Halle Berry (born August 14, 1966) is an American actress, former fashion
model, and beauty queen. Berry received an Emmy, Golden Globe, SAG, and an
NAACP Image award for Introducing Dorothy Dandridge and won an Academy
Award for Best Actress and was also nominated for a BAFTA Award in 2001
for her performance in Monster's Ball, becoming the first and, as of 2009,
only woman of African American descent to have won the award for Best
Actress. She is one of the highest-paid actresses in Hollywood and also a
Revlon spokeswoman. She has also been involved in the production side of
several of her films.
Before becoming an actress, Berry entered several beauty contests,
finishing runner-up in the Miss USA (1986), and winning the Miss USA World
1986 title. Her breakthrough feature film role was in the 1991 Jungle
Fever. This led to roles in The Flintstones (1994), Bulworth (1998), X-Men
(2000) and its sequels, and as Bond Girl Jinx in Die Another Day (2002).
She also won a worst actress Razzie Award in 2005 for Catwoman and
accepted the award in person.
Divorced from baseball player David Justice and musician Eric Benét, Berry
has been dating French-Canadian model Gabriel Aubry since November 2005.
Their first child, a girl named Nahla Ariela Aubry, was born on March 16,
Berry was born Maria Halle Berry, though her name was legally changed to
Halle Maria Berry in 1971. Berry's parents selected her middle name from
Halle's Department Store, which was then a local landmark in her
birthplace of Cleveland, Ohio. Her mother, Judith Ann (née Hawkins), who
is Caucasian, was a psychiatric nurse. Her father, Jerome Jesse Berry, was
an African American hospital attendant in the same psychiatric ward where
her mother worked; he later became a bus driver. Berry's maternal
grandmother, Nellie Dicken, was born in Sawley, Derbyshire, England, while
her maternal grandfather, Earl Ellsworth Hawkins, was born in Ohio.
Berry's parents divorced when she was four years old; she was raised
exclusively by her mother. Berry has said in published reports that she
has been estranged from her father since her childhood.
Berry graduated from Bedford High School, afterwards working in the
children's department at Higbee's Department store. She then studied at
Cuyahoga Community College. In the 1980s, she entered several beauty
contests, winning Miss Teen All-American in 1985 and Miss Ohio USA in
1986. She was the 1986 Miss USA first runner-up to Christy Fichtner of
Texas. In the Miss USA 1986 pageant interview competition, she said she
hoped to become an entertainer or to have something to do with the media.
Her interview was awarded the highest score by the judges. She was the
first African-American Miss World entrant in 1986, where she finished
sixth and Trinidad and Tobago's Giselle Laronde was crowned Miss World.
In 1989, during the taping of the short-lived television series Living
Dolls, Berry lapsed into a coma and was diagnosed with diabetes mellitus
In the late 1980s, Berry went to Illinois to pursue a modeling career as
well as acting. One of her first acting projects was a television series
for local cable by Gordon Lake Productions called Chicago Force. In 1989,
Berry landed the role of Emily Franklin in the short-lived ABC television
series Living Dolls (a spin-off of Who's the Boss?). She went on to have a
recurring role on the long running serial Knots Landing. In 1992, Berry
was cast as the love interest in the video for R. Kelly's seminal single,
Her breakthrough feature film role was in Spike Lee's Jungle Fever, in
which she played a drug addict named Vivian. Her first co-starring role
was in the 1991 film Strictly Business. In 1992, Berry portrayed a career
woman who falls for Eddie Murphy in the romantic comedy Boomerang. That
same year, she caught the public's attention as a headstrong biracial
slave in the TV adaptation of Queen: The Story of an American Family,
based on the book by Alex Haley. Berry was in the live-action Flintstones
movie as "Sharon Stone", the sultry secretary who seduced Fred Flintstone.
Playing a former drug addict struggling to regain custody of her son in
Losing Isaiah (1995), Berry tackled a more serious role, starring opposite
co-star Jessica Lange. She portrayed Sandra Beecher in Race the Sun
(1996), which was based on a true story, and co-starred alongside Kurt
Russell in Executive Decision. From 1996 onwards, she was a Revlon
spokeswoman for seven years and renewed her contract in 2004.
In 1998, Berry received praise for her role in Bulworth as an intelligent
woman raised by activists who gives a politician (Warren Beatty) a new
lease on life. The same year, she played the singer Zola Taylor, one of
the three wives of pop singer Frankie Lymon, in the biopic Why Do Fools
Fall in Love. In the 1999 HBO biopic Introducing Dorothy Dandridge, she
portrayed the first black woman to be nominated for a Best Actress Academy
Award. Berry's performance was recognized with several awards, including
an Emmy and a Golden Globe.
