Halle Berry talks about her abusive childhood, low self-esteem


Back in the September issue of Vogue, Halle Berry used the platform of a cover interview in one of the biggest magazine issues of the year to spotlight her work with the Jenesse Center, a non-profit that helps abused and battered women who have left their abusive situations. Halle has been working with the Jenesse Center for a decade, and you can just tell that this is one of her great passions. Anyway, CNN continues to do their spotlight on “CNN Heroes” and they decided to do a sit-down interview with Halle, to profile her work with the Jenesse Center, and why she was drawn to this work:

Halle Berry has been busy dazzling photogs on the red carpet recently, hamming it up for a new Farrelly Brothers comedy, and enjoying a new romance with Olivier Martinez — but she says that despite her glamorous adulthood, she’s still healing from the trauma she witnessed in her childhood home.

The Oscar winner, 44, opened up to CNN recently about what motivates her to work with an organization that supports women who escape violent homes.

Berry recalls being terrified that her violent dad, who physically abused her mom, would turn on her, adding, “I think I’ve spent my adult life dealing with the sense of low self-esteem that sort of implanted in me. Somehow I felt not worthy.” As incredible as that sounds coming from a highly paid, highly photogenic movie star, she explains, “Before I’m ‘Halle Berry,’ I’m little Halle….a little girl growing in this environment that damaged me…I’ve spent my adult life trying to really heal from that.”

Of her dedication to supporting others trying to escape domestic violence — including frequent volunteering at Jenesse Center, a Los Angeles shelter, and helping to renovate apartments for women leaving abusive relationships — she says, “I have a spot in my soul that understands the devastation that this causes a family.”

[From PopEater]

CB and I were just talking about this, and whether Halle comes across as “authentic” when talking about the abuse in her past and how it has affected her as an adult. Personally, I have enormous respect for Halle’s work with the Jenesse Center, and I think it’s great that she’s turning her own troubled past into something positive for other women, and it’s obviously something she’s enormously passionate about. BUT – the chick is still really screwed up about men. Even Oprah has called it a day on trying to help Halle through her issues.



Photos courtesy of WENN.

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48 Responses to “Halle Berry talks about her abusive childhood, low self-esteem”

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  1. bite me says:

    at least she still looks good

  2. manda says:

    Isn’t she deaf in one ear from being in an abusive relationship years ago? I think I read that somewhere.

  3. Jacq says:

    Who is to say? For her high-profile existence, I know nothing about her beyond being photographed with someone or somewhere. It just seems interesting that, after a driving devotion to an organization for ten years, only now does she talk of her past. And im not being insensitive, im just saying that she has a voice that could raise awareness and not just behind the scenes.

  4. mel says:

    I wonder if she’s ever gone thru therapy. She’s been pretty open about the abuse in her past relationships but not once have I heard her say that she sought therapy.

  5. teehee says:

    Therapy is just a replacement for proper love from a decent minded person. It isnt necessary, in other words. I grew up in a subhuman environment, but am now in a fabulous relationship. Its actually still hard to accept someones support and care, when you learned not to… so I can see why its easy or comfortbale to be in messed up relationships- whether its the mans fault or you create it with him by your own self-destructiveness. But personally there is no way I would be anywhere near someone who even makes a negative joke about me. I demand a lot more, mentally, than I am even emotionally ready to fully accept from someone, but at least I’m at that point and not allowing any less. So in that sense I cna also say Im proud of my progress, since apparently it is rare; and because I spend so much of my time worryign that my past permanently screwed me up and that everyone is going to notice it about me…. :P

  6. mslewis says:

    It just seems interesting that, after a driving devotion to an organization for ten years, only now does she talk of her past.
    Not true. Halle has spoken about her abusive father many, many times during her career. She has also spoken about her problems with the men who have been in her life who have beaten her and treated her like garbage. So, no, she is not just talking about it now.

