Tragic Details About Halle Berry

The following article includes allegations of domestic abuse and mentions of suicide.

Halle Berry might be famous for her effortless beauty, but her life wasn't always full of Hollywood glamor and accolades. When she was only four, her family splintered apart when her father left. In 1992, she told the Reading Eagle that her dad hadn't tried to get back in touch with her since that early departure. "Maybe he's not alive," Berry shrugged. In later years, she expressed regret that they hadn't shared a relationship due to his alcoholism. Berry told the NPR's "Fresh Air" podcast that she processed his death in 2003 through therapy and spiritual healing. "There's lots of abuse in my childhood. I grew up with an alcoholic father that was very abusive, both verbally, emotionally, physically," she admitted, expressing empathy for his addictions. "He was doing the best he could, and while he failed me and my family miserably, he really was only working with the tools he had been given."

The actor was so influenced by the abuse she saw during her childhood that she started working with Los Angeles domestic violence programs, as E! News reported. In one speech at the Jenesse Center, Berry described how she witnessed her mother being kicked down the stairs and beaten with a wine bottle by her husband. "She stayed for too long and her children, my sister and I, saw far too much." Keep reading to find out more about the movie star whose Oscar win made history.

If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.

She faced racist bullying at school

Halle Berry encountered racism at a very young age thanks to her mother moving their family out of Cleveland's inner city and into the suburbs, where crime rates were lower but the vast majority of children were white.

"While we got taken out of imminent danger, we also got taken out of what was normal for us, and now all of a sudden, we were in an all-white school with all-white kids, like 3 out of 2500 students," Berry recalled in an interview with People, explaining how the bullying started due to her race. "Because my mother was white and my father was Black... we got called Oreos and names, and kids just didn't understand, so we were different. We were the brunt of a lot of jokes." The star also explained that she compensated by pushing herself to excel in her classes, eventually becoming editor of the newspaper, class president, and a cheerleader. "So, I think my need to please and my desire to achieve was because I was constantly trying to prove that I was as good as the other white students," she reflected.

Even though Berry eventually became popular enough to be voted prom queen, she was still accused of cheating her way into the position because no one believed that she could win without stuffing the ballot boxes. "I had worked so hard to be accepted, but when it came to being a standard of beauty for the school, they didn't want me," the actor later reflected in The New York Times, adding that she now found it "sickening" how much she had wanted the approval of her classmates. Berry had to share the title with her blonde runner-up as a co-prom-queen. "That taught me. No more being a dancing bear."

She lived in a homeless shelter

Halle Berry faced tough times after she moved away from home and tried to start her career as a model. In an interview with People, she credited her mother with teaching her how to stand on her own two feet. After a bad roommate left their Chicago apartment without paying $1,300 in rent, Berry's mom refused to bail her out and pay off the bill. "She made me realize I had to either sink or swim," the actor declared. "From that moment forward, I became independent."

Once she moved to New York and started taking acting classes, Berry faced even more financial difficulty, later telling People that her savings from modeling didn't last her very long in the Big Apple. "Three months later, I was out of my cash," she revealed. After her mother once again refused to send her money, they didn't speak for a year because Berry was so resentful.

"Giving up was never an option," the actor recalled, explaining that her attitude towards anyone doubting her ability to survive was: "Watch me. I'm going to figure this out." So although she ended up sleeping at a homeless shelter, Berry refused to leave New York and go home. "Shelter life was part of figuring it out for a minute, until I could get a waitressing job. And then I got a bartending job," she explained. "And until I could figure that out, that's what I did."

She went into a diabetic coma on set

After months of struggling, Halle Berry got a lucky break in 1989 when she was cast in "Living Dolls," a spin-off from the hit sitcom "Who's the Boss?" But she had no idea that one bad day on set would lead to her spending a week in a diabetic coma and receiving the diagnosis that would change her life.

"I felt I needed energy but I didn't even have a minute to pop out and get a chocolate bar. I didn't really know what was wrong," she told the Daily Mail. Although Berry tried to make it through the day, she fainted and woke up in the hospital one week later. As soon as she could understand what was happening, doctors broke the news that she had diabetes and would need daily insulin shots. "They told me I might lose my eyesight, or I could lose my legs," the actor recalled. "I was scared to death." 

Since COVID-19 became a global pandemic, Berry has opened up about her ongoing health fears. "I do feel at risk," the "Monster's Ball" star told Variety in 2020, revealing that she didn't touch anything from the outside world right away. "I'm very strict about quarantining and who is in my bubble." Her diabetes also gives her "a propensity to fracture bones faster than other people," Berry revealed, adding that she had broken three ribs while filming the third "John Wick" film.

