Career Breakthroughs: Halle Berry

Copyright 20th Century Fox and other relevant production studios and distributors. Intended for editorial use only.

Halle Berry graces us with her presence on screen in Moonfall, which is just the latest of many different feature film projects in which the former model has starred. To honor her accomplishments as an actress, we look back at how her career began. 

Halle Berry is an African-American actress who has transformed a successful modeling career into an even more successful career in films and television. She became one of the highest-paid actresses in the mid 2000’s, and even won an Academy Award for her work in the 2001 film, Monster’s Ball (becoming the first African-American to do so). But Berry isn’t just defined by the success of her films and the accolades she has received for her looks, she has become an activist by taking part in several different campaigns, and is a spokesperson for Revlon. 

Copyright Lionsgate Films and other relevant production studios and distributors. Intended for editorial use only.

On screen, Halley has been featured in many different types of films. From comedies such as Bulworth to action movies like Executive Decision. She starred as a Bond girl in Die Another Day, and helmed a television show Extant. By far her most famous role is as the comic book superhero Storm in the X-Men franchise. She has been featured as the same character in 4 different films. 

But Berry didn’t transform from a model with no experience to an A-list celebrity overnight. This is the story of how Halle Berry’s success came about as a result of having a dream and working to make it a reality….

In The Beginning… 

Maria Halle Berry was born on August 14th 1966 in Cleveland, Ohio. Her mother was an English immigrant who was a nurse, and her father was a hospital attendant. Berry’s father was abusive to her mother and left the family when Berry was a young child, and has not been a part of her life since. Her mother moved Berry and her sister to the suburbs where she attended schools that were predominantly white. Because of this environment, Berry experienced discrimination from a young age, and it inspired her to want to prove her worth to others. 

This drive led Berry to be heavily involved in afterschool programs as she grew up. She was an honor student, cheerleader, newspaper editor, and prom queen. As a teenager, Berry competed in several beauty contests. She was featured in Miss Teen All American in 1985, and Miss Ohio USA in 1986. Later that year she became runner-up in the Miss USA pageant. She also entered into the Miss World pageant where she finished sixth. It was during this time that Berry began considering a career in entertainment. 

Starting a Career…

Berry attended Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland with the intent to become a news reporter. However, she decided to transition to acting and did not finish her degree. She left to go to New York City in 1989 and become an actress full time. Without much experience, she struggled at first, but began winning jobs. Her first major role was on the short-lived television show Living Dolls. After that show was cancelled, Berry moved to Los Angeles to find more work. 

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She was a guest star on the Dallas spinoff Knots Landing before getting a minor role in Spike Lee’s Jungle Fever in 1991. From there her career took off. She accepted her first supporting role in Strictly Business, a comedy, before becoming Eddie Murphy’s love interest in Boomerang. Boomerang became a huge hit, and it provided Berry with a lot of exposure to mainstream audiences. Soon she began featuring in more high-profile projects. 

The Breakthrough…

In 1993, Halle showed off her dramatic chops by starring in the TV movie Queen: The Story of an American Family, and she had a minor role in the 1994 family film The Flintstones. Over the next few years she continued to work in comedies and dramas, including Losing Isaiah, Race the Sun, B*A*P*S, and Executive Decision, her first action film. She went on to star in more serious movies such as Bulworth, and Why Do Fools Fall in Love

Despite an active career, Halle hadn’t really broken into the mainstream. Things would change for her over the next few years, starting in 1999 when she starred, co-produced, and promoted the HBO biography Introducing Dorothy Dandridge, which told the story of the first African-American to be nominated for an Academy Award. The film was critically acclaimed and won several awards, including an Emmy for Berry’s performance. 

Copyright Lionsgate Films and other relevant production studios and distributors. Intended for editorial use only.

Berry’s work in this film made her stand out, and she was suddenly in demand for a multitude of high-profile projects. The following year she would feature in the three most important roles in her career, first a supporting role in Swordfish, followed by her portrayal of Storm in X-Men, and her Academy Award-winning performance in Monster’s Ball. After 2001, there were no questions about Berry’s abilities as a bonafide movie star…

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