Halle Berry Talks Olivier Martinez, French Lingerie, and Aging in Hollywood

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“I have definitely changed as a result of being married to a French husband,” says the actress Halle Berry referring to actor Olivier Martinez. “French women would not put their sweats on and run out to the market. So I care more about what I wear out of the house, because if not, he calls me out on it.” Berry believes that Parisian fixation on always looking your best includes what’s underneath. “They put a lot of energy into their outerwear, but also their underwear,” she says. “They’re not going to get caught in an emergency room without being prepared.”

So, after discovering the lingerie brand Scandale Paris while ambling through the streets of France with Martinez one day, Berry’s entrepreneurial instincts kicked in. “I thought, who can really afford expensive underwear?” she says. She decided to help to relaunch the 82-year-old luxury line, but at prices that won’t break the bank. She also recalled a crucial life lesson her mom taught her: always wear a good bra, or gravity will show no mercy. “She said if I don’t want my boobs to hit my knees by the time I’m 30, always wear a bra, even to bed,” Berry says. And at 48 years old, Berry knows a good bra when she sees one.

The 10-piece collection will feature items ranging from $7 to $18 and debuts exclusively at Target today, marking a turning point for Halle Berry, the businesswoman. Like most stars of her wattage, she’s played the role of what she calls a “dancing bear,” endorsing products like Revlon and lending her name to sell perfume, while never having control over what she was hawking to consumers. But Berry, who’s a co-executive producer alongside Steven Spielberg on her NBC sci-fi drama Extant, is getting used to being in charge.

As a co-owner of Scandale Paris, Berry gets a say in both the looks of the pieces — that include bras and panties in black and nude lace — and the low pricing, which was an essential component for a woman who hasn’t forgotten her humble Cleveland beginnings. But does Berry, who memorably undressed in movies like Swordfish and Monster’s Ball, think her status as a sex symbol will help sell underwear? “I don’t think I’m using my sex symbol image, if that’s what you want to call it, to sell the line. I’m not the model, so no I’m not trying to use that part of me at all,” she says emphatically.

Berry wants to develop Scandale Paris into a global brand, a path carved out by other actresses like Jessica Alba, whose startup The Honest Co. — a line of socially conscious baby products — was recently valued at $1 billion. And while acting is still Berry’s main source of income and what she loves to do (Extant was just picked up for a second season) she is acutely aware of Hollywood’s cold tendency to turn its back on aging stars. “I think both actors and actresses face this,” she says. “It’s not just women. As an actor you face having to age and redefine yourself. The roles you were able to play before, you can’t play anymore. So you have to adapt and play a different role. And as actresses, we need to accept that we’re not always going to be the sexy ingenue, but hopefully we get better with age.”

Berry just arrived in New Orleans, where she’ll shoot Kidnap, a self-explanatory thriller about a mother who taps into her inner action hero to rescue her son from some very bad folks. Berry has real-life experience protecting her child from seedy characters. Last year, she appeared alongside Jennifer Garner in front of California lawmakers to help impose stricter laws against paparazzi who harass the children of celebrities. Berry says that since Senate Bill 606 passed, her 6-year-old daughter Nahla (with model Gabriel Aubry) has had some of her childhood freedoms restored. “My daughter is less frightened to be in this world,” she says.

Being a famous mother (she also has a 1-year-old son, Maceo, with Martinez) comes with its own set of unique challenges. Like, what do you tell your daughter when she sees mommy on the cover of a magazine? “That confused her,” Berry says about the time he had that exact experience with Nahla. “She was like, Mommy, is that you?” And how do you explain that mommy is sometimes a superhero who controls the weather? “She hasn’t seen any of my movies, so she doesn’t quite understand what I do for a living,” Berry says. “The beauty of our lifestyle is my daughter doesn’t see me as any different than anyone else. I try very hard to be like other mothers.”

Other mothers, however, don’t have an Academy Award for Best Actress sitting on their bookshelf. Halle Berry has been famous longer than she hasn’t, and she’s made peace with the fact that her private life isn’t really that private. “I’ve learned that I can’t care about what people say about me because caring is too stressful and too hurtful,” she says. “It can start to matter and affect you when you think about being a brand. People want know that they can trust you. But I’m happy to say none of the negative things that come from those people hiding behind their computers — I call them the haters — have permeated me through my career.”

For someone as outspoken as Halle Berry — she’s been involved in over a dozen charities and most recently fought hunger alongside Michael Kors — it’s been a mystery why she’s stayed off social media while plenty of her peers have used it to amplify their voices in a deafening media landscape. She says that’s going to change. “I’m sitting back and trying to figure out how I can be a part of social media,” she says. “It’s my children’s world and I want to be of it and with them. It’s about embracing change and evolution and it’s where the world is going, so I know that I need to be a part of it.”

Photography Marcus Mam
Styling Lindsay Flores
Hair Kristin Ess
Makeup Kelsey Deenihan