CULTURE

Halle Berry Had to Beg Hollywood to Take Her Seriously

“Just because someone looks a certain way doesn’t mean that they are spared adversity. Adversity does not discriminate.”


Photographs by Mario Sorrenti, Styled by Edward Enninful.

Halle Berry has played all types of characters: a “crack ho” in Spike Lee’s Jungle Fever, a Bond girl in Die Another Day, a superhero in the first X-Men movie. In 2001, she became the first African American woman to win the Oscar for best actress, thanks to her part in Monster’s Ball. But these roles didn’t come easily to her — Berry had to beg to be taken seriously by Hollywood. “I came from the world of beauty pageants and modeling and right away when people heard that I got discounted as an actor,” she said. In this year’s Royals portfolio, Berry is paired with Melissa Benoist, the star of the new hit CW series “Supergirl.”

Why did you go into beauty pageants? Actually, my boyfriend at the time wanted a beauty pageant girlfriend. So he entered me and I got this letter in the mail saying, “You are a finalist in the Miss Team Ohio,” and I thought “Uh, what is this?” And then he told me, “Oh, by the way, I sent your prom picture in and now you have to go.” So I took my prom dress–It was quite taffeta, hoop skirt, off the shoulders, almost like I was getting married–and I went to this contest, thought it was fun, and I ended up winning. And once you start winning these things it’s like a snowball. And you have to go to the next one and if you when there you go to the next one, and I kept winning all the way until the Miss USA pageant where I did not win. I was first runner up to Christy Fichtner. And that ended my beauty pageant career.

What was your talent in the beauty pageant? I had no talent. We didn’t have to have the talent. [In] Miss America you need a talent. Miss USA you’re talentless. You just show up. Thank god I didn’t have to sing.

When did it get into your head that you wanted to act? After that I graduated high school. I’d worked so hard in high school to be Ms. everything: I was head of my class, editor of the newspaper, in the marching band, the mascot. I was so exhausted from high school that I thought I have to leave town and go have a break. So, I moved to Chicago. I knew a woman that owned a modeling agency and I started modeling. While I was there I started studying at Second City and that’s when one of my teachers there said, “I think you should be an actor. I think you’ve got some talent.” And I thought “well, I don’t really want to be an actor. I want to be a journalist. I’m gonna go to college and I’m gonna be a journalist. I like to write.” And he said, “Okay but I think you should be an actor.” So, one thing led to another and I took that path. Sometimes I look back and I think how, “How could my life have been different. What if I were that journalist? What if I didn’t choose this life? How would it be different?” And I’m not complaining. I love what I’ve ended up doing. I love what I do. But I do think, I do look back and I think, wonder what if I had done something different.

Halle Berry wears an Alexandre Vauthier dress.

Photographs by Mario Sorrenti, Styled by Edward Enninful

What was the first thing you auditioned for? A television series called “Living Dolls” back in the late ’80s. [And I got that job. Scariest day of my life. I actually got my first job with my first audition. Luckily for me that show was very short-lived. It got canceled 13 weeks in, and then I got off on my movie career and my next job was with Spike Lee in Jungle Fever.

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 ho role, can you please let me audition for that?” And he said, “no, no I don’t see you as the crack ho.” I said, “I am the crack ho. Really deep down I’m the crack ho!” And he was like, “No, I don’t see it.” And I said, “Let me go in the bathroom, wash all this makeup off; you will see eyeing the crack ho.” So, he let me do that and I came back out and I got to read the crack ho, and I got the part of the of the crack ho. And it was an amazing way to start my career, playing a crack ho be directed by Spike Lee. It was major for me.

In the beginning of your career, it always seemed to me that you were intentionally trying to play the not gorgeous person. Was that intentional on your part? Yeah. It was intentional to not play the gorgeous girl. I came from the world of beauty pageants and modeling and right away when people heard that I got discounted as an actor. So, I had the job of trying to eliminate that part of my persona, and Spike gave me a chance to do that. And 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.

