In 2002, Halle Berry made Oscar history as the first woman of color to win the award for actress in a leading role. Fourteen years later she remains alone in the distinction, and she said Tuesday she is “heartbroken” by the continued lack of diversity and inclusion in Hollywood.
Speaking at the Makers Conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, California, Berry called the issue “the elephant in the room, according to People. She said that when she won her Oscar for Monsters Ball almost a decade and a half ago, “I believed that in that moment, that when I said [in my acceptance speech], ‘The door tonight has been opened,’ I believed that with every bone in my body that this was going to incite change because this door, this barrier, had been broken.”
Berry continued, “To sit here almost 15 years later, and knowing that another woman of color has not walked through that door, is heartbreaking. It’s heartbreaking because I thought that moment was bigger than me. It’s heartbreaking to start to think maybe it wasn’t bigger than me. Maybe it wasn’t. And I so desperately felt like it was.”
Since Berry claimed her Oscar, three black women have been nominated for best actress: Gabourey Sidibe for Precious, Viola Davis for The Help, and Quvenzhané Wallis for Beasts of the Southern Wild. None won. (Jennifer Hudson, Mo’Nique, Octavia Spencer, and Lupita Nyong’o have won Oscars for supporting actress in that time.)
The Oscars have been under fire this year after nominating a racially homogeneous group, including all white acting contenders for the second year in a row. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences responded by overhauling its membership and voting rules.
Berry also acknowledged that the Oscars are only part of a larger equation.
“It’s really about truth telling,” she said. “And as filmmakers and as actors, we have a responsibility to tell the truth. And the films, I think, that are coming out of Hollywood aren’t truthful. … They’re not really depicting the importance and the involvement and the participation of people of color in our American culture.”