Halle Berry went from small town girl to beauty pageant star to Hollywood sensation in record time, but she's been on the A-list for so long that many may not remember little Maria Halle Berry from Cleveland, Ohio. Born to Judith Ann, a psychiatric nurse, and Jerome Jesse Berry, an attendant in the same psychiatric ward, her parents selected her middle name from Halle's Department Store, which was then a local landmark in Cleveland. Halle's parents divorced when she was 4 after her mother left her abusive father to raise her and her older sister, Heidi, on her own. As a cheerleader, honor student, editor of the school newspaper and prom queen, the eventual Oscar winner was a star during high school, but she had dreams of making it in Hollywood. To celebrate the Nov. 24, 2021, release of Halle's new film "Bruised" — which also marks her directorial debut — on Netflix, join Wonderwall.com as we look back at her life and career in photos…
In the 1980s, Halle Berry entered several beauty contests, winning Miss Teen All American in 1985 and Miss Ohio USA the following year. In 1986, she was also named the first runner-up in the Miss USA pageant, losing out to the Texan candidate. During the pageant interview competition, she said she hoped to become an entertainer or have something to do with the media, which earned her the highest score in that category. Halle is seen here at the 1986 Miss World Beauty Contest in London.
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Following her display in the Miss USA pageant, Halle Berry moved onto the Miss World competition in 1986. She became the first African American entrant and finished sixth overall, while Trinidad and Tobago took home the crown.
Following her success in the pageant world in the mid-'80s, Halle Berry left Ohio behind and moved to New York City in 1989 to pursue her acting ambitions. It wasn't easy for the ingénue, as she initially struggled to book gigs or earn much money and even briefly lived in both a homeless shelter and a YMCA. She's seen here in an early headshot taken in 1985.
Thankfully, Halle Berry's tough financial times came to an end later that year when she was cast in her first on-screen role in the ABC sitcom "Living Dolls." A spinoff of the hit series "Who's the Boss?," it follows a group of young models in the Big Apple who are all represented by the same agency for teenage girls. The 1989 show was universally panned by critics and received mostly negative reviews, only airing 12 episodes before facing cancellation.
While serving as a great breakout, "Living Dolls" was also a tough production experience for Halle Berry. She lapsed into a coma while taping an episode and was soon diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Halle (seen here in 1989), who was only 22 at the time, prioritized her health by adopting a keto-style diet and later claimed she eventually weaned herself off insulin. (There was later some controversy about her health issues after experts speculated that she was misdiagnosed and was living with type 2 diabetes, as type 1 is incurable.)
Halle Berry nabbed her first film role — drug addict Vivian — in Spike Lee's "Jungle Fever" in 1991. "Spike Lee wanted me to read for the part of his wife and I read that part fine enough, but then I said to Spike, 'You know, I really am eyeing this crack h* role, can you please let me audition for that?'" she told W Magazine in 2016 of how excited she was to prove she was more than a pretty face. "It was an amazing way to start my career, playing a crack h* [and being] directed by Spike Lee. It was major for me… I took on roles early on that really didn't rely on my physical self at all and that was a good way to sort of get some credibility within my industry."
After gaining notoriety for "Jungle Fever," Halle Berry's film career quickly took off and she landed parts in flicks like 1991's "The Last Boy Scout" opposite Bruce Willis and Damon Wayans (pictured). But while working on the film, she suffered an awful injury during a abusive incident with a former boyfriend. The beating punctured her eardrum and caused her to lose 80% of her hearing in her left ear. She's never named her abuser, but has said that he was someone "well known in Hollywood."
The tragic ordeal didn't hold Halle Berry back as she soon found herself working alongside megastar Eddie Murphy as one of the main love interests in his 1992 romantic comedy "Boomerang." The funnyman plays a serial womanizer while Halle portrays a colleague who falls for him. It became one of the year's highest grossing films, earning more than $131 million worldwide during its theatrical run.