    I agree Kaiser, Halle doesn’t seem to have worked out her problems with men. She seems to always need to be with someone, which is a sure sign of low self-esteem. I’ve always thought that Halle needs be by herself for awhile to just sit and think but she can’t do that apparently. She has to be in a relationship. At least, in her past two relationships, her men seem to be the non-violent type (at least superficially).

    I have to give her props though for working with this group. It helps others when they know you have had the same problems.

  7. Marjalane says:

    I think a lot of celebs are so heavily invested in their own ego’s that they don’t have the capacity to be “real” with any partner. To me, Halle seems like the type who’s always looking for someone to enhance her own image- and damned if old, “used to be my favorite before he banged that nasty Kardashian skank”, Gabriel didn’t do that for her. The new oily Oliver is making her look sleazy- she’ll dump him soon enough.

    Also- anyone who’s self aware enough to realize they have childhood issues should also know that they would benefit from therapy in their love life. I think she just likes a new toy every few years.

  8. Amanda says:

    teehee- I’m so glad things are better for you now. But, maybe you should avoid making blanket statements and applying the outcome of your specific situation to everyone else.

  9. anti says:

    glad she’s helping people and using her celebrity to promote helping people too!

  10. Motor35 says:

    good for Halle :D i’ve always thought she was terribly boring and didn’t have much to offer. (sorry im not meaning to come across as insensitive)
    i find this information interesting and glad to hear she has a passion beyond hollywood. :)

  11. K-MAC says:

    @ teehee-KUDDOS TO YOU! That talks an enormous amount of work and it sounds like you have come very far in your life.

  12. lena80 says:

    ” wonder if she’s ever gone thru therapy. She’s been pretty open about the abuse in her past relationships but not once have I heard her say that she sought therapy. ”

    She has stated before that she sees a therpasit/psychiatrist on a regular basis.

    And I really do believe there is a double standard when it comes to women who are get into long term relatioships and they don’t work out VS men who get into long term relationships and they don’t work out. Women always get the “she’s screwed up about men” label and men seem to always get the boys will boys and he’s a player and the women he dates are gold diggers passes… I’ve rarely seen any pseudo psychological talk about George Clooney, Gerard Butler, etc…. and they never get the “they are screwed up about women” label. They seem to always be given passes….well on this site anyways.

  13. Leona says:

    what the hell is this write up, Kaiser?
    Ummmm yeah of course she is “screwed up about men”. from the day she was born her father taught her that she and every female deserves to be treated like shit, and he used her mother as exhibit #1…. what does that have to do with her being “authentic” about her past and speaking out against domestic abuse? the woman can steal battle with her own demons while speaking out… those two aren’t contradictory.

  14. Jeane says:

    I agree, Lena80.

    Halle Barry is screwed up, Jennifer Aniston is sad lonely Jen, Jessica Simpson is desperate, Cameron Diaz pathetic, etc. Always the woman’s fault if relationships fail.
    No one EVER says, aw that poor Clooney, he just can’t seem to keep a woman! Sad lonely Butler can’t find a gal who wants to have his baby! Colin Farrell ALONE AGAIN!

    Ah well, women are bitches. Especially towards other women.

  15. nj says:

    Halle Berry being the first Black Best Actress Oscar Winner is such a joke and a disgrace. It should have gone to Angela Basset for What’s Love Got to Do With It. The very idea of Halle ever out-acting Angela is laughable. It still infuriates me that a black woman won the first Oscar for doing soft porn, in a role without dignity.
    “And the Oscar goes to…Halle Berry’s bare ass getting groped by Billy Bob Thornton!”

    Yes, I know I am off topic, but I bring this up everytime I see a HB item. It is my way of defending the honor of Angela Basset.

