Friday to pay tribute to him for his extraordinary life and acclaimed career.

The two stars share an important connection, as Poitier became the first Black man to win a Best Actor Oscar in 1964, for his work in Lilies of the Field.

While Hattie McDaniel and Whoopi Goldberg won Best Supporting Actress Oscars in 1940 and 1991, respectively, Berry was the first Black woman to win the Best Actress Oscar in 2002. To this day, Berry is the only Black woman to take home the award.

"'A tiny bit of myself is lost when my friends are gone,' Sidney Poitier wrote in his book LIFE BEYOND MEASURE. My dear Sidney, an enormous part of my soul weeps at your passing," Berry wrote in her post, next to a black and white portrait of the two. "In your ninety-four years on this planet, you left an indelible mark with your extraordinary talent, paving the way for Black people to be seen and heard in the fullness of who we are. You were an iconic trailblazer; yours was a life well lived."

"I grew up idolizing you and will always remember the day when I first met you," she continued. "It is the only time in my life when I’ve been rendered speechless! There I sat, with my words glued together, and you were as gracious and charming then as you would be during our decades of friendship to follow. Rest in peace, beloved Sidney. You are and always will be the true measure of a man."

In a joint interview with The Hollywood Reporter in 2010, Berry and Poitier reflected on the actress' big win, which came the same night that the actor was given the Academy Honorary Award.

"I was out of my mind, semi-conscious," Berry recalled of the night she won for her role in Monster's Ball. "But it was almost as if Sidney had a light on his head because he was in the balcony and I saw him standing up, and I have that very clear memory."

Poitier "was elated" by Berry's win, telling the outlet, "You have to understand what an important moment it was. We are all still looking for fundamental acceptance."

Even before her Oscar win, Poitier told THR, he was "impressed by [Berry] all her career," adding, "She has a presence, and it registers onscreen; she is multidimensional."

It was a mutual admiration, as Poitier is someone that Berry had long looked up to.

"As a young Black woman, it’s sad to say, I didn’t always have a real positive image of what a Black man was. My father left when I was young, and it was a very abusive situation," she said. "To see a man like Sidney, with such grace and dignity, inspired me. I held myself to a higher standard than I would have without him."


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