From Model To X-girl
Get To Know The Real

Halle Berry

Born: Cleveland, Ohio on August 14, 1968 (Leo). Raised in Oakland Village near Bedford, Ohio.
Family: Father: Jerome Berry (African American), divorced, left the family when Halle was four; Mother: Judith Ann Hawkins (Caucasian), a registered nurse; Sister: Heidi (2 years older).
Education: Bedford High School; briefly at Cleveland's Cuyahoga Community College for broadcast journalism but left to pursue modeling and study acting.
Hobbies: rollerblading, collecting African art and porcelain dolls, working out with a trainer, seeing movies, shopping at Maxfield’s (Melrose)
Spouse/Dating: Engaged to, R&B singer Eric Benet; Former husband, David Justice of Atlanta Braves (1993-1996).
Film Credits Include:
-X-Men - 2000 (Ororo Munro/Storm)
-Introducing Dorothy Dandridge - 1999 (Dorothy Dandridge)
-Ringside - 1999
-Bulworth - 1998 (Nina)
-Why Do Fools Fall in Love - 1998 (Zola Taylor)
-B.A.P.S. - 1997 (Nisi)
-Rich Man's Wife, The - 1996 (Josie Potenza)
-Girl 6 - 1996 (Herself)
-Race the Sun - 1996 (Miss Sandra Beecher)
-Executive Decision - 1996 (Jean)
-Losing Isaiah - 1995 (Khaila Richards)
-Flintstones, The - 1994 (Sharon Stone)
-Program, The - 1993 (Autumn Haley)
-CB4 - 1993 (Herself)
-Father Hood - 1993 (Kathleen Mercer)
-Boomerang - 1992 (Angela)
-Strictly Business - 1991 (Natalie)
-Last Boy Scout, The - 1991 (Cory)
-Jungle Fever - 1991 (Vivian)

  If success is defined by tenacity and the ability to overcome obstacles, then Halle Berry defines the word. But while some achieve success at the expense of grace and charm, this actress remains a class act.
  Take, for example, her widely publicized recent traffic accident. She could have handled it in a number of ways to avoid responsibility and deflect the press, but this is not Halle Berry style. She was straightforward about her court conviction and had this to say:
  "The silver lining in this experience for me is the lessons I have learned. When adverse situations hit our lives, we often feel weak and powerless. The accident has shown me that I can face the most frightening challenges with strength and dignity."
  Words we could all take a lesson from.
  Born August 14, 1968, in Cleveland, Ohio, Halle (named after the Halle Bothers Department Store) was four when her father left the family the first time. He returned when she was eight, but amid accusations of alcoholism and abuse, he left again, this time for good. Halle has avoided contact with him to this day. Some kids just fold up and turn inward over such emotional turbulence, but not Halle. Her decision was to find strength in the experience despite the pain.
  Halle and her older sister, Heidi were raised by their mother, Judith. To this day Halle says her mom is one of the most inspirational and most admired people in her life. It was partially through her mother’s rearing that Halle learned how to take what life throws at you and make the best of it.
  In high school she became the target of mixed-race taunts but again, she refused to cave in and eventually overcame the abuse, succeeding as a cheerleader, an honor society member, fashion editor of the school paper, homecoming queen, and even being elected as class president. Now that’s a statement on overcoming adversity!
  But life is a relentless mix of hardships and Halle’s tenacity and determination were to be challenged over and over.
  Anyone not experienced in the behind the scene pressures of a major beauty pageant may not fully appreciate how difficult and emotionally draining they can be. Most candidates never make it through the entire process without losing control at some point.
  Under these tensions, competitors discover a lot about themselves. Many competitors lose their self confidence, but Halle discovered she could use the experience to build character, not destroy it. Her attitude made all the difference.

(cont. next column) >

Halle Berry (cont.)

