Halle Berry on trying to 'dispel what beauty is': 'Do you think this package that I walk around in spares me any real-life situation?'

·3-min read

She's been a beauty queen and a Bond girl; now Halle Berry is getting Bruised.

The actress is making her directorial debut in the new film, in which she plays a disgraced MMA fighter. Though the X-Men and Catwoman star is no stranger to action roles or gritty, unglamorous performances — including Jungle Fever and her Oscar-winning turn in Monster's Ball — fans may be taken aback by her tough-as-nails transformation in Bruised, in theaters Nov. 17. 

In a new interview with CBS Sunday Morning's Kelefa Sanneh, the 55-year-old former Miss Ohio pushes back against her image as a movie star considered to be one of the world's most beautiful women. 

"Beauty is so subjective, but that word has been tagged to me since the beginning of my career," Berry says. "And so I've had to work really hard to dispel what beauty is and what beauty does and what beauty can do."

Part of that work includes taking on roles — such as Bruised, in which she appears battered and bloodied — that challenge preconceptions about beauty. 

"Do you think this package that I walk around in spares me any real-life situation?" she asks Sanneh before referencing her portrayal of a drug addict, Vivian, in Spike Lee's Jungle Fever. "Do you think crack would pass me by because of the way I look?"

Indeed, life hasn't always been rosy for Berry, who describes herself as a "latchkey kid [with an] absentee father." 

"I saw some things that most little kids shouldn't see," she says of growing up with an "abusive, alcoholic" dad. 

Halle Berry on beauty and empowering her teen daughter. (Photo: REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni)
Halle Berry on beauty and empowering her teen daughter. (Photo: REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni)

Now a mom to a 13-year-old daughter, Nahlia, from her past relationship with Gabriel Aubry — Berry also shares an 8-year-old son with ex-husband Olivier Martinez — the martial arts devotee is intent on empowering the teen through her own fighting, both on-screen and off. 

“You know what it says to her? She can do anything she wants," Berry says. "And as a little girl, a little Black girl, a woman — a girl of color, she needs to see these images. She needs to realize that her mom can do anything she sets her mind to doing. She needs to understand that what she will have to do, and I’m going to require this, is she will have to learn some form of martial arts. I’m adamant about especially women learning how to protect themselves. I think that’s key.”

Once frustrated by gossip and being what she calls "dinnertime fodder," Berry now finds strength in her passion for kickboxing and Brazilian jiu jitsu — something she "has" to do. 

“I have to survive, I had to make a way for myself. I’ve had to support myself. I’ve had to create a career for myself, a way out of ‘no way,’” Berry says.

“‘No’ has never been an answer for me. Getting hurt and stopping? Never what I do. Questioning? Never what I do. Taking chances? Always what I do, because I have to."

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