The difficult early life of Halle Berry
Halle Berry has become, on her own merits, one of the most prominent actresses in Hollywood. She has superb performances on her resume and, lately, a remarkable job as a director on 'Bruised'. But her journey to success was not easy. She had to overcome a tough childhood and early life to become the woman she is today.
The daughter of a white English nurse and an African-American hospital attendant, Halle Berry was born in Cleveland (Ohio) in 1968. She grew up with her mother and sister Heidi - five years older than her - in a lower-middle-class neighbourhood of the city.
Her father abandoned the family when Halle was just four years old. An alcoholic, abusive person, he would pass by the house from time to time, perpetrating violent acts against Halle, her mother and her sister. He disappeared from their lives permanently in 1976 after the women imposed a restraining order on him. The final straw had been his brutal beating of his former wife.
The Cleveland neighbourhood where Halle Berry lived was predominantly white. Berry recalls that she often was the victim of racism from her neighbours. She had to endure continuous mockery for her skin colour.
From a very young age, Halle Berry proved her worth. She was a class delegate at school and editor of the school newspaper, in addition to becoming Prom Queen at the end of year dance. But racism was always present. In fact, the proclamation of an Afro-American girl as Prom Queen of the High School sparked protests, leading to a decision that she had to share her crown with a blonde girl.
During her high school years, Halle Berry entered the world of beauty queens. She entered in various competitions until she became Miss America Teen at 17 years old.
Her successes in the world of beauty pageants increased as the years went by. After her first teen award, she would go on to become Miss Ohio in 1985 and Miss America's first runner up the following year, 1986.
Halle Berry became famous for being the first African-American woman to participate as a candidate for Miss World on behalf of the United States. In the ceremony that was held in London in 1986, she even became a finalist.
Halle Berry's successes in the world of beauty did not distract her from her true dream: to become an actress. She moved from Cleveland to Chicago to begin studying drama in 1987. To support herself, she worked as a waitress in a fast-food chain.
Her time studying in Chicago was very difficult. Halle Berry was forced to subsist while moving from house to house in different neighbourhoods of the city. She had just enough money to support herself and her studies. Alone and broke, she was forced to go to homeless shelters on several occasions.
The actress lost 80% of her hearing capacity in her left ear after being attacked by a boyfriend from her youth. She has been public about the event, which also turned the actress into an activist against misogynist violence.
The efforts of so many years were paying off and, little by little, Halle Berry entered the world of advertising in New York as an actress and model. She became the official face of Revlon and also began landing small roles in television series.
In 1989 she finally got a break in the TV series 'Living Dolls', a melodrama in which she played a dissatisfied model. Her fellow cast members were Alyssa Milano, Michael Learned, Leah Remini, Alison Elliott, Deborah Tucker, David Moscow and Marion Ross, among others. Unfortunately, the series was an absolute failure.
Her great leap towards success in the world of acting came with the 1991 Spike Lee movie 'Jungle Fever'. She played Vivian, an addicted woman. Halle Berry made her role as realistic as possible by spending the entire shoot (eight weeks) without showering!
From there, her career moved fast. In the 90s she stood out in commercial films such as 'Boomerang' (1992), 'The Flintstones' (1994) and 'X-Men' (2000). During these years she also played roles in TV series, winning the Emmy and Golden Globe Awards for best dramatic actress for the miniseries 'Introducing Dorothy Dandridge' (1999).
In the 2000s, she made other renowned movies, such as Storm in the X-Men saga and different roles in 'Swordfish', 'Die Another Day', 'Gothika' and 'Catwoman.' However, her great success was 'Monster's Ball' (2001), earning her the Oscar for Best Actress the following year. She was the first African American woman to win this prestigious award.
The Oscar, Emmy and Golden Globe awards were the acknowledgements of her lifetime of effort to become an actress. In 2007, Halle Berry proudly posed with her own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
On the subject of her romantic relationships, Halle Berry has also had a few difficult stories. She married baseball player David Justice in 1992, but it lasted only three years. After he left her, the actress fell into a deep depression, to the point that she thought about taking her own life. Halle Berry openly talked about that in a 2002 special with Barbara Walters.
On January 24, 2001, Halle Berry married R&B singer-songwriter Eric Bénet. Their marriage was marked by his addiction to intimate relations (outside marriage), something that the couple could not overcome. Eventually, the actress broke up with him in 2005.
With the racing driver Gabriel Aubry, Halle Berry had a daughter, Nahla. After their breakup, the child became the subject of an exhausting war between them. Everything got worse when she started dating Olivier Martínez. Aubry had a big fight with him in 2012, and both were injured in the altercation.
On July 13, 2013, Halle Berry and Olivier Martínez got married. In October they had a son, Maceo. Their relationship did not work out either, though, and they separated in 2015. At the City Summit gala in Los Angeles in 2017, the actress said "I declare myself an anti-fairy tale person."
Despite these hardships, there have also been many joys in Halle Berry's life. In her, we see a fighter who became a Hollywood star and who continues to strive to be free every day.