In 2001, Berry appeared as Leticia Musgrove, the wife of an executed
murderer, in the film Monster's Ball. Her performance was awarded the
National Board of Review and the Screen Actors Guild prizes, and in an
interesting coincidence she became the first African-American woman to
receive a Best Leading Actress Academy Award (earlier in her career she
portrayed Dorothy Dandridge, the first African-American woman to be
nominated for Best Actress). The NAACP issued the statement:
"Congratulations to Halle Berry and Denzel Washington for giving us hope
and making us proud. If this is a sign that Hollywood is finally ready to
give opportunity and judge performance based on skill and not on skin
color then it is a good thing." Her role also generated controversy.
Berry's graphic, nude love scene with a racist character played by co-star
Billy Bob Thornton was the subject of much media chatter and discussion
among African-Americans. Many in the African-American community were
critical of Berry for taking the part. Berry responded: "I don't really
see a reason to ever go that far again. That was a unique movie. That
scene was special and pivotal and needed to be there, and it would be a
really special script that would require something like that again."
Berry asked for a higher fee for Revlon advertisements after winning the
Academy Award, and Ron Perelman, the cosmetics firm's chief, congratulated
her, saying how happy he was that she modeled for his company. She
replied, "Of course, you'll have to pay me more." Perelman stalked off in
a rage. Her win at the Academy Awards led to two famous "Oscar moments."
In accepting her award, she gave an acceptance speech honoring previous
black actresses who had never had the opportunity. She said, "This moment
is so much bigger than me. This is for every nameless, faceless woman of
colour who now has a chance tonight because this door has been opened."
One year later, as she presented the Best Actor award, winner Adrien Brody
ran on stage and, instead of giving her the standard peck on the cheek,
planted a long kiss on Berry.
Berry portrayed the mutant superhero Storm in the film adaptation of the
comic book series X-Men (2000) and its sequels, X2: X-Men United (2003)
and X-Men: The Last Stand (2006). In 2001, Berry appeared in the film
Swordfish, which featured her first on-screen nude scene. At first, she
refused to be filmed topless in a sunbathing scene, but she changed her
mind when Warner Brothers raised her fee substantially. The brief flash of
her breasts added $500,000 to her fee. Berry considered these stories to
be rumors and was quick to deny them. After turning down numerous roles
that required nudity, she said she decided to make Swordfish because her
husband, Benét, supported her and encouraged her to take risks.
As Bond girl Giacinta 'Jinx' Johnson in the 2002 blockbuster Die Another
Day, Berry recreated a scene from Dr. No, bursting from the surf to be
greeted by James Bond as Ursula Andress had 40 years earlier. Lindy
Hemming insisted that she wear a bikini and knife as an homage. Berry has
said of the scene: "It's splashy", "exciting", "sexy", "provocative" and
"it will keep me still out there after winning an Oscar." The bikini scene
was shot in Cadiz, the location was reportedly cold and windy, and footage
has been released of Berry wrapped in thick towels in between takes to
avoid catching a chill. According to a ITV news poll, Jinx was voted the
fourth toughest girl on screen of all time. Berry was hurt during filming
when debris from a smoke grenade flew into her eye. It was removed in a
Because of winning the Academy Award, rewrites were commissioned to give
Berry more screentime for X2. Berry stated during interviews for X2 that
she would not return as Storm unless the character had a significant
presence comparable to the comic-book version.
In November 2003, she starred in the psychological thriller Gothika
opposite Robert Downey Jr., during which she broke her arm. Downey was
supposed to grab her arm and twist but twisted too hard. Production was
halted for eight weeks. It was a moderate hit at the United States box
office, taking in $60 million; it earned another $80 million abroad. Berry
appeared in the Limp Bizkit music video for "Behind Blue Eyes" for the
motion picture soundtrack for the film. The same year, she was named #1 in
FHM's 100 Sexiest Women in the World poll. In 2004 Berry was voted fourth
of Empire magazine's 100 sexiest film stars of all time poll.
Berry received $12.5 million for the title role in the film Catwoman, a
$100 million movie; it grossed $17 million on its first weekend. She was
awarded a "worst actress" Razzie award in 2005 for this role. She appeared
at the ceremony to accept the award in person (making her the third
person, and second actor, to ever do so) with a sense of humor,
considering it an experience of the "rock bottom" in order to be "at the
top". Holding the Academy Award in one hand and the Razzie in the other
she said, "I never in my life thought that I would be here, winning a
Razzie. It's not like I ever aspired to be here, but thank you. When I was
a kid, my mother told me that if you could not be a good loser, then
there's no way you could be a good winner." The Fund for Animals praised
Berry's compassion towards cats and for squelching rumors that she was
keeping a Bengal tiger from the sets of Catwoman as a "pet."
