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On Tuesday night in Los Angeles, Halle Berry was honored as one of ELLE’s Women in Hollywood for her most recent movie Bruised, which she directs and stars in. The Netflix film follows a mixed martial arts fighter training to get back into the sport while trying to regain custody of her son. Berry told ELLE that she met with around 12 filmmakers when searching for a director before realizing she was the best person for the job.
At the event, Berry delivered her acceptance speech wearing a purple paisley Dundas x REVOLVE dress, candidly calling her directorial debut “fucking hard” and thanking all the women—and men—who have supported her.
“I can't tell you what it means to be in this room and feel our femininity because it's palpable and it's real,” Berry said. “By watching you, I’ve been able to dream, I’ve been able to have a path made for a little Black girl from Cleveland.”
The Oscar-winning actress—who was the first and remains the only Black woman who's taken home the trophy in the Best Actress category for 2001's Monster's Ball—went on to say as women, “we always have to reach back” to help those coming up after us.
She also thanked Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins for “being a beacon and leading the way” for other women directors.
“You allowed me to know that maybe I could direct a film one day,” Berry said. “There are so many times where, as women, we don’t think we have the right to direct, we can only be the dancing fucking bear. Well, you know what? We can be more than the dancing fucking bear—we can be in charge.”
Berry also took the opportunity to thank the men who have supported her both personally and in her career. “We have to take a minute to thank the men that are behind us,” she said, before joking: “Every good woman has a good man behind her who knows she should lead the way.”
“Never let anyone stand in the way of your dreams. If someone says you can’t, you say ‘watch me,’ if someone says ‘it’s going to be hard,’ tell them, ‘I’m a woman, I’m used to that,’” she concluded her speech. “Continue to forge your way forward and follow your North Star to inspire all women around the world.”
In her cover story for ELLE, Berry opened up about the challenges of working on Bruised, and why she identified with the movie’s plot.
“Fighting for the right to be is something that I know,” she says. “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. I love stories that are about redemption, allowing people second chances—and in our case, last chances. I love knowing that we can all make mistakes and be forgiven.”
She said learning new skills as a first-time director was “one of the hardest things that I have ever done, and that I’ll probably ever do.”
“I don’t really think I will ever direct and act in a film in quite this way again,” Berry added. “It was a monster role. I had a lot of pressure.”
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