When Halle Berry became the first black woman to win the best actress Oscar in 2002, she dedicated the win to “every nameless, faceless woman of color that now has a chance because this door tonight has been opened.”
But 15 years later, Berry is still the only woman of color to win the award, and she says she’s realized a harsh reality.
In a panel discussion at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, Berry said it was 2015’s #OscarsSoWhite backlash that left her feeling hurt about the Academy’s lack of diversity since her win.
“I sat there and I really thought, ‘Wow that moment (winning the Oscar) really meant nothing. It meant nothing. I thought it meant something but I think it meant nothing,” she said. “I was profoundly hurt by that, and saddened by that.”
But, she added: “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. 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.”
Berry’s acceptance speech following the 2002 win went on to become iconic. “This moment is so much bigger than me. 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,” she said, crying in shock. “And it’s for every nameless, faceless woman of color that now has a chance because this door tonight has been opened.”
She told the panel this week that the speech was unplanned.
“I don’t even remember where that speech came from, because I didn’t have a speech,” she said. “I was pretty sure Sissy Spacek was going to win. That just was what was ruminating in my spirit during that whole process.”
Since Berry’s win for “Monster’s Ball” in 2002, eight women of color have been nominated in the best actress category.