A boyfriend punctured her eardrum

Throughout her Hollywood career, Halle Berry has been surrounded by speculation over a horrible incident where a boyfriend hit her hard enough that she permanently lost 80 percent of the hearing in her left ear. Berry refused to name him, but told People in 1996 that it was "someone well-known in Hollywood" and that she fled immediately. "I left so fast there were skid marks," she says. "It never happened to me before — or since." Berry also insisted that it hadn't been an abusive relationship before that point. "Could you please make it real clear that this was a one-time thing with a guy I was dating and the minute he hit me I was out of there?" she asked The New York Times. "I don't like the perception that I'm this passive, battered woman."

Her first husband David Justice has voiced his frustration over the public assuming that it was him. "For so many years, there has been this cloud upon the guys who were associated with Halle back then," he told People in 2015. "Not only did David Justice not do that, David Justice never hit her, period." Her former boyfriend Christopher Williams also denied that it was him, pointing the finger at Wesley Snipes instead.

If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.

Her first divorce left her suicidal

Halle Berry first spotted baseballer David Justice when he took part in an MTV celebrity game in 1992, as she told People, and the pair were married less than a year later. But the couple didn't last, sadly, and their divorce was finalized in 1997. "When we were in Bermuda for our anniversary, we both agreed we'd made a mistake with our marriage," Justice explained.

As Berry later admitted, she was emotionally devastated by the split. She even considered committing suicide and actually took her two dogs out to her car one day to asphyxiate herself. "As I sat there sort of waiting for it to happen, it's almost like I had a flash of that good angel and the bad angel on the shoulder," the actor told Barbara Walters, recalling that she was suddenly overcome with the feeling that someone was telling her: "Girl, don't do it."

That voice belonged to her mother, as Berry told Parade magazine (via Reuters). "I was sitting in my car, and I knew the gas was coming when I had an image of my mother finding me," the star reflected, describing how she had pictured her mother's reaction. "She sacrificed so much for her children, and to end my life would be an incredibly selfish thing to do." Berry resolved to work on rediscovering her sense of self, swearing that she "would never be a coward again." And that promise kept Berry going through her next highly publicized break-up.

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by dialing 988 or by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

She was injured on a Bond film

James Bond films are known for their impressive stunts, but one got out of control on the 2002 blockbuster "Die Another Day." Halle Berry had been thrilled to join the franchise, as the actor later told Vanity Fair: "It's a part of film history, really, so to be a part of that franchise was very meaningful to me." But Berry ended up needing surgery after debris hit her in the eye during a scene where Pierce Brosnan's James Bond takes down a helicopter, according to The Telegraph. Luckily, she was rushed to a nearby hospital and doctors were able to save her from any permanent damage after a 30-minute surgery. "She has been quite lucky, in fact," one doctor revealed, describing her inflamed cornea.

Berry still seems to have fond memories of making the movie, as she reflected on the memorable scene where she emerges from the ocean years later for Vogue. "We tried on so many bathing suits," the actor recalled, adding that she knew "it would maybe, because it was in a Bond movie, end up being an iconic situation." Berry also joked about the freezing cold water being the biggest obstacle for her. "This was sort of a bad-a** Bond girl. She was on par with Bond," she added, describing how much she loved her character Jinx. "If I was going to be a Bond girl, I was grateful that I got to be one like that."

Robert Downey Jr. broke her arm on set

Halle Berry's bad luck on set continued in 2003 when she lost weeks of work after Robert Downey Jr. broke her arm by grabbing her the wrong way while shooting a scene. The pair were filming "Gothika" at the time, a supernatural thriller set in a psychiatric hospital, and the accident happened during a regular conversation scene rather than any crazy stunt. "It was sort of a fluke," Berry told David Letterman at the time, according to Showbiz Cheat Sheet. "It wasn't a day where the stunt coordinator was there because it wasn't a stunt; nobody was in danger."

Although Downey Jr. addressed the incident publicly, the "Catwoman" star was reportedly still upset with him for not reaching out to her. "She didn't think he was sorry enough. He didn't even send flowers," a source close to Berry revealed, per the National Enquirer. "Whenever she sees him in town, she won't talk to him." His public apology had been short and sweet, as Contact Music reported. "It was an accident, I'm sorry if she's still upset," the "Iron Man" star had insisted. "I did everything I had to do to keep my side of the street clean. I wish her the best."

