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Steven J. Niven

film actress and model, was born Halle Maria Berry in Cleveland, Ohio, the daughter of Jerome Berry, a hospital attendant, and Judith Hawkins, a psychiatric nurse. Her father, an alcoholic, abandoned the family when she was four, leaving her mother to raise Halle and her sister Heidi, first in predominantly black inner-city Cleveland and later in that city's white suburbs. Berry's childhood was troubled, in part because of the economic hardship of growing up in a single-parent household. But as the light-skinned child of an interracial couple—her mother was white, her father African American—she also endured racial taunts from both blacks and whites. Fellow students called her “zebra” and on one occasion left an Oreo cookie in her school locker. Berry never had any doubts about her own identity, however, and states on her Web site that her “race” is African American and English.

An extremely shy teenager ...

Article

Charmaine A. Flemming

In 2002 the highest honor for a film actor, the Oscar, was awarded for the first time to an African American female, Halle Berry, for her work in Monster’s Ball. Berry is considered one of America’s most beautiful women, a first-rate performer, and one of Hollywood’s most sought-after leading ladies.

Born to Jerome and Judith Berry in Cleveland, Ohio, Halle Berry was the second daughter of this interracial couple. Halle and her older sister, Heidi, lived their early childhood years in an inner-city neighborhood. When Berry was four, her abusive father left the family, leaving his daughters to be raised almost totally by their mother, a psychiatric nurse. Some time later, Judith Berry moved Halle and her sister to the predominantly white Cleveland suburb of Bedford.

When discussing the family s move to Bedford Berry said it was there that her growth as an interracial child and teenager was ...

Article

Stephanie Y. Evans

actor. Halle Berry was born in Cleveland, Ohio, to Jerome Berry, an African American hospital attendant, and Judith Hawkins Berry, a white psychiatric nurse. Leaving an abusive relationship, Judith Berry moved Halle and her older sister Heidi to the Cleveland suburb of Bedford where, despite many racist attitudes, Halle flourished in high school.

In 1985 Berry won the Miss Teen All American pageant, in 1986 she was first runner-up in the Miss USA pageant, and also in 1986 she represented the United States in the Miss World competition in London. After her pageants she enrolled in Cleveland's Cuyahoga Community College to study broadcast journalism. She moved to Chicago and then to Manhattan, where she managed to get small roles in several television programs.

Berry first gained widespread recognition as Vivian, a crack addict, in Spike Lee's Jungle Fever (1991), and she won roles in The ...

Article

Shelle Sumners

Halle Maria Berry was born on August 14, 1968, in Cleveland, Ohio. Her father, Jerome, was an African American hospital attendant and her mother, Judith, was a white psychiatric nurse. When Berry was four years old her parents divorced and her mother was left to raise Halle and her older sister alone. Initially they lived in a predominantly black area of inner-city Cleveland, but by the time Berry was a teenager her mother had moved the family to the suburbs, where Berry attended Bedford High School. She felt she stood out as a racial minority in her mostly-white school, and was determined to participate fully in school activities. She became a cheerleader, an editor of the school newspaper, and class president. Berry was voted queen of the prom, but because of suspected voting irregularities had to share the title with a white student.

At age seventeen Berry represented ...

Article

Wendy A. Grossman and Sala E. Patterson

was born Casimir Joseph Adrienne Fidelin on 4 March 1915 in Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe’s largest city and economic capital. Fidelin posed for several photographers in Paris in the 1930s, including Roger Parry, Wols (Alfred Otto Wolfgang Schulze), and Man Ray. Although there is remarkably little written documentation about her, Fidelin is widely recognized as the model featured in an extensive assembly of images by Man Ray and acclaimed as the first black model to appear in a major American fashion magazine.

Fidelin emigrated with her family to France following the catastrophic September 1928 hurricane that swept the Caribbean archipelago and the South Florida peninsula killing twelve hundred people on her native island She came of age in Paris in an era in which the influx of émigrés from the French colonies in the Caribbean fueled the creation of a vibrant diasporic Antillean music and dance community that coincided with and ...

Article

Lara Allen

South African singer, film actress, and fashion model, was born on 2 April 1928, in Randfontein, west of Johannesburg. Rathebe’s mother was a domestic worker, and initially Rathebe was brought up by her maternal grandparents. When her mother remarried, Rathebe moved to the Johannesburg suburb of Sophiatown, where she went to school. Born Josephine Malatsi, she changed her name to Dolly Rathebe at the beginning of her performance career.

In her late adolescent years Rathebe sang jazz standards as an amateur at private parties and in jazz clubs. In 1949 her vocal abilities and performance acumen were noticed by recording company talent scout Sam Alcock, and she was invited to audition for the second film to be made in South Africa with an all-black cast: African Jim (later retitled Jim Comes to Joburg Rathebe won the leading female role that of a nightclub singer Her performance launched her ...

Article

Roanne Edwards

Since the release of his 1992 debut album Supermodel of the World, RuPaul has become a nationally recognized celebrity. Although best known as a drag queen, he also enjoys surprising audiences by appearing as a man. “Drag queens are like the shamans of our society, reminding people of what's funny and what's a stereotype,” he told People Weekly writer Tim Allis in 1993. “I feel very powerful when I'm in drag, and when I'm out of drag I observe our culture.” Six feet, seven inches tall in heels, RuPaul is painfully aware of the contradictions of being a black man who wears a platinum wig and platform heels. “When I'm dressed up as this goddess,” he told Allis, “people trip over themselves to give me things. But as an African American male, I can walk into an elevator and have people clutch their handbags.”

Born RuPaul Andre Charles ...

Article

Glenn Caldwell

innovative Harlem hair stylist and jazz/pop songwriter, was born in Timmonsville, South Carolina, the second eldest of thirteen children of Floyd Sr. and Ethel Simon. Simon's formative years were spent in the segregated and racially tense era of the Jim Crow South but his parents never allowed him or his siblings to hate whites based on unequal laws and hostile treatment toward blacks. His positive nature and sense of style—traits that he learned from his mother—allowed him to be respected by all and would be a major part of his character for the rest of his life. He did not know, in his youth, that the “sense of style” part of his personality would play a major role in his life of hair, song writing, and entertainment.

In 1940 Simon completed his early education at the segregated Brockington School in Timmonsville He made several attempts to further his ...