The Oscars So White tragedy of 2016 made Halle Berry feel like her historic best actress win “meant nothing,” according to Berry.
In a conversation with Teen Vogue’s Editor-in-Chief Elaine Welteroth for the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, Berry recalled not having a speech planned in 2002, when she became the first (and still only) black woman to win best actress, for her role in Monsters Ball. “I was pretty sure Sissy Spacek was going to win,” Berry told Welteroth on stage.
Berry’s speech famously referenced breaking future barriers—“This is for every nameless, faceless woman of color who now has a chance because this door has been opened.” When asked about the delayed progress in Hollywood since then, Berry called it “troubling” and explained how agitated she was over the all-white 2016 Oscar nominations. “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,’” Berry said of her win.
“Nothing” is surely an overstatement, though the message is clear. Berry said she was “profoundly hurt” that Hollywood still has these blind spots, adding, “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.”
Berry’s statements during the talk were largely reiterations of points that have become broken records, including the problem of getting more people of color in writing and directing positions. She expressed similar frustration in 2016, when she told Entertainment Weekly she found it “heartbreaking” that another woman of color had yet to win best actress.
The Academy has made institutional efforts to correct its inclusion issues since 2016. For her part, Berry says, “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.”