Her second husband was treated for sex addiction

Halle Berry's second marriage fell apart when her husband, R&B singer Eric Benét, admitted to infidelities and went to rehab for sex addiction in 2002.

"We all know I cheated. It was out there. It's a betrayal," the musician confessed to People, denying that he was actually a sex addict. "Going into rehab was presented to me by her mother that in order for the marriage to have a shot, this is what you need to do." After 35 days in the program, the couple reunited but ultimately couldn't overcome Berry's loss of trust. "We tried to rediscover this groove of feeling comfortable and safe," Benét recalled, insisting that he would have done anything to save the marriage. "Halle came into the relationship with her issues and I came into the relationship definitely with my issues," he explained, blaming the media's scrutiny for aggravating the situation. "It was like throwing gasoline on this fire that was already pretty hard to control."

"We were in sex rehab after one year. I wish I had left then, but I was putting everyone's needs before mine," Berry later told Parade, per Reuters, sharing how her experience with depression after her first divorce had made her strong enough to face the split from Benét. "If I hadn't gone through the first breakup and made that promise to myself, this would have leveled me. I would have walked into moving traffic."

She had a dramatic custody fight with her daughter's father

Although Halle Berry's relationship with male model Gabriel Aubry resulted in a daughter, it also crashed and burned on a very public stage. As TMZ reported, their dramatic custody fight began when Berry tried to move their daughter Nahla to France. Then in 2012, Aubry got into a fistfight with Berry's then-fiance Olivier Martinez, receiving "a fractured rib, bruises to the face and cuts that required stitches" according to the Los Angeles Times. After they clashed at a Thanksgiving Day lunch, the model reported that Martinez had jumped him out of nowhere. "It all happened so fast, so suddenly," Aubry told the courts.

Their courtroom battles continued when Aubry decided to fight for child support despite Berry's criticisms of him as a parent. According to AZ Central, the actor told the court that he had used racial slurs towards her and described how he had changed their daughter's hair by lightening and straightening it. ”I strongly feel that Gabriel's same underlying attitude is at the root in the changes, which only he could have been causing to our daughter's hair," Berry reportedly stated, explaining that Aubry was denying the Black part of Nahla's identity. Despite the accusations of racism, Aubry still ended up receiving $16,000 a month from his famous ex, according to TMZ. This expensive child support bill was cut in half in 2021, however, after Berry argued that it was extortionate.

She's faced racism in Hollywood

Halle Berry has been open about the racism she has faced in Hollywood over the years. "I fight for roles," Berry explained to The New York Times in 1995, revealing that producers on films like "Silence of the Lambs" and "Indecent Proposal" hadn't even given her the chance to audition. "The excuse is that a Black woman would change what the movie was all about." She also described going after a film role where the character would be a park ranger. "We kept pushing and pushing until finally the studio called my agent and said, 'We don't know if a park ranger would be Black,'" Berry recalled, expressing her shock and disgust at the flimsy reasoning. "But this is the kind of mindset I'm up against."

After she became the first woman of color to win the Academy Award for Best Actress, Berry thought the tide had turned. "I was always a Black woman first and somehow that had a negative connotation," she told Barbara Walters in 2002, describing her frustration with the industry. "And now I feel like I've beat that." Two decades later, however, she finds her historic Oscar win heartbreaking in hindsight. "I question, at times, what did it mean if anything really at all?" she told Laura Harrier in a V magazine interview, expressing her disappointment that no Black woman had won the award again since. "Well, it just lets us know that there's still work to be done."

She had another divorce

Although Halle Berry had sworn that she would never get married again after her experiences with David Justice and Eric Benét, she eventually tied the knot one more time in 2013 with a French wedding to Olivier Martinez, per E! News. Two years later, however, she was announcing another divorce. ‎"We move forward with love and respect for one another and the shared focus of what is best for our son," the couple told People. "We wish each other nothing but happiness in life." The real situation might have been more acrimonious than their joint statement made it seem, however, as the court case was still unresolved years later, per the Daily Mail.

Berry opened up about her turbulent love life at a Q&A in 2017, per ET Online. "I have learned to deal with three failed marriages, which has not been easy, especially when there's children involved," she admitted, telling the audience that her main focus was now being a mother. "We go in there with that hope, so when it falls apart it feels like a huge failure and a huge disappointment," the actor continued, revealing that she often felt a lot of guilt over her relationships. "I've suffered a lot of pain and anguish." Berry insisted that she received important lessons from each of her marriages, however. "For that, I'm grateful," she added. "But it has been hard. It's been a difficult part of my life."