Halle Berry’s Best Actress win at the 2002 Oscars might have made history—but over time the actress says it has become “one of my biggest heartbreaks.”
Speaking with Variety for a cover story, the actress said she’d believed her victory would open doors. But even now, 18 years later, she remains the only Black actress to accept the award. That, she says, has made her doubt its significance.
“I thought Cynthia [Erivo] was going to do it last year,” Berry told Variety of the actress’s performance in Harriet. “I thought Ruth [Negga, nominated for 2016’s Loving] had a really good shot at it too. I thought there were women that rightfully, arguably, could have, should have. I hoped they would have, but why it hasn’t gone that way, I don’t have the answer.”
The Oscars have been consistently criticized in recent years for their historic lack of diversity. Alfre Woodard, who hosts an annual pre-Oscars party for Black actresses, put it succinctly at the top of this year’s Sistahs’ Soirée: “I’m gathering women who have been nominated in the acting category by the Academy, as well as those who, in a perfect world, should have been.”
On Tuesday the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences released a new set of eligibility rules aimed at bolstering inclusion and diversity within nominees lists in years to come. Films aiming for Best Picture eligibility will be required to meet these guidelines beginning in 2024.
The lack of Black women nominees through the years has made Berry rethink the way she initially understood her Oscars win: “Was that an important moment, or was it just an important moment for me?”
“I wanted to believe it was so much bigger than me,” Berry told Variety. “It felt so much bigger than me, mainly because I knew others should have been there before me and they weren’t.”
Berry notes that her victory did not even pan out the way she’d expected for her personally. “I thought, ‘Oh, all these great scripts are going to come my way; these great directors are going to be banging on my door,’” Berry told Variety. “It didn’t happen. It actually got a little harder. They call it the Oscar curse. You’re expected to turn in award-worthy performances.”
“Just because I won an award doesn’t mean that, magically, the next day, there was a place for me [in the industry],” Berry said. “I was just continuing to forge a way out of no way.”