With Monsters Ball, Lee Daniels didn’t want to see me read. He was actually disgusted by the thought. He thought there’s no way and my argument to him was, just because someone looks a certain way doesn’t mean that they are spared adversity. Adversity does not discriminate. I thought, “My looks haven’t spared me one hardship or one hurt moment or one painful situation. So please, you know, give me a shot at this.” I said, “I often think it’s more interesting when you see someone that looks a certain way struggle in ways that you wouldn’t think they would be struggling with.” He ultimately gave me a chance and that sort of changed the course of my career in so many ways.

The 2016 Royals: Priyanka Chopra, Cindy Crawford, Chris Evans, Kanye West and More

Priyanka Chopra wears Burberry XO Barneys New York dress. Beauty: Burberry.

Hair by James Pecis for Oribe Hair Care; Makeup by Aaron de Mey at Art Partner; Manicures by Honey at Exposure NY. Set design by Philipp Haemmerle.

Photographs by Mario Sorrenti, Styled by Edward Enninful.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus wears Carolina Herrera dress; Pomellato earrings. Beauty: Nars.

Hair by James Pecis for Oribe Hair Care; Makeup by Francelle. Manicures by Honey at Exposure NY. Set design by Philipp Haemmerle.

Photographs by Mario Sorrenti, Styled by Edward Enninful.

Irina Shayk wears Prada dress, harness, corset, belt, charm, agenda, tights, and shoes; Bulgari ring. Beauty: L’Oréal Paris.

Photographs by Mario Sorrenti, Styled by Edward Enninful.

Halle Berry wears Versace gown; Pasquale Bruni ring. Beauty: Revlon.

Hair by Castillo; by Aaron de Mey
 at Art Partner; Manicures by Honey at Exposure NY; Set design by Philipp Haemmerle.

Photographs by Mario Sorrenti, Styled by Edward Enninful.

Elle Fanning wears Gucci gown; Bulgari earrings; Dior Fine Jewelry rings; Marc Jacobs shoes. Beauty: Gucci.

Hair by James Pecis for Oribe Hair Care; Makeup by Fulvia Farolfi for Chanel;Manicures by Honey at Exposure NY. Set design by Philipp Haemmerle.

Photographs by Mario Sorrenti, Styled by Edward Enninful.

Jodie Foster wears Giorgio Armani dress; Harry Winston earrings; Mish New York cuff. Beauty: Giorgio Armani.

Hair by James Pecis for Oribe Hair Care; Makeup by Aaron de Mey at Art Partner; Manicures by Honey at Exposure NY. Set design by Philipp Haemmerle.

Photographs by Mario Sorrenti, Styled by Edward Enninful.

Kanye West wears Yeezy Season 3 hoodie and pants. Grooming: Clinique.

Hair by Ibn Jasper at Frank Reps. Makeup by Aaron de Mey at Art Partner; Manicures by Honey at Exposure NY. Set design by Philipp Haemmerle.

Photographs by Mario Sorrenti, Styled by Edward Enninful.

Chris Evans wears Berluti tuxedo; Simon Miller shirt; Tiffany & Co. watch. Grooming: Giorgio Armani.

Hair by James Pecis for Oribe Hair Care; Makeup by Aaron de Mey at Art Partner; Manicures by Honey at Exposure NY. Set design by Philipp Haemmerle.

Photographs by Mario Sorrenti, Styled by Edward Enninful.

Kit Harington wears Hermès suit; Vince hoodie; Boss T-shirt. Grooming: Aramis.

Grooming for Harington by Johnny Hernandez at Fierro Agency. Manicures by Honey at Exposure NY. Set design by Philipp Haemmerle.

Photographs by Mario Sorrenti, Styled by Edward Enninful.

Ethan Hawke wears Louis Vuitton coat; Simon Miller T-shirt; AMI Alexandre Mattiussi trousers; Church’s shoes. Grooming: Dior Homme.

Hair by James Pecis for Oribe Hair Care; Makeup by Fulvia Farolfi for Chanel; Manicures by Honey at Exposure NY. Set design by Philipp Haemmerle.