She went on to win the Miss Teen All-American Beauty Pageant and then competed in the Miss USA and Miss World contests.
  She began a course of study in Broadcast Journalism, but left without a degree to pursue modeling and study acting. Given the odds against making it in either industry, it was a risky decision. But she made her mind up and approached her chosen future with that "Halle tenacity" honed since childhood.
  While modeling (successfully) in Chicago, she auditioned for Aaron Spelling’s ill-fated Charlies Angels ’88. The show never went anywhere but Spelling encouraged her abilities and it prompted her move to Manhattan where she won a role in the short-lived TV series Living Dolls. Even though the show was cancelled, it whetted her appetite and when Spike Lee chose her to play opposite Samuel L. Jackson in Jungle Fever, she jumped at the chance and so totally immersed herself in the role, there was near tearful frustration on the part of other cast members.
  You see, to play the part of a drug addicted junkie, Halle interviewed real street addicts and then proceeded not to bathe for 10 days! She took the role VERY seriously but her total commitment to getting the part exactly right made fellow actors more than a little uncomfortable when doing close ups with her.
  Film work was and always will be unpredictable for an actor, so to make sure the rent got paid, Halle landed a regular paycheck in the TV series Knot’s Landing.
  Her next film, Strictly Business, finally showcased some of her real talent, and offers for more fulfilling movie roles began arriving in her mail. Of these she elected to work in The Last Boy Scout. The film was a dud, but her acting was singled out as well above par by the critics.
  But there were more challenges than just working and paying the rent. On a personal level, she shared a brief but troubled affair during this time with Jungle Fever co-star Wesley Snipes. Even worse, her next attempt at love resulted in the loss of 80 percent of the hearing in her left ear. Her soon to be ex-boyfriend struck her in the head during an argument and punctured her eardrum. Halle finally found what she hoped was true love in Atlanta Braves outfielder David Justice. She proposed to him and he accepted, but the marriage ended in a publicity fiasco three years later. Again, Halle could have thrown in the towel and ran home, but she didn’t. She weathered the press coverage with dignity and calm and committed herself to her work and to charity.
  Her charity work even took her into war-torn Sarajevo to support our troops while the fighting still raged. She also made a serious commitment of time and energy to the National Breast Cancer Coalition. Then, out of the blue and to her total amazement, the Harvard Foundation for Intercultural and Race relations presented her with their prestigious award for humanitarian efforts Halle could not control her emotions when receiving the award and accepted it graciously with pride and genuinely thankful tears.
  Charity seldom pays the rent, however, so Halle kept the paychecks coming in by winning roles in the TV movies Queen and Solomon and Sheba and almost simultaneously taking on such diverse movie roles as the heart wrenching Losing Isaiah and the light-hearted stone age production of the Flintstones. Despite her shattering personal upheavals, she was still committed to her career and charitable goals.
  She made a few movies that didn’t pan out at the box office or with the critics, and there was some talk of "the model turned actress" stereotype, but instead of giving up and making movies, any movies, just for the paycheck, she kept looking for a role that would finally let the film community know she was more than just a stereotype. She may have made a mistake passing up the Sandra Bullock role in Speed as well as one of the lead roles in Waiting To Exhale, but she kept looking. Her performance in Bulworth helped her cause, as did Oprah Winfrey’s miniseries The Wedding. But it was ultimately her combined portrayal and tenacious work as executive producer on the HBO movie Introducing Dorothy Dandridge that finally won the critics over to her side. Her performance didn’t just capture a Golden Globe award, it won her the respect of the entire Hollywood community.
  At the top of her game, though, tragedy struck again. While filming Living Dolls, Halle collapsed into a diabetic coma. Her inner strength came through again, however, and she recovered from the incident, but the diagnosis of diabetes is now something she must deal with every day.
  She could have given up so many times in her life, and no one would have blamed her, but that isn’t Halle Berry style. This hard working beauty now participates actively with the Juvenile Diabetes Association and professionally she commands at least $2.5 million and up per film. She has even returned to modeling, part time, for the Revlon company.
  Halle Berry’s no quit inner strength has, in her own words, allowed her to approach life and it’s many challenges with "strength and dignity." There’s a message there for all of us.

