Halle Berry: “We Deserve Better”


Halle Berry, Best Actress Oscar (2002)

This moment is so much bigger than me. . .this moment is for. . .
every nameless, faceless woman of color that now has a chance because
this door tonight has been opened.
– Halle Berry
 
Halle Berry was the first Black actress to receive a Best Actress Oscar (Monster’s Ball, produced by Lee Daniels).  She witnessed domestic violence as a child and experienced it as an adult.
 
She invests heavily in the work of the Jenesse Center, a domestic violence shelter in Los Angeles, and was honored by NBC’s “Making a Difference” series.  Ms. Berry rarely does interviews, but you can watch a series of videos about her work at the center on their website.  The center was founded in 1980 by five survivors of domestic violence.
 

Halle Berry and Nahla

What a Little Love Can Do
 
On March 16, 2008, Ms. Berry gave birth to Nahla Ariela Aubry.  Nahla means “honeybee” in Arabic; Ariela is Hebrew for “lion for God.”
 
When Nahla turned two, Ms. Berry wondered what to do with her baby clothes.  She decided to take on an ambitious project:  What a Little Love Can Do to benefit the Jenesse Center’s transitional safe housing efforts.  She kicked it off by funding the beautiful remodel of two of the units.  Nahla’s baby clothes are offered to shelter clients at the boutique in Nahla’s World.  She filmed a moving PSA in support of the project, and wrote an invitation to her friends:
 
My goal is to completely remodel one of Jenesse Center’s transitional housing shelters.  It is my belief that the spirits of many battered women have been so broken that they can only DREAM of living independently in a safe, warm and beautiful space free of the horrors of the past.  Through living in an apartment that was designed with love and attention to detail that is reflective of modern day living, I believe these women and children will have an amazing opportunity to begin to live a reality that is possible and most importantly, begin to dream the dream for themselves. 
 

The Jenesse Center is an organization that is very close to my heart.
The shelter is not just a safe haven.  It’s a beginning for women. . .
a chance for them to change their lives.
– Halle Berry
 
In 2009, Ms. Berry donated the hand-carved rose gold cuff bracelet designed by Gara Danielle for her fragrance campaign photo shoot in Ohahu, Hawaii to be auctioned off at the Silver Rose Gala to benefit the Jenesse Center. 

Halle Berry at Silver Rose Gala (2010)

I want my message to tell these young children, these young women that
you don’t have to accept this kind of behavior.
We deserve better.
Halle Berry 

Halle Berry at Golf benefit

 I grew up in an abusive family.
I saw firsthand the destruction that abuse can do, especially to children.
Halle Berry
 
Halle Berry Celebrity Golf Classic
 
As part of the Jenesse Center’s annual Silver Rose Weekend, Ms. Berry hosts a celebrity golf tournament.  Click here to see photos of this year’s event.   The host this year was Jamie Foxx who said that if either of  his two daughters experienced domestic violence that he would “come with a fury.”
 

Halle Berry in Vogue

Rare Interview:  Vogue Cover Story
 
In 2010, Ms. Berry was on the September cover of Vogue.  In a rare interview, she shared her frustrations that the media doesn’t want to see her as an empowered woman because she broke the silence about domestic violence:
 
[the misperception] That I’m this brooding, twisted, lovesick person who just can’t get it right in life. . .impression. . .keeps getting reiterated.  As if I’m still stuck in the past.  And I am so not.
 
When you share like that, it helps a lot of people, it connects you to a lot of people, but I do think I should have the right to move on.
 
Ms. Berry has diabetes type 1.  She doesn’t have to take insulin, however, because she does five brutal workouts each week with trainer Gunnar Peterson:
 
I do not love to work out, but if I stick to exercising every day and put the right things in my mouth, then my diabetes just stays in check.
 
 
Outside of being the mother of Nahla, [my work at the Jenesse Center is]
the most meaningful thing that I do.
Halle Berry
 
Nahla’s World
 
Ms. Berry took Vogue to the Jenesse Center and then on a wild ride (intended to ditch the paparazzi) to the [What a Little Love Can Do] apartments she is renovating:
 
Berry shows me her pride and joy:  a small one-bedroom apartment that she has, with the help of some friends, renovated into a playroom, a place where children can get new clothes, make art, and have therapy ~ as she did when she was a ten-year-old coping with an abusive, alcoholic father.  The space is beautiful.  It’s called Nahla’s World.  On a wall near the door there are two tiny handprints in colored paint ~ her daughter’s signature. . .Berry and her team have pledged to renovate fifteen apartments by next April.
 
 
When I was a girl and my mother had the shit kicked out of her, her self-esteem moved onto me.
 I’ve spent my adult life trying to really heal.
Halle Berry
 
 Commitment to the Jenesse Center
 
Vogue devoted a great deal of ink in their cover story to Ms. Berry’s work with the Jenesse Center:
 
The Jenesse Center provides, among other things, transitional housing ~ safe houses ~ for women and their children when they finally leave their abusive husbands or boyfriends.  How did you get involved?  I ask.  It turns out that after her infamous car accident of 2000, in which she inexplicably left the scene, her sentence was, she says, “a $15,000 fine, three years’ probation, and 250 hours” of community service.  “They gave me a list of charities that I could choose from.  I searched my heart for what would be meaningful to me. . .I saw the Jenesse Center, the oldest domestic-violence center in South L.A., and I thought, That’s where I want to go.”  What she didn’t know was that she would wind up staying for nearly ten years.
 

Karen Earl and Halle Berry at Silver Rose Gala, 2009

 
The reporter described their visit to the Jenesse Center:
 
. . .she is greeted so warmly by the women ~ who call her Miss Halle ~ that you sense immediately that she is part of this big family.  As Karen Earl [executive director] says, “This is not someone who is just showing up with a journalist.  She is here all the time; she has relationships with the staff, who all have her E-mail address.  She gives the clients her E-mail address.  I couldn’t speak from my heart about her if it was not the real deal.”
 

Revlon Chair Ronald Perelman, Halle Berry, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg at the Mayor's Fund Charity in NYC (2011)

 
NYC’s Family Justice Center
 
Ms. Berry has long been the spokesperson for Revlon.  Their chairman Ron Perelman invited her to be a special guest at New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Mayor’s Fund Charity which raised funds for the Office to Combat Domestic Violence’s Family Justice Center.  Essence applauded her support for domestic violence and published excerpts from her remarks:
 
I devalued myself and thought I wasn’t worth it.  I chose partners that mimicked my father.  It was only when I was in an abusive relationship and blood squirted on the ceiling of my apartment and I lost 80% of my hearing in my ear that I realized, I have to break the cycle.
 
I want women to stand up and break the silence and get rid of the shame and the fear and find a way to stand up for themselves.
 
 She leads by example.
Karen Earl, Jenesse Center executive director
 

Halle Berry with her mother Judy before she won the Academy Award for Best Actress

 Domestic violence is something I’ve known about since I was a child.
My mother was a victim. . .
I chose men that were abusive because that was what I knew growing up.
Halle Berry
  

Halle Berry and Oliver Martinez

I’m a hopeless romantic.
– Halle Berry

 Ms. Berry is currently dating actor Oliver Martinez.  They met while co-stars in Dark Tide.  She claims she won’t get married again.

 

 She survived.  She’s thriving and has found joy. 

 October is Domestic Violence Awareness month.  Please join me in wearing your purple and celebrating survivors.

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