Halle Berry had seen baseball player David Justice on television playing in an MTV celebrity baseball game in 1992. When a reporter from David's hometown of Cincinnati told her that that athlete was a fan, Halle gave her phone number to the reporter to give to the then-Atlanta Braves star. It wasn't long before they started dating and showed up on numerous red carpets together. On New Year's Day in 1993, Halle married David after six months of dating. The couple (seen here at a premiere later that year) tied the knot shortly after the clock struck midnight and then moved to Sandy Springs, Georgia, to begin a life together while he played for the MLB. Halle often spoke fondly of her first husband in interviews, but he later told People magazine that she was insecure and had trust issues. "She carried a lot of baggage from her previous relationships," he said. "She was always suspicious. I've never known a girl who could throw a tantrum like she does."
Halle Berry made a prehistoric splash as a character named Sharon Stone in the 1994 live-action adaptation of "The Flintstones." Sharon attempts to seduce John Goodman's Fred Flintstone in an effort to swindle the company he works for of its vast fortune and pin the theft on an employee. The film was a huge box office success, despite earning negative reviews from critics, grossing more than $340 million worldwide.
Around the same time, Halle Berry was determined to branch out as an actress, proving she could be more than just a sex symbol. That chance came when she landed the serious role of a former drug addict struggling to regain custody of her son in 1995's "Losing Isaiah" opposite Samuel L. Jackson and Jessica Lange. While the drama wasn't a major winner with critics or audiences, it proved her versatility as an actress.
Three years after saying "I do," Halle Berry and David Justice (seen here in 1995) separated before eventually divorcing in 1997. Shortly after, she filed for a restraining order to have her ex remain at least 500 yards from her Hollywood Hills home after claiming he acted irrationally when he came to retrieve his personal belongings. (He denied he was a threat to her.) In 2007, Halle told Parade that she was so depressed during the divorce proceedings that she considered taking her own life.
One of Halle Berry's first memorable lead roles came in the 1997 comedy "B*A*P*S." The buddy tale follows Halle and Natalie Desselle as two aspiring female entrepreneurs from Georgia who go to Los Angeles to earn the money they need to open their own restaurant. While it didn't make a big impact at the time, it has developed a passionate cult following in the decades since — you'd be hard-pressed to not see the movie's infamous costumes on display during Halloween.
In 1998, Halle Berry received immense critical praise for her performance in the political satire "Bulworth" in which she played an intelligent woman raised by activists who gives Warren Beatty's aging politician a new lease on life. The film received positive reviews, an Academy Award nomination for best original screenplay and a Golden Globe Award nomination for best picture. It marked the moment that audiences truly started taking Halle seriously as a considerable acting force in Hollywood.
The following year, Halle Berry truly made everyone stand up and notice when she portrayed the first African American woman to be nominated for the Academy Award for best actress when she took on the title role in the HBO biopic "Introducing Dorothy Dandridge." She also served as an executive producer on the film, which she for years fought to get made. The hard work paid off, as it was a major hit with critics and received nine Primetime Emmy Award nominations.
Halle Berry was a serious awards season contender thanks to her work in "Introducing Dorothy Dandridge" — she won numerous trophies in 2000 for her acclaimed performance, including a Golden Globe Award (see here), a Primetime Emmy Award and a Screen Actors Guild Award. "My mother told me this morning to enjoy it," she exclaimed during her acceptance speech at the Globes that January. "Well, mom, I'm enjoying it!" But a month later, she made headlines for all the wrong reasons after she was involved in a February 2000 car accident in Los Angeles and pleaded no contest to charges of leaving the scene of the accident. She was sentenced to three years of probation, fined $13,500 and ordered to perform 200 hours of community service. Halle was also sued for negligence by the driver of the other car, who alleged that the star was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, which Halle denied. Both women were injured in the crash, with Halle suffering a gash on her forehead that needed stitches and the other driver suffering a broken wrist. The two eventually settled the civil case out of court.
Later that year, Halle Berry cemented her spot as a box office force when she starred as Storm in the 2000 superhero blockbuster "X-Men." The fan-favorite character is a mutant with the ability to manipulate the weather and create lightning storms, and there was massive anticipation to see if Halle could pull it off. She certainly did, helping the film gross nearly $300 million. She went on to star in the sequels "X2," "X-Men: The Last Stand" and "X-Men: Days of Future Past."
