One week from today, the 85th Academy Awards will air on ABC at 7/6 central. If you know me at all, you know that this is my version of the Super Bowl. I love it; I live it; I live tweet it from my couch.
In honor of this exciting event coming up, I decided to post the following essay. I originally wrote this my freshman year at Creighton in my English 150 class. I tweaked it and added some more profound thoughts and here is the result. Enjoy!
In 2002, Halle Berry won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance in Monsters Ball. Berry was up against other famous actresses such as Renee Zelwegger, Dame Judy Dench and Nicole Kidman. She was the first African-American woman to win this prestigious award. When Russell Crowe announced her name, Berry immediately went into a state of exultation and shock. By the time she made it to the stage, the audience was standing and gave off thunderous applause.
Berry gripped her statue tightly and attempted to begin her acceptance speech, but no words came out. She was so overcome with emotion that she could not speak. At this point, she wasn’t just crying; she was sobbing, her body shaking (and no doubt making the cameraman nervous, due to her skimpy skin-showing Elle Saab dress, which was beautiful).
Berry looked at the Oscar like it was more than a manifestation of the cumulative effort of her work and craft. Halle Berry gripped that statuette as if it were the greatest gift she had ever received. She cleared her throat and finally began to speak, half-sobbing, half-laughing, talking about how the award was for all women of color, and listing those who helped her achieve her goals. Just re-watching her speech gave me goose bumps, as it did when I saw it for the first time in fourth grade.
I have always had a fascination with the Academy Awards. I appeared in my first show in fourth grade, but even before I understood and appreciated their craft, the glitz and glamour of leading ladies and suave gentlemen drew me to the annual event. I remember being in second or third grade and persuading my parents to let me stay up later than usual, just until the award for best motion picture was announced. I was a habitual watcher of these ceremonies despite the fact that I had never seen or heard of the majority of movies and actors.
I consider myself an expert of sorts. There are always the predictable reactions to winning an award- the kiss, the crier, the one who gets cut off with music because their acceptance speech was too long, the one who gets booed off stage, etc. However, in all my years of viewing, that one moment really stood out from the rest and grabbed my attention, even as a young child.
Pictures and clips of Halle Berry’s emotional speech were displayed in numerous Hollywood gossip magazines and websites. (You can watch it here.) Her reaction became one of the highlights of that year’s Academy Awards ceremony. As a little kid in Kearney, Nebraska, watching her was very inspiring. I felt a deeply emotional connection to this woman who I have hardly anything in common with. I am not a minority. I have not overcome great odds. While I consider myself an actress, I am not an award-winning one. Yet, just looking at the truth and honesty in her face resonated with me more than a thousand words could have. By watching her, not only did my obsession with theatre grew deeper, but my dreams and ambitions ambitions in life got much higher.
Right then and there I decided that I want to have a moment like that in my life. Perhaps I won’t win an award and accept it sobbing in a beautiful dress before front of millions of people, but I want to be able to be proud of my accomplishments. I want to be recognized for what I have achieved in my lifetime, even if it is only recognition by myself. Life is a precious thing. Why would I waste it by doing things that hinder me in achieving my goals? I hope to be able to look at my life as Halle Berry looked at that Oscar— with hope and humility and graciousness for the things I have been blessed to do.
As I have grown older, my ambitions in life have changed. I have learned, and still am learning, that not many actresses get cast in a professional show, let alone make it onto the Oscar nominee list. While I may not ever get to walk down a red carpet, what Berry taught me has remained more or less the same. Her words made me start to take ownership in all of the things that I do. I must live with every one of my actions for the rest of my life. I want to look back and be proud of the choices I made, be they academic, social, or even as trivial as what type of food I will put in my stomach. Every decision I make should further me towards my own personal “Oscar”.
I do not believe that my Oscar is a physical thing such as Berry’s statuette, but rather a state of mind or place in my life where I can feel like I accomplished something of monumental importance. That could be numerous things, such as being successful in my job or having a wonderful family. Whatever I choose to do, I want to live with as much emotion and passion as Berry did that night. Even though she was crying and overwhelmed, she was beautiful because of her honesty. Ironically, one of the moments she is most remembered for is one where she wasn’t acting. While I may never break racial or gender boundaries like her, I hope to always be honest with myself. I will always work towards my “Oscar”, and I won’t forget to thank the people who helped me along the way in my acceptance speech.
- Top Moments In Black History: Halle Berry Becomes 1st Black Woman To Win Best Actress Oscar (mymajicdc.com)
- Halle Berry, Sandra Bullock, Nicole Kidman, and Reese Witherspoon to present at 2013 Academy Awards (abclocal.go.com)