Halle Berry became the first black woman to win an Academy Award for best actress in 2002 for her performance in “Monster’s Ball.” Fifteen years later, and she’s still the only woman of color to receive the coveted award.
In a recent Teen Vogue interview at a panel at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, the actress divulged her thoughts on the Academy’s lack of diversity progress, most notably the 2016 Oscar nominations, which drew criticism for failing to represent nominees of color and sparked the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite.
“I sat there and I really thought, ‘Wow, that moment really meant nothing. It meant nothing. I thought it meant something, but I think it meant nothing,'” she said of her own historic win in light of the 2016 nominations.
Since her win, eight women of color have been nominated in the best-actress category.
“I was profoundly hurt by that, and saddened by that,” Berry said. “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.”
“These kinds of groups have to start changing and have to become more conscious and more inclusive,” Berry continued. “I think black people… people of color… only have a chance to win based on how much we’re allowed to put out. That says to me that we need more people of color writing, directing, producing — not just starring. We have to start telling stories that include us.”
She reminisced on her emotional 2002 acceptance speech and said, “I don’t even remember where that speech came from, because I didn’t have a speech [planned],” Berry said. “I was pretty sure Sissy Spacek was going to win. That [sentiment] just was what was ruminating in my spirit during that whole process.”
The Academy announced its 2017 new member class Wednesday, with people of color making up 30% of the new invitees. According to the Academy, that percentage adds to a 331% increase of people of color invited to join the Academy from 2015-2017.