Shortly after her divorce from David Justice, Halle Berry met R&B singer Eric Benét after a 1997 concert at Los Angeles's House of Blues. There "weren't any sparks," she once told People magazine. But as the two swapped emails for more than a year, she developed feelings. "I turned to him and said, 'You know what? I think I love you.'" The pair became engaged three years later at the Cleveland premiere of "Introducing Dorothy Dandridge" and tied the knot in early 2001. Halle became a stepmom to the musician's daughter, India.
Halle Berry next appeared opposite Hugh Jackman and John Travolta in the thriller "Swordfish," which was a big box office hit and also featured her first topless scene. She was reportedly initially opposed to taking her top off until then-husband Eric Benét supported her and encouraged her to take a risk. Rumors swirled claiming Warner Bros. Pictures offered her an additional $500,000 to do it, which the star denied, saying the stories amused her and "made for great publicity for the movie."
A massive moment soon followed with Halle Berry's most celebrated performance to date. The 2001 drama "Monster's Ball" saw her play the troubled wife of an executed murderer. She was awarded the National Board of Review and the Screen Actors Guild Award for best actress for her won in the film, which generated controversy for her graphic love scene with a racist character played by Billy Bob Thornton. Many in the Black community were critical of her taking the part, to which Halle told Ebony magazine at the time, "I don't really see a reason to ever go that far again. That was a unique movie. That scene was special and pivotal and needed to be there, and it would be a really special script that would require something like that again."
Halle Berry was rewarded for her incredible work in "Monster's Ball." She became the first African American woman to win the Academy Award for best actress (and did it just a few years after playing Dorothy Dandridge, the first African American woman to be nominated for best actress). Her win was groundbreaking, with the NAACP saying in a statement at the time, "If this is a sign that Hollywood is finally ready to give opportunity and judge performance based on skill and not on skin color then it is a good thing."
As she was sitting on top of the world, Halle Berry next took on one of Hollywood's most high-profile gigs: a Bond girl. In 2002's "Die Another Day," she played Giacinta "Jinx" Johnson, the first heroic African American Bond girl. The NSA agent joins forces with James Bond (played by Pierce Brosnan at the time) to kill a rogue agent. She made headlines for a scene showing her emerging from the surf in a bright orange bikini. Halle called the buzzy moment "splashy," "exciting,' "sexy," "provocative" and claimed, "it will keep me still out there after winning an Oscar." It didn't come without its complications, however, as the actress was hurt during filming when debris from a smoke grenade flew into her eye, requiring surgery. Halle helped make it the highest grossing James Bond film to date at the time.
Halle Berry kept her golden streak going with the 2003 psychological thriller "Gothika" opposite Robert Downey Jr. and Penelope Cruz. The box office smash saw her playing a psychiatrist who ends up incarcerated in the penitentiary where she works after being accused of brutally murdering her own husband. It came with another set of hurdles for the star when production was halted for two months after an on-set accident: Robert accidentally broke her arm during a physical scene.
Shortly after Halle Berry's Oscar win, the rumor mill started churning out stories claiming second husband Eric Benét had been unfaithful. Halle has said he came clean about his infidelity when she threatened to sue a tabloid for printing what she thought were lies. They stayed together initially, as the star likened her husband to a sex addict, and he underwent treatment in an attempt to save their marriage. But it proved to only be a Band-Aid for the pair, who separated in late 2003 (they're seen here at the 2003 Screen Actors Guild Awards a few months earlier) and finalized their divorce in 2005. "Eric and I have had marital problems for some time now and have tried to work things out together," she said in a statement to People magazine at the time. "However, at this point, I feel we need time apart to reevaluate our union."
