In 2002, Halle Berry made history by becoming the first African-American woman to win a Best Actress In A Leading Role Oscar for her 2001 critical hit, Monster's Ball. Berry let her excitement show in her acceptance speech, stating that was the beginning of better opportunities for People of Color (POC) in the industry:
"This moment is so much bigger than me [...] It's for every nameless, faceless woman of color that now has a chance because this door tonight has been opened. Thank you. I'm so honored."
To this day, she's the only Black woman to have won an Oscar in that category. Sadly, if you were to ask her about that milestone now, she wouldn't feel so sure about the progress accomplished by it. In a conversation with Teen Vogue during the Cannes Lions International Festival Of Creativity, the actress opened up about how the 2016 #OscarsSoWhite controversy completely changed her outlook on the effect of her Oscars win:
“I sat there and I really thought, ‘Wow, that moment really meant nothing. It meant nothing. I thought it meant something, but I think it meant nothing. I was profoundly hurt by that, and saddened by that."
But Berry isn't one to remain with her arms crossed waiting for something to change. In fact, that same lack of diversity, as painful as it is, inspired her to take charge.
Using Her Disappointment In The Industry To Make A Difference
The actress is taking it upon herself to make a difference in the business by putting herself in a position of power (as both a director and producer). That way, she feels that she'll be able to provide more job opportunities for POC:
"It inspired me to try to get involved in other ways, which is why I want to start directing. I want to start producing more. I want to start making more opportunities for people of color. I have conversations more deeply with Academy members, and I’m trying to figure out how to help and add more diversity to the Academy."
Going in-depth about her having a bigger role behind the camera, Berry explained that Black people have to constantly release content in order to be recognized. For her, that's a pretty good indication of the state of the industry:
"I think black people [...] only have a chance to win based on how much we’re allowed to put out. That says to me that we need more people of color writing, directing, producing — not just starring. We have to start telling stories that include us."
The actress makes a great point, and it parallels the ongoing gender equality battle in the business. Much like with women directors and leads, diversity and representation shouldn't be something extraordinary that needs to be highlighted whenever it happens, it should be the norm. And the way to achieve that is by providing more opportunities.
Opening The Door For A Wider Conversation
It's quite clear there's still fear in the entertainment business to fully embrace a diverse mindset. Hopefully #HalleBerry's comments will open the door for a wider conversation about the subject, because the problem doesn't come down to one color or race, it applies to all the ethnicities that don't get a voice in entertainment.
Fortunately, signs of a better situation are starting to show. In 2016, the Academy invited 683 new members, of which 46% were women and 41% were POC. This year, it welcomed 744 new members, which were comprised of 30% POC and 39% of women. Let's just hope this progress continues, and bigger industry changes start happening fast.
What do you think about what Halle Berry had to say regarding diversity in Hollywood? Let me know in the comments!