Photographs by Mario Sorrenti, Styled by Edward Enninful.

Rami Malek wears No. 21 sweater; Prada pants, socks, and shoes. Grooming: Chanel.

Hair by James Pecis for Oribe Hair Care; Makeup by Aaron de Mey at Art Partner; Manicures by Honey at Exposure NY. Set design by Philipp Haemmerle.

Photographs by Mario Sorrenti, Styled by Edward Enninful.

New Royalty: Television “When I was a teenager, I was a tomboy and had scars on my legs. But then I taught myself to take care of my body and my hair. It takes time, but if I can do it, anybody can. Today, my legs sell 12 or 15 products in my part of the world.”

Alexander McQueen jacket and dress; La Perla bra and shorts; Harry Winston ring.

Hair by James Pecis for Oribe Hair Care; Makeup by Aaron de Mey at Art Partner; Manicure by Honey at Exposure NY.

Photographs by Mario Sorrenti, Styled by Edward Enninful

Classic Royalty: Television “I don’t approach my work from a gender point of view. If people are talented, be they men or women or transgender, I’m into it. I want to play ball, and I want to play hard. And if you can do that with me, then we’re going to get along great.”

Oscar de la Renta dress; La Perla bra.

Hair by James Pecis for Oribe Hair Care; Makeup by Francelle; Manicure by Honey at Exposure NY.

Photographs by Mario Sorrenti, Styled by Edward Enninful

Classic Royalty: Superhero “In the 6th grade, I played the supporting lead in a play called “Crazy Camp.” I ended up dating one of the more popular girls as a result. The second the play was over, she dumped me. So, at a young age, I learned the power of getting a good role.”

Melet Mercantile T-shirt; Rag & Bone Standard Issue jeans.

Hair by James Pecis for Oribe Hair Care; Makeup by Aaron de Mey at Art Partner; Manicure by Honey at Exposure NY.

Photographs by Mario Sorrenti, Styled by Edward Enninful

New Royalty: Superhero “In Doctor Strange, I play Baron Karl Mordo, the first person to introduce Dr. Stephen Strange into a mystical, weird, and wonderful world. Mordo can transport between dimensions, and I studied quantum physics to understand the science behind his powers. Personally, I would rather be able to make myself invisible.”

Burberry jacket and trousers; Prada sweater.

Hair by James Pecis for Oribe Hair Care; Makeup by Aaron de Mey at Art Partner; Manicure by Honey at Exposure NY.

Photographs by Mario Sorrenti, Styled by Edward Enninful

New Royalty: Model “I hadn’t planned to be a model, but I went to beauty school and was discovered there. My big break was in 2007: the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. Being Russian, I never imagined my career would involve swimsuits—I was raised with snow, and warm coats sounded a bit better to me. A swimsuit model has to stay in shape all the time. I love food, even though people think models don’t eat.”

Miu Miu dress, stole, and stockings; ring from Stephen Russell, New York.

Hair by James Pecis for Oribe Hair Care; Makeup by Aaron de Mey at Art Partner; Manicure by Honey at Exposure NY.

Photographs by Mario Sorrenti, Styled by Edward Enninful

Classic Royalty: Model “I grew up in a small town in Illinois, and I didn’t even know that modeling was a real job. My dad thought that ‘model’ was a nice word for prostitute. I did, however, have Calvin Klein jeans, and I knew about Brooke Shields and Seventeen magazine. That was my introduction to fashion.”

Stella McCartney dress; Curriculum Vitae bra.

Hair by James Pecis for Oribe Hair Care; Makeup by Aaron de Mey at Art Partner; Manicure by Honey at Exposure NY.

Photographs by Mario Sorrenti, Styled by Edward Enninful

New Royalty: Fashion “I have eight older sisters, so I started thinking about fashion when I was very young. I would customize clothes on my best girlfriend—­putting together a man’s shirt with a Victorian dress. And, being a classic Leo, I would always give my opinion to my sisters. I would watch them put on makeup, and I’d tell them what I thought, which wasn’t always welcome. Of course, now they all wear my clothes. They are obsessed.”