Following her split from her second husband, Halle Berry delivered the biggest box office turkey of her career: 2004's "Catwoman." She received $12.5 million to play the popular comic book character in the film, which cost more than $100 million to produce. It didn't make its budget back in ticket sales and was widely regarded by critics as one of the worst films ever made. She won the Razzie Award for worst actress, which she took in stride by appearing in person to accept the trophy. "I never in my life thought that I would be up here, winning a Razzie," she said in her speech. "It's not like I ever aspired to be here, but thank you. When I was a kid, my mother told me that if you could not be a good loser, then there's no way you could be a good winner."
Luckily, Halle Berry didn't stay on the bad side of critics for too long as she next starred in the Oprah Winfrey-produced ABC television movie "Their Eyes Were Watching God" in 2005. The adaptation of the bestselling novel saw her portraying a free-spirited woman whose unconventional sexual mores upset her 1920s contemporaries in a small community. The darker role earned her rave reviews as well as her second Primetime Emmy Award nomination.
Halle Berry reached an exciting development in her love life in 2005: She began dating French Canadian model Gabriel Aubry, whom she met at a Versace photoshoot. Gabriel's father spilled the beans to People, revealing his son "told me he was in love." The couple are seen here at a Versace boutique opening in New York City in 2006.
In 2007, Halle Berry received one of the entertainment industry's biggest honors for her contributions to the film industry: a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Hers is located in front of the Kodak Theatre, where she received her Academy Award a few years prior. "I am so emotional… as soon as I saw the crowds of people and friends here, I started to cry," she said during her ceremony. By the end of the decade, Halle had also established herself as one of the highest paid actresses in Hollywood, earning an estimated $10 million per film.
Halle Berry welcomed her first child in 2008, a daughter named Nahla Ariela Aubry. She was 41 when she and model Gabriel Aubry became parents. At Essence magazine's Black Women in Hollywood luncheon in 2009, Halle said in her speech, "I'm complete. I have more to offer my craft because [my daughter] makes me indelibly better every day." The actress and her baby girl are seen here in Los Angeles in 2009.
Two years after welcoming their daughter, Halle Berry and Gabriel Aubry announced their relationship had ended. The 2010 split — which happened shortly after this photo of the pair was taken at a late-2009 benefit gala — came five years after they got together, with reports suggesting it was down to their nine-year age gap. Things appeared to end on good terms and both promised to "remain friends and committed parents to their daughter," with the model saying in a statement, "She is, and will forever be, one of the most special and beautiful people that I have ever known, and I am certain that we will continue to have only love and respect for one another."
After her high-profile split from Gabriel Aubry, in 2010, Halle Berry began work on the thriller "Dark Tide," and not long later, reports revealed she'd started dating her handsome co-star, Olivier Martinez. The film's release was delayed until 2012 — it ultimately was a box office bomb — but Halle found her happy ending with the blossoming romance. The two were seen taking PDA-heavy strolls through Paris before they confirmed their status. After months of speculation, Olivier confirmed in the spring of 2012 that he and Halle were engaged, telling the Miami Herald, "Yes, of course it's true."
Halle Berry was part of an ensemble cast that included Tom Hanks and Jim Broadbent in the Wachowskis's 2012 sci-fi epic "Cloud Atlas." The big-budget film saw each of the actors playing six different characters across a period of five centuries, but it failed to make a major dent at the box office or with critics.
Halle Berry's romance with Olivier Martinez sparked drama with ex Gabriel Aubry as the two became embroiled in a highly publicized custody battle over their daughter. The focus of the disagreement was on the actress's desire to move from Los Angeles, where Gabriel lived, to Paris to reside with fiancé Olivier. Gabriel objected to the move on the grounds that it would interfere with their joint custody arrangement, but Halle claimed a permanent move would be in the best interests of young Nahla because she would be better protected from paparazzi in Europe. A judge sided with Gabriel in late 2012. (The exes are seen here with Nahla at Disneyland in 2010.) Things got more complicated a few weeks later around Thanksgiving that year when Gabriel and Olivier got into a physical altercation that sent them both to the hospital. Days later, Halle's lawyer announced the exes had reached an amicable custody agreement and in 2014, a Superior Court ruling called for Halle to pay Gabriel $16,000 a month in child support as well as a retroactive payment of $115,000 and a sum of $300,000 for his attorney fees.
