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Halle Berry Biography

Halle Berry was born August 14, 1968, in Cleveland, Ohio, the youngest daughter born to Jerome and Judith Berry, an interracial couple. Halle and her older sister, Heidi, spent the first few years of their childhood living in an inner-city neighborhood. In the early 1970s, when Halle was four, Jerome Berry abandoned his wife and children, after which Judith moved, with her daughters, to the predominantly white Cleveland suburb of Bedford.

Halle attended a nearly all-white public school, and as a result was subjected to discrimination at an early age. Her early bouts with racism greatly influenced her desire to excel. While in high school she was head cheerleader, editor of the school newspaper, member of the honor society, class president, and not surprisingly, a prom queen. She also achieved the status of Miss Ohio, Miss Teen All-American, and in 1986, was first runner-up in the Miss USA pageant, and the first African-American to represent the U.S. in the Miss World competition in London.

In Cleveland, she studied broadcast journalism at the Cuyahoga Community College, and for few years she modeled in Chicago, which led to her first weekly TV series, 1989's Living Dolls. An actress of striking beauty and elegance, she rapidly gained a reputation for on-set tenacity, preferring to "live" her roles and remaining in character even when the cameras stopped turning. This technique was not universally condoned by her fellow workers, especially when she reportedly refused to bathe for several days before starting work on her role as a crack addict in Spike Lee's Jungle Fever (1991). However, such intense preparation paid off, as Berry's work on Lee's film provided her screen breakthrough.

The following year, the actress was cast as Eddie Murphy's love interest in Boomerang, one of the few times that the explosive Murphy was evenly matched on screen. Usually appearing in adult-oriented films, Berry gained a youthful following for her performance as sexy secretary Sharon Stone in The Flintstones (1994). She next had a highly publicized co-starring stint with Jessica Lange in the adoption drama Losing Isaiah (1995). Her turn as a former crack addict battling to gain custody of her child, who as an infant was adopted by an upper-class white couple, received mixed reviews. Some observers felt that her scenes with Lange merely amplified Berry's artistic shortcomings, while others believed that she had never given a more dynamic performance.

Opinion of the actress' work was overwhelmingly favorable in 1998, when she starred as a street smart young woman who takes up with a struggling politician in Warren Beatty's Bulworth; the following year she won even greater acclaim for her turn as tragic screen presence Dorothy Dandridge in the made-for-cable Introducing Dorothy Dandridge, earning both a Golden Globe Award and an Emmy Award for Best Actress in a Television Movie for her role.

Berry was featured in X-Men (2000), the big-budget screen adaptation of the long-running Marvel Comic. In the highly anticipated summer release Berry’s character, Storm, teamed with fellow mutant heroes played by Anna Paquin and Patrick Stewart. In the summer of 2001, she costarred with John Travolta in the disappointing action movie Swordfish, the publicity for which largely focused around Berry's topless scene. (See it here.)

Berry garnered the most positive critical notice of her film career in late 2001, for her performance as the wife of a death row prisoner (Sean "Puffy" Combs) who becomes romantically involved with a racist prison guard (Billy Bob Thornton) in the dark drama Monster's Ball. The role earned Berry a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress in a Drama and the Academy Award for Leading Actress. In her emotional acceptance speech, Berry acknowledged the honor of becoming the first African American actress to win the Oscar for her lead role by thanking all the performers who came before her. (See the nude scene from Monster's Ball.)

For a short time, Berry was involved in a stormy relationship with Jungle Fever costar Wesley Snipes, before she married Atlanta Braves outfielder David Justice, in 1993. Three years later, Berry filed for a divorce, which was finalized in 1997.

In February of 2000, Berry was involved in a hit-and-run accident that erupted into a tabloid scandal. After enduring a minor head injury, she claimed that she did not remember leaving the scene. As a result of her actions, she was put on probation and fined $13,500.

After her difficult divorce from Justice, Berry became secretly engaged to Eric Benét, a jazz musician, in August of 1999. Berry first introduced Benét as her "husband" at the public unveiling of her official Web site, Hallewood, in February 2001, while the couple actually wed two weeks before, at an undisclosed tropical location. They divorced in 2003.

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"If you take care of yourself, there's no reason to fear age. We all know we're going to die, so try to make it a pleasant journey. In a way, I look forward to getting older and, hopefully, gaining more knowledge. That's why I have no problems with my age."

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