She’s the first and only woman of color to win an Academy Award for Best Actress.
Ever since the disappointingly-white Oscar nominations were announced in mid-February, Hollywood has been alight with a fierce debate surrounding diversity in the film industry. Celebrities and the public alike have chimed in on the #OscarsSoWhite debate on Twitter, while even more famous figures issued a call to action; Jada Pinkett Smith suggested boycotting the ceremony, Whoopi Goldberg said to boycott movies without colored representation instead, and Viola Davis blamed the Hollywood “movie-making” system for failing to cast enough black actors to begin with. In response, the Academy promised to diversify its membership by 2020, though its hard to tell just how impactful these changes will be.
Yesterday at AOL’s MAKERS conference, Halle Berry took her turn to contribute to the conversation. Berry is the first and only woman of color to win an Oscar for Best Actress. (Other black female winners include Lupita Nyong’o, Jennifer Hudson, Mo’Nique and Whoopi Golberg for Best Supporting Actress.) She won back in 2002 for her performance in Monster’s Ball.
“When I said the door tonight has been open, I believed that with every bone in my body that this was going to incite change,” she said. “This door, this barrier had been broken. And to sit here 15 years later and knowing that no other woman of color has walked through that door is heartbreaking.”
Berry referenced her moving Oscars acceptance speech, where she dedicated her award to “every nameless, faceless woman of color that now has a chance because this door tonight has been opened.”
According to the actress, there’s more to Hollywood’s diversity landscape than one awards show. The main issue for her is that movies aren’t “truthful” enough.
“And the reason they are not not truthful these days is they are not really depicting the importance and the involvement and the participation of people of color in our American culture.” For example, Berry said, certain films or TV shows set in major U.S. cities like New York or Chicago “void” the real-life minority populations living in them.
But the Oscar-winner is hopeful for the future. “I feel that when we live up to our responsibility in Hollywood and challenge ourselves to be truthful and tell the truth with our story telling, the people of color will be there in a real competitive way and it won’t be about inclusion or diversity,” she said. “Because if we are telling the truth, inclusion and diversity will be a by-product of the truth. And that’s what I hope. I hope to be a part of that change.”