In the summer of 2013, Halle Berry and Olivier Martinez tied the knot at Chateau des Conde in Vallery, France. Around 60 guests were in attendance and enjoyed a night full of fireworks and dancing. The couple is seen here at Variety's Fourth Annual Power of Women event about nine months before they became husband and wife.
In 2013, Halle Berry testified alongside Jennifer Garner before the California State Assembly's Judiciary Committee in support of a bill that would protect celebrities' children from harassment by photographers. The bill, titled the Anti-Paparazzi Bill, SB 606, passed that September.
2013 was a big year for Halle Berry. She not only got married but welcomed her second child — and first with then-husband Olivier Martinez — that October, son Maceo-Robert. The star expressed her joy to CNN, sharing of being pregnant at 46, "This has been the biggest surprise of my life, to tell you the truth… thought I was kind of past the point where this could be a reality for me. So it's been a big surprise and the most wonderful." halle and her son are seen here outside a Los Angeles mall in 2015.
Halle Berry got back to work with the 2013 thriller "The Call." She plays a 9-1-1 operator who receives a call from a girl kidnapped by a serial killer. The film received positive reviews from critics and became a sleeper hit at the box office.
Halle Berry next pivoted to television, launching a new production company called 606 Films and starring in the CBS drama series "Extant" in 2014. She plays an astronaut who struggles to reconnect with her husband and android son after spending 13 months in space. The show, which ran for two seasons until 2015, received largely positive reviews from critics. USA Today wrote that "she brings a dignity and gravity to Molly, a projected intelligence that allows you to buy her as an astronaut and to see what has happened to her as frightening rather than ridiculous. Berry's all in, and you float along."
After two years of marriage, Halle Berry and Olivier Martinez called it quits in the fall of 2015. (They're seen here at a pre-Oscar party earlier that year). "It is with a heavy heart that we have come to the decision to divorce," the couple said in a joint statement to People magazine. "We move forward with love and respect for one another and the shared focus of what is best for our son. We wish each other nothing but happiness in life and we hope that you respect our and, most importantly, our children's privacy as we go through this difficult period." Reports claimed separate living arrangements, Halle's hectic work schedule, clashing priorities and headstrong temperaments are what eventually drove them apart.
Halle Berry focused on work post-split, playing an agent employed by a secret American spy organization in the 2017 action-comedy sequel "Kingsman: The Golden Circle." She joined an all-star ensemble that included Colin Firth, Taron Egerton, Mark Strong, Julianne Moore, Channing Tatum and Elton John. It went on to gross a massive $414 million worldwide.
In 2019, the hits continued for Halle Berry with a role in the action sequel "John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum" opposite Keanu Reeves. She stars as an ex-assassin who helps the titular character go on the run from a legion of killers after a bounty is placed for his murder. It raked in $326 million worldwide, becoming the highest grossing film in the franchise in just 10 days, and received positive reviews from critics with particular praise for the action sequences, visual style and performances.
Halle Berry started dating Grammy-winning musician Van Hunt in 2020, announcing the news of their romance on Instagram. At the ELLE Women in Hollywood Awards that October, she gushed about her beau, saying, "My love, love, love — my sweetheart. I've never had a man that has lifted me up and let me be all that I am." When asked by "Extra" if she and her partner were "madly in love," she replied, "We are," before adding, "Sometimes you have to wait for things in life. I waited patiently — well, maybe not patiently, but I waited."
Halle Berry's latest release is the Netflix sports drama "Bruised," which also marks the star's directorial debut. In the project, which was released in theaters and on the streamer in November 2021, she plays a disgraced MMA fighter who reconnects with her estranged son after giving him up for adoption as an infant. Halle, who trained in mixed martial arts for two years to get it right, told ELLE magazine that she reworked the script to make it work for her and felt compelled to see the movie through. "I started my career 30 years ago when Black women didn't really have a prominent place in the industry, so I understand what it is to fight for what you believe in," she explained. She also said she's hoping to continue directing going forward. "As I've gotten older and as I've grown in the business, I've been feeling like storytelling is what I would probably do in my second act," she shared.