Halle Berry made history in 2002 when she became the first black woman to win the Oscar for Best Actress.
Berry dedicated her win to Dorothy Dandridge, the first Black woman to be nominated in the category (the Carmen Jones star lost to Grace Kelly), and told the crowd, “This moment is so much bigger than me. It’s for every nameless, faceless woman of color that now has a chance because this door tonight has been opened.”
Looking back 20 years later, Berry is disappointed that her win “didn’t open the door,” as she told the New York Times. “The fact that there’s no one standing next to me is heartbreaking.” Only seven Black women have been nominated for Best Actress since — Gabourey Sidibe (Precious), Viola Davis (The Help), Quvenzhané Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild), Ruth Negga (Loving), Cynthia Erivo (Harriet), Viola Davis (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom), and Andra Day (The United States vs. Billie Holiday). But Berry doesn’t want to take away from the progress that has been made.
The fact that no African American has won the academy’s top acting award for women in the past two decades should not take anything away from women like Lena Waithe and Viola Davis, who are producing “miraculous, wonderful work,” [Berry said]. “We can’t always judge success or progress by how many awards we have. Awards are the icing on the cake — they’re your peers saying you were exceptionally excellent this year — but does that mean that if we don’t get the exceptionally excellent nod, that we were not great, and we’re not successful, and we’re not changing the world with our art, and our opportunities aren’t growing?”
You can relive Berry’s acceptance speech below.