Berry next appeared in the Oprah Winfrey-produced ABC TV movie Their Eyes
Were Watching God (2005), an adaptation of Zora Neale Hurston's novel, in
which Berry portrayed Janie Crawford, a free-spirited woman whose
unconventional sexual mores upset her 1920s contemporaries in her small
community. Meanwhile, she voiced the character of Cappy, one of the many
mechanical beings in the animated feature Robots (2005).
In 2006, Berry, Pierce Brosnan, Cindy Crawford, Jane Seymour, Dick Van
Dyke, Tea Leoni, and Daryl Hannah successfully fought the Cabrillo Port
Liquefied Natural Gas facility that was proposed off the coast of Malibu.
Berry said "I care about the air we breathe, I care about the marine life
and the ecosystem of the ocean." In May 2007, Governor Arnold
Schwarzenegger vetoed the facility. Hasty Pudding Theatricals gave her its
2006 Woman of The Year award.
Berry is involved in production of films and television. She served as
executive producer on Introducing Dorothy Dandridge in 1999, and
Lackawanna Blues in 2005. Berry produces as well as stars in the thriller
Perfect Stranger with Bruce Willis and Things We Lost in the Fire with
Benicio del Toro and Class Act, based on the real life story of a teacher
whose students helped her run for political office. She will produce and
star in the 2009 film Tulia, which will reunite her with Monster's Ball
costar Billy Bob Thornton.
Berry is one of the highest-paid actresses in Hollywood, earning $10
million per film. In July 2007, she topped In Touch magazine's list of the
world's most fabulous 40-something celebrities. On April 3, 2007, she was
awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in front of the Kodak Theatre
at 6801 Hollywood Boulevard for her contributions to the film industry.
Berry has served many years as the face of Revlon cosmetics and also
served as the face of Versace. The Coty Inc. fragrance company signed
Berry to market her debut fragrance in March 2008. Berry was delighted,
saying that she had created her own fragrances at home by mixing scents.
She was paid $3–5 million with a royalty of about 5%.
Berry has been married twice. Her first marriage was to former baseball
player David Justice, shortly after midnight on January 1, 1993. The
couple separated in 1996 and their divorce was finalized in 1997. Justice
played with the Atlanta Braves and experienced a measure of fame as the
team rose to prominence in the early 1990s. The couple found it difficult
to maintain their relationship while he was playing baseball and she was
filming elsewhere. Berry has stated publicly that she was so depressed
after her breakup with Justice that she considered taking her own life,
but she could not bear the thought of her mother finding her body.
Berry's second marriage was to musician Eric Benét. They met in 1997 and
married in early 2001 on a beach in Santa Barbara. Berry credited Benét
with support after she was involved in a February 2000 traffic collision,
in which she suffered a concussion and left the scene of the accident
before the police arrived. Some in the media complained that her
misdemeanor hit and run charge was preferential treatment; she had also
been the driver in an alleged hit and run incident three years earlier in
which no charges were filed. The incident became fodder for comedians.
Berry pled no contest, did community service, paid a fine and was placed
on three years' probation. A civil lawsuit was settled out of court.
The couple separated in 2003. After the separation, Berry stated, "I want
love, and I will find it, hopefully". While married to Benét, Berry
adopted his daughter, India. The divorce was finalized in January 2005.
Berry has been the victim of domestic violence, and now works to help
other victims. In 2005, she said "Domestic violence is something I've
known about since I was a child. My mother was a victim of it. Early on in
my life I made choices, and I chose men that were abusive because that was
what I knew growing up...First time it happened, I knew enough to keep
In November 2005, Berry began dating French-Canadian supermodel Gabriel
Aubry, nine years her junior. The couple met at a Versace photoshoot.
After six months with Aubry, she stated in an interview, "I'm really happy
in my personal life, which is a novelty to me. You know, I'm not the girl
that has the best relationships".
At one point, Berry had indicated that she planned to adopt children, but
her experience playing a mother in Things We Lost In The Fire opened her
mind to the possibility of motherhood. After initially denying rumors, she
confirmed in September 2007 that she was three months pregnant. Berry gave
birth to a girl named Nahla Ariela Aubry on March 16, 2008 at Cedars-Sinai
Medical Center in Los Angeles. Nahla means "honeybee" in Arabic; Ariela is
Hebrew for "lion for God." Berry hired security guards after receiving
racist threats to her unborn baby from a stalker saying her child will be
"cut into hundreds of pieces."
At one time, Berry indicated that she did not intend to marry again,
insisting the couple's life was already complete without the need for a
marriage. She has stated that she hopes to have a second child right away.
Aubry recently told In Touch magazine, "I'd like Nahla to have a sibling