Actress and model. Halle Maria Berry was born August 14th, 1966, 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, Jerome Berry abandoned his wife and children, after which Judith moved her family to the predominantly white Cleveland suburb of Bedford.
Berry 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. Throughout high school, the determined teen participated in a dizzying array of extracurricular activities, holding positions of newspaper editor, class president, and head cheerleader.
A natural performer, Berry earned a handful of beauty pageant titles during the early 1980s, including Miss Teen Ohio and Miss Teen America. She was eventually awarded first runner up in the 1985 Miss U.S.A. competition. For a short time she attended Cleveland ‘s Cuyahoga Community College, where she studied broadcast journalism. However, Berry abandoned her idea of a career in news reporting before receiving her degree. Choosing to wholeheartedly devote her time to a career in entertainment, Berry first moved to Chicago and then New York City, where she found work as a catalog model.
As the 80s turned into the 90s, the aspiring actress began a career in television with a role on the short lived sitcom Living Dolls (1989), followed by a year long run on the CBS prime time drama Knot’s Landing, in 1991. Berry’s first big screen break came later that year when she was cast as Samuel L. Jackson’s drug addicted girlfriend in Spike Lee’s crticially acclaimed film, Jungle Fever. More substantial supporting roles followed, including that of a stripper in the action thriller The Last Boy Scout (1991), starring Bruce Willis, and as the woman who finally wins Eddie Murphy’s heart in the romantic comedy Boomerang (1992).
With a few films under her belt, Berry accepted more offbeat roles, making cameos in the rockumentary CB4 (1993), which traced the rise and fall of a rap group by the same name. In 1994, the live action version of The Flintstones featured Berry as a Stone Age seductress.
Berry offered a no holds barred performance as a rehabilitated crack addict seeking to regain custody of her son in Losing Isaiah (1995). Berry, who played opposite Jessica Lange and David Strathairn, was noted for her believable portrayal of a mother struggling with addiction and loss. Later that year, Berry overcame Hollywood’s racial barriers when she was cast as the first African American to play the Queen of Sheeba in Showtime’s movie Solomon & Sheeba.
Berry’s acting credits the next year included two 1996 crime thrillers: The Rich Man’s Wife, and Executive Decision. The latter film marked Berry’s first leading role in a feature.