Tisci’s own Givenchy by Riccardo Tisci sweater.

Hair by James Pecis for Oribe Hair Care; Makeup by Aaron de Mey at Art Partner; Manicure by Honey at Exposure NY.

Photographs by Mario Sorrenti, Styled by Edward Enninful

Classic Royalty: Fashion “I didn’t mind putting my name on underwear. Jockey had its name on the waistband, so why shouldn’t I? My daughter, Marci, said in an interview that it was strange to have sex with men who had my name on their underwear. I told her, ‘That’s not funny.’ But it is funny—just not when it’s your daughter.”

Klein’s own clothing.

Hair by Thom Priano for R+Co at Garren New York; Makeup by Régine Thorre; Manicure by Honey at Exposure NY.

Photographs by Mario Sorrenti, Styled by Edward Enninful

New Royalty: Superhero “The costume for Supergirl is cute, but it’s difficult to put on. It’s not a one-person job: There’s a bodice on top of which muscles are added, because ain’t no way that I am that muscular. And the cape is its own special thing. The costume lives under lock and key. If I wanted to wear it for Halloween, I’d have to stage a mission to steal it.”

Valentino dress; Tiffany & Co. necklace.

Hair by James Pecis for Oribe Hair Care; Makeup by Fulvia Farolfi for Chanel; Manicure by Honey at Exposure NY.

Photographs by Mario Sorrenti, Styled by Edward Enninful

Classic Royalty: Superhero “I loved being Catwoman. I was a gymnast growing up, so I got to use all of those skills for the role. I hated cats going into it, but I learned about the psychology of them—and I came out of that movie a die-hard cat lover.”

Alexandre Vauthier dress.

Hair by Castillo; Makeup by Aaron de Mey at Art Partner; Manicures by Honey at Exposure NY.

Set design by Philipp Haemmerle.

Photographs by Mario Sorrenti, Styled by Edward Enninful

Classic Royalty: Television “On Game of Thrones, there were a couple of weeks when it looked like I was going to die. I thought, Maybe this is it. Then I found out I wasn’t going to die, so I had to keep this massive secret from everybody. I did tell my parents, though: ‘All right, Mom and Dad, you’re in on this now.’ They then went about lying to everyone. They relished it, I think. They’re quite dramatic, my parents.”

Derek Rose pajama set.

Grooming by Johnny Hernandez at Fierro Agency; Manicure by Honey at Exposure NY.

Photographs by Mario Sorrenti, Styled by Edward Enninful

New Royalty: Television “I am a troublemaker, for sure. I have a pretty cool scene coming up in Mr. Robot, and I’ve already talked to my makeup artist about bringing something that is not going to go over too well with the costume department: blood. A lot of blood. Our costumes are one-of-a-kind, so I could get into a lot of trouble. But you’ve got to take some risks in life.”

Prada pants, socks, and shoes.

Hair by James Pecis for Oribe Hair Care; Makeup by Aaron de Mey at Art Partner; Manicure by Honey at Exposure NY.

Photographs by Mario Sorrenti, Styled by Edward Enninful

New Royalty: Renaissance Woman “My parents always encouraged us to do what we believed in. There’s a funny interview from when I was 5 or 6 years old: My dad is interviewing me, and my mom walks in and says, ‘You are Wonder Woman.’ That’s one of my most vivid childhood memories.”

Chanel Haute Couture dress; Cartier bracelet; Chanel flats.

Hair by James Pecis for Oribe Hair Care; Makeup by Aaron de Mey at Art Partner; Manicure by Honey at Exposure NY.

Photographs by Mario Sorrenti, Styled by Edward Enninful

Classic Royalty: Renaissance Woman “I don’t think I’m particularly brave. I’m confident in my opinions about making films, but there are tons of things that I’m really just a child about. For instance, I have a fear of picking up the phone and asking someone, ‘Would you like to have lunch with me?’ Little things that other people learned in Adolescence 101 have always scared me.”

