Even though veteran actress and Bruised star and director Halle Berry made history in 2002 after she became the first Black woman to win for Best Actress, that win wasn’t just about her.
It was about “every nameless, faceless woman of color that now has a chance because this door tonight has been opened,” as Berry so eloquently noted in her acceptance speech at the time. However, upon further reflection, it appears as though her feelings may have changed, thanks in large part to the fact that in the 20 years since that historic moment, no other Black actress has ever won that same award.
In fact, in this year’s running, no other Black actress was even nominated—which is especially interesting giving the phenomenal performances from Jennifer Hudson, Ruth Negga, and Regina King for their roles in Respect, Passing and The Harder They Fall, respectively.
During a recent interview with the New York Times, Berry expressed her disappointment in the way things have transpired: “It didn’t open the door. The fact that there’s no one standing next to me is heartbreaking.”
She later added, “We can’t always judge success or progress by how many awards we have. Awards are the icing on the cake—they’re your peers saying you were exceptionally excellent this year—but does that mean that if we don’t get the exceptionally excellent nod, that we were not great, and we’re not successful, and we’re not changing the world with our art, and our opportunities aren’t growing?”
Nope, that’s not what that means at all. All it means is that it may be time for some serious talks about what divestment from these awards would look like and some serious questions about the value and prestige that have traditionally been attached to them (That goes for you too, Grammys, with your notoriously problematic selves). If the great work that Black artists put out aren’t being recognized by “the mainstream” and aren’t bringing more opportunities for them—you know, ones that don’t require them to still jump through hoops to get a project greenlit—then what benefit do those awards really hold?