Sanaa Lathan

Her Love Hate

  Sanaa Lathan's father is director Stan Lathan. Her mother is a dancer and an actress in the theater. Thus Sanaa has been around the performing arts all of her life and today she is recognized as a very talented actress in her own right. However, there was a time that Sanaa totally rebelled against the idea of acting.
  "You know, it's funny. I was always performing as a child, but I fought against it, even though my mother is a dancer and an actress and my father is a director ('The Steve Harvey Show').
  Sanaa says that becoming an actress was the obvious thing to do, given her family's invovlement in the arts, but there were many times she was not sure about what she would do.
  "Secretly I was so in love with the arts, but I fought against it. But finally, once I decided to become an actress, I said, 'Let me learn what this is really about."
  And learn she did. Sanaa studied acting by enrolling in the Theater Arts program at Yale University.
  Today, Sanaa's newest acting project is the film "Catfish In Blackbean Sauce," directed by Chi Moui Lo and also starring Paul Winfield.

Bill Robinson

"Mr. Bojangles"

A True Hero!

  Born in Richmond, Virginia (the former capitol of the Confederacy) on May 25, 1878, to Maxwell Robinson, a machine-shop worker, and Maria Robinson, a choir singer. Bill Robinson’s parents died when he was only five or six and although his grandmother tried to raise him, Bill chose to raise himself by living on the streets. He quit school after the first grade and never learned to read or write.
  His real name was Luther but he didn’t like it so he told his younger brother Bill they should trade names. Young Bill didn’t like the idea, so Luther raised his fists, (something he would do many times in his life) and the trade was made!
  At age six, Bill was doing odd jobs like shelling peas and dancing on the streets of Richmond for small change. Even at this young age, Bill was such a good dancer he would occasionally land a song-and-dance gig in the local beer gardens. He eventually decided to focus his street dancing in front of Ford’s Theater, the reason being that the handouts from the wealthy theater goers exceeded what he was making elsewhere.
  While dancing outside Ford’s Theater, he learned to imitate the dances of the minstrels that would parade down Broad Street to announce a new minstrel show opening at the theater. Throughout his life, he could watch a new a dance step and then make it his own almost effortlessly.
  While he was a gifted dancer, he was also a well known and brazen little thief. He would openly grab food from the local shops and market stalls and run off with it. His thievery became so well known that local shop owners nick-named him "Bojangles" a southern title that meant Mischief Maker. The name stayed with him the rest of his life.
  At age twelve, Bill hopped a freight train out of Richmond and ended up in Washington DC where he hoped he could make his fortune. He got a job as a stable boy at a racetrack, but the fascination of race track betting was more interesting to him than the work he was hired for. While Bill never smoked or drank, gambling was to become his life-long obsession.
  He eventually left the stables to go back to his first love – dancing. He went back to the streets of DC dancing for handouts, but his street dancing soon got him noticed by the theater community and he was hired to dance on stage as a pickaninny (a young black child who could dance and sing) in the Broadway production "The South Before The War." Bill knew it was demeaning work, but at the time it was just about the only way for a black child to get on stage and get a theatrical education.
  Bill traveled with the show for years but eventually grew too old for the part. Without other options, he returned to street dancing, living hand-to-mouth dancing in any beer hall that would have him. He finally joined the Army at age 19 and was assigned as a drummer in an all black regiment.
  At age 22, now discharged from the Army, Bill traveled to New York City. But street dancing in New York didn’t last long. New Yorkers loved his unique style and soon he was off the streets and dancing in the better clubs, music halls and theaters in town. George W. Cooper, a successful black comedian, noticed Bill and invited him to join his act. Over the next several years, he taught Bill comedy and helped Bill hone his own act until Bill’s light comedic dance style became the highlight of Cooper’s own show.