The first African-American woman to have won an Academy Award for Best Actress isn’t happy other actresses of color haven’t followed in her footsteps
Halle Berry, the first African-American woman to have won a Best Actress Oscar, thinks it’s “heartbreaking” that “another woman of color has not walked through that door.”
Berry won the prize in 2002 for her role in “Monster’s Ball,” and recalled her acceptance speech almost 15 years later while echoing widespread concerns about diversity in Hollywood on Tuesday at the the Makers Conference in Los Angeles.
“Honestly, that win almost 15 years ago was iconic,” Berry said, according to The Guardian. “It was important to me, but I had the knowing in the moment that it was bigger than me. I believed in that moment when I said: ‘The door tonight has been opened.’ I believed with every bone in my body that this was going to incite change because this door, this barrier, had been broken.”
Here are her exact words from her teary eyed acceptance speech:
“This moment is for Dorothy Dandridge, Lena Horne, Diahann Carroll. It’s for the women that stand beside me – Jada Pinkett, Angela Bassett, Vivica Fox. And it’s for every nameless, faceless woman of color that now has a chance because this door tonight has been opened.”
Or maybe it hasn’t. The voting body of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences failed to nominate a single person of color in this year’s acting categories. Since then, a number of actors, filmmakers and executives have expressed their concern about diversity at the Oscars. Jada Pinkett Smith, and her “Concussion” star husband Will Smith, have both said they don’t plan to attend this year’s ceremony on Feb. 28.
“To sit here almost 15 years later, and knowing that another woman of color has not walked through that door, is heartbreaking,” added Berry. “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.”
The Academy has since announced “a sweeping series of substantive changes” to its rules to promote diversity in Academy membership, but very little has been done so far.
“It’s really about truth-telling,” said Berry. “And as filmmakers and as actors, we have a responsibility to tell the truth. The films, I think, coming out of Hollywood aren’t truthful. And the reason they’re not truthful, these days, is that they’re not really depicting the importance and the involvement and the participation of people of color in our American culture.”