Halle Berry says having Black role models in film and television was “very important” to her growing up.
The ‘Catwoman’ star has insisted it’s “crucial” for Hollywood to create content with diverse casts, as being able to look up to actresses such as Lena Horne, Dorothy Dandridge, and Diahann Carroll when she was younger helped to “rearrange” her into the woman she is today.
Speaking in the upcoming PBS documentary ‘American Masters: How It Feels to Be Free’, she said: "I really struggled to find images of Black women or women that I could identify with. Early on, I remember seeing Lena Horne in ‘Stormy Weather’. I remember seeing Dorothy Dandridge in ‘Carmen Jones’. And then a little after that, I remember seeing Diahann Carroll in ‘Julia’ and that just rearranged me.
"Seeing Diahann Carroll being the star of a show and playing a mother who was a nurse, who was educated, who was beautiful, just rearranged me and it made me realise I had value and I could turn to every week, a woman that looked like who I would aspire to be when I grew up.
"I was a Black child being raised by a white woman, so I didn't have those images in my household. Finding them on television and through movies became very, very crucial to me."
‘American Masters: How It Feels to Be Free’ is set to premiere on January 18, and tells the story of how six women - Horne, Carroll, Abbey Lincoln, Nina Simone, Cicely Tyson, and Pam Grier - broke through an entertainment industry hell-bent on keeping them out and looks at their activism as precursor to contemporary movements like #BlackLivesMatter.
The film features interviews and archival performances with all six women as well as original conversations with contemporary artists they influenced.
Alongside Halle, Lena Waithe, Meagan Good, LaTanya Richardson Jackson, and Samuel L. Jackson all appear in the documentary.