Halle Berry says seeing black actresses while being raised by single white mom was ‘crucial’ to her
Halle Berry shared that having black role models in film and television was ‘very important’ to her growing up and provided career inspiration.
The 54-year-old actress insisted in exclusive clip from the upcoming PBS documentary American Masters: How It Feels To Be Free that it remains ‘crucial’ for Hollywood to create content with diverse casts .
Berry said her ability to look up to actresses such as Lena Horne, Dorothy Dandridge, and Diahann Carroll when she was younger helped to ‘rearrange’ her.
Role models: Halle Berry, shown in May 2019 in Hollywood, shared that having black role models in film and TV was ‘very important’ to her growing up and provided career inspiration
She said: ‘I really struggled to find images of Black women or women that I could identify with. Early on, I remember seeing Lena Horne in ‘Stormy Weather’. I remember seeing Dorothy Dandridge in ‘Carmen Jones’. And then a little after that, I remember seeing Diahann Carroll in ‘Julia’ and that just rearranged me.’
‘Seeing Diahann Carroll being the star of a show and playing a mother who was a nurse, who was educated, who was beautiful, just rearranged me and it made me realise I had value and I could turn to every week, a woman that looked like who I would aspire to be when I grew up,’ she added.
Berry continued that having role models she could identify with was particularly important while being raised by her white single mother Judith.
‘I was a Black child being raised by a white woman, so I didn’t have those images in my household. Finding them on television and through movies became very, very crucial to me,’ she said.
Oscar winner: The 54-year-old actress is shown winning the Oscar for Best Actress in March 2002 in Los Angeles
Starring role: Lena Horne is shown in a scene from the 1943 musical Stormy Weather
Oscar nominee: Dorothy Dandridge, shown playing the title role of Carmen Jones in the 1954 film adaptation, also influenced Berry who later portrayed the Oscar-nominated actress in a biopic
American Masters: How It Feels To Be Free is scheduled to premiere Monday.
The series tells the story of how six women – Horne, Carroll, Abbey Lincoln, Nina Simone, Cicely Tyson, and Pam Grier – broke through an entertainment industry hell-bent on keeping them out and looks at their activism as precursor to contemporary movements such as #BlackLivesMatter.
The film features interviews and archival performances with all six women as well as original conversations with contemporary artists they influenced.
Rearranged her: ”Seeing Diahann Carroll being the star of a show and playing a mother who was a nurse, who was educated, who was beautiful, just rearranged me and it made me realise I had value and I could turn to every week, a woman that looked like who I would aspire to be when I grew up,’ added Berry, referencing the actress shown in Julia
Alongside Berry, Alicia Keys, Lena Waithe, Meagan Good, LaTanya Richardson Jackson, and Samuel L. Jackson all appear in the documentary.
Berry won the Oscar for Best Actress for her work in the 2001 film Monster’s Ball and is the only woman of color to have won the award.
The Ohio native made her directorial debut with the sports film Bruised in which she also stars as disgraced mixed martial arts fighter Jackie Justice.
Bruised premiered last September at the Toronto International Film Festival and will be released later this year on Netflix.
Historic performance: Berry won the Oscar for Best Actress for her work in the 2001 film Monster’s Ball and is the only woman of color to have won the award