Saint Laurent jacket and trousers; Boss turtleneck; (right hand) Repossi ring.

Hair by James Pecis for Oribe Hair Care; Makeup by Aaron de Mey at Art Partner; Manicure by Honey at Exposure NY.

Photographs by Mario Sorrenti, Styled by Edward Enninful

New Royalty: Independent Film “I was 10 years old, going to a small public school in Palestine, Texas, when casting directors came through and asked kids to audition for a movie. The film was The Tree of Life, directed by Terrence Malick. They saw around 10,000 kids, and I ended up getting the role. I’m 19 now, and I have been acting ever since.”

Prada jacket and pants.

Hair by James Pecis for Oribe Hair Care; Makeup by Fulvia Farolfi for Chanel;Manicure by Honey at Exposure NY.

Set design by Philipp Haemmerle; Lighting technician: Lars Beaulieu; digital technician: Johnny Vicari; photography assistants: Felix Kim, Javier Villegas; fashion assistants: Ryann Foulke, Dena Giannini, Sam Walker, Anastasya Kolomytseva Anita Lau; hair assistants: Adlena Dignam, jennifer kim, dale delaporte; makeup assistants: Tayler Treadwell, Mariko Hirano, Robert Reyes, Takahiro Okada; set design assistants: Theo Volpatti, Ryan Stenger, Valentin Haemmerle, Matt Solis; special thanks to Highline Stages and Spring Studios, New York.

Photographs by Mario Sorrenti, Styled by Edward Enninful

Classic Royalty: Independent Film “I did Born to Be Blue, the story of Chet Baker’s midlife crisis, because it was something I could relate to. I was 18 when Dead Poets Society came out, and that success didn’t leave me far to go. We all like to feel that we’re growing better and stronger and improving every year of our lives, but when you peak at a young age, you have a long way to fall.”

Jil Sander sweater; AMI Alexandre Mattiussi trousers.

Hair by James Pecis for Oribe Hair Care; Makeup by Fulvia Farolfi for Chanel; Manicure by Honey at Exposure NY.

Photographs by Mario Sorrenti, Styled by Edward Enninful

Classic Royalty: Renaissance Man “To me, Will Ferrell is royalty. He is one of my personal gods. I would like Will Ferrell to play me in The Kanye West Story. Can you make that happen?”

Yeezy Season 3 sweatshirt; Hoorsenbuhs necklace.

Hair by Ibn Jasper at Frank Reps; Hair by Ibn Jasper at Frank Reps; Manicure by Honey at Exposure NY.

Photographs by Mario Sorrenti, Styled by Edward Enninful

New Royalty: Society “Growing up, we lived in the Waldorf Towers. My classmates used to call my sister, Paris, and me the Eloises of the Waldorf. If there were events in the ballroom, we were always sneaking in and spying on people. We did everything but order room service. Room service was off-limits.”

Philosophy di Lorenzo Serafini cape and dress; Nili Lotan dress (underneath); Chopard earrings; Harry Winston necklace; Chanel Fine Jewelry rings; Wolford tights; Miu Miu pumps.

Hair by James Pecis for Oribe Hair Care; Makeup by Fulvia Farolfi for Chanel; Manicure by Honey at Exposure NY.

Photographs by Mario Sorrenti, Styled by Edward Enninful

Classic Royalty: Society “I have always loved fashion and was lucky enough to live through the era of great couture designers. In the early ’80s, Azzedine Alaïa took a piece of jersey and draped it on me. He then took chalk and marked out the dress on my body. When I received the finished dress, it was stitched where he had placed the chalk marks. It fit like a glove then. Now it fits more like Spanx.”

RR 331 by Ralph Rucci coat and top; earrings from Stephen Russell, New York; Munnu the Gem Palace bangles; Perrin Paris gloves.

Hair by James Pecis for Oribe Hair Care; Makeup by Aaron de Mey at Art Partner; Manicure by Honey at Exposure NY.

Photographs by Mario Sorrenti, Styled by Edward Enninful
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Watch video interviews with all of W’s royals–past and present–here.