Black History Month Highlights – Halle Berry

Our latest highlighted icon is Halle Berry, the first Black performer to win the Academy Award for Best Actress.

By Chuck Walton

Halle Berry in "Introducing Dorothy Dandridge."

© HBO / Courtesy: Everett Collection

She played Dorothy Dandridge, the first Black performer to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress. In real life, she became the first Black performer to win the Academy Award for Best Actress. She's Halle Berry, and we're humbled to highlight her.

How You Know Her

For her performance in 2001's moving "Monsters Ball," Halle Maria Berry made history by becoming the first lead African-American actress to take home Oscar gold. It was a feat to be celebrated, and Berry made sure to thank all the incredible Black actresses who preceded her.

She also won an Emmy and a Golden Globe for playing the first lead African-American actress to be nominated for Oscar gold, in HBO's 1999 "Introducing Dorothy Dandridge."

Over the last two decades, mainstream audiences have gotten to know her, too, as the popular character Storm in four different "X-Men" movies, Bond girl Jinx in "Die Another Day," and most recently as highly skilled assassin Sofia in "John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum."

Everett Collection

Their Life So Far

Her mother is English, and her father is African-American. Her parents divorced when Berry was only four, and she and her older sister were raised exclusively by their mom.

At Bedford High in the Cleveland suburb of Oakwood, Ohio, Berry flourished. She was the school paper editor, an honor student, a cheerleader, and the Prom Queen.

By the '80s, Berry was competing in earnest on the national/international beauty pageant circuit. In 1986 at age 20, she was the Miss USA runner-up, and also in '86, she became the first African-American Miss World entrant. In her interviews during the contests, she already mentioned she envisioned entering next into the entertainment business.

Berry's first big screen appearance was as an addict in Spike Lee's 1991 feature "Jungle Feature." She would follow up in the '90s with a diverse range of roles: a career woman considering love in "Boomerang;" a seductive secretary looking to woo Fred Flinstone in "The Flintstones;" a mom struggling to regain custody of her son in "Losing Isaiah;" and a smart woman raised by activists in "Bulworth."

All those acting experiences led up to Berry's Globe and Oscar triumphs. Post-Oscars, Berry met with success in franchise and genre films and forays into television (including CBS' "Extant" which found Berry playing a credible astronaut dealing with a strange return to Earthly life).

The Movie to Watch

"Monster's Ball" stars Halle Berry as a woman whose life becomes entangled with the ex-corrections officer (Billy Bob Thornton) who oversaw her husband's (Sean Combs) death row execution. It's a powerful watch that has much to say about America and the racial divisions that exist to this day. It doesn't pull its punches, nor does Berry, whose Academy Award-winning performance is raw and unforgettable.

©Lions Gate/Courtesy Everett Collection

Monster's Ball

Drama / 2001 / R

Watch on

What's Up Next

Berry will appear next on Netflix as the star of her feature directorial debut "Bruised," a story about fallen veteran MMA fighter Jackie Justice, who's pinning her hopes on a match-up with a rising young fighter, and a reconciliation with her 6-year-old son.

More Black History Month Highlights:

-Feb. 1 – Regina King

-Feb. 2 – Michael B. Jordan

-Feb. 3 - Idris Elba

-Feb. 4 - Octavia Spencer

-Feb. 5 - Ryan Coogler

-Feb. 6 - Zoe Saldana

-Feb. 7 - Forest Whitaker

-Feb. 8 - Halle Berry

-Feb. 9 - Jordan Peele

-Feb. 10 - Zendaya

-Feb. 11 - Denzel Washington

-Feb. 12 - Viola Davis

-Feb. 13 - Chiwetel Ejiofor

-Feb. 14 - Tyler Perry

-Feb. 15 - John Boyega

-Feb. 16 - Daniel Kaluuya

-Feb. 17 - Danny Glover

-Feb. 18 - Zoe Kravitz

-Feb. 19 - Chadwick Boseman

-Feb. 20 - Spike Lee

-Feb. 21 - Taraji P. Henson

-Feb. 22 - Kerry Washington

-Feb. 23 - Barry Jenkins

-Feb. 24 - Eddie Murphy

-Feb. 25 - Will Smith

-Feb. 26 - Ava DuVernay

-Feb. 27 - Angela Bassett

-Feb. 28 - Lakeith Stanfield

About the Author

Chuck Walton

Chuck is an editor/writer who's worked for NCM, Fandango, Movies.com, MediaTrip, Hollywood.com and Newsweek. His favorite movie is "Jaws." He's definitely a dog guy.

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