  16. lena80 says:

    Exactly Jeane! The men are put up on a oh well “boys will be boys” and a oh he’s single again…yay… cause I want his dong pedestal and the women are constantly given a pseudo psychological rant about how “messed up” they are about men. And HB’S defense, come on…what woman wouldn’t be messed up about men when you’ve witnessed your mom getting her butt kicked by your father for years? But I guess because she’s pretty and a millionaire she should be perfectly happy and mentally stable with no after effects from the abuse she suffered and also witnessed by the hands of her father.

  17. KJ says:

    Monster’s Ball wasn’t soft core porn. That’s an absolutely ridiculous statement. It was an amazing, intense movie that dealt with very serious issues, and that sex scene was not some superfluous scene just thrown in so people can see Halle Berry’s tits. They can go rent Swordfish for that. That sex scene is the catharsis of the movie, and if you’re calling that softcore porn, please don’t even see any movies recommended by top critics, because a fair amount of them have explicit sex scenes.

  18. bluhare says:

    As Poster 13 said, it’s no wonder she’s got issues when her dad beat the crap out of her mom. I think most kids who witness that have trauma. She hasn’t said if he beat her as well, as she?

  19. lrm says:

    I think Halle may have two things going on-on one hand, she is truly independent and likes things interesting-like madonna in that respect.

    On the other hand, she has the insecure/self-esteem issue she mentions about here.

    So truth be told, there may be a core part of her that does enjoy doing her own thing in life, and also likes companionship, but not necessarily long-term.

    That part vies with the part that is ‘damaged’ as she called it-and she thinks that she ‘should’ be in a long-term relationship and focuses all her attention on that tug of war, without realizing that even if fully healed, in fact especially when fully intact emotionally/psychologically, she may find that a long term marriage thing is not her cup of tea.

    I don’t think someone has ‘issues’ if they decide they don’t want to be married. We give clooney a little more leeway than we do women such as madonna, who realize they are better off single, with a relationship here and there.

    Def. double standard.
    Sure, people question when clooney will be married from time to time, but it’s almost in jest at this point.

    And I say this as a women who has been married for 13 yrs. I dont think someone has issues for wanting to remain single.

    I think Halle has two parts of herself that are conflicted, personally. And one part is an internalized experience, but not necessarily her real interest.

    okay this prob doesnt make sense b/c it takes sooo long to type out ideas sometimes.

  20. lena80 says:

    @ NJ…. did you know that Angela was one of the first people asked to take that part in Monster’s Ball?…she turned it down. The director didn’t even want Halle for the part, he wanted Angela, but ending up having to settle. I can’t help but think that turning it down was a dumb move on AB’s part.

  21. skibunny says:

    She was fantastic in Monster’s Ball and deserved the award. Kudos to her for putting in the time and effort at the women’s shelter. Obviously she’s not doing it for PR,she lets her acting ability speak for itself.

  22. jc126 says:

    Have we heard anything bad about Gabriel Aubry when he was with her? I really wish they could’ve worked it out, considering their baby. This Olivier Martinez is known as a playboy, isn’t he?

  23. Whatever says:

    She needs some therapy to work through the issues and figure out why she keeps making bad choices in the present, as well as getting over the past. It’s sad to see people living in the past and unable to enjoy all they have in the present, which is a LOT in her case. She has so much to be grateful for, but seems unable to appreciate it. Sad for her and her daughter.

  24. Jeane says:

    @ Lena, argh I know and it’s been bothering me for a long time now, especially on this site. Why doesn’t Hugh Hefner have self-esteem issues for dating younger girls?
    Britney, Lindsay, Amy are all crazy and in need of (parental) intervention, but when a famous male actor or musician is doing drugs and having unprotected sex with LOTS of groupies nobody cares and we don’t even hear about it (which is why I’m having a hard time coming up with an example haha though I know there must be many). Whatever, he’s a rockstar! Boys will be boys indeed.

  25. mimi says:

    The thing is I think Gabriel was ‘the ONE’ for her. I mean she dumped him and we never heard anything bad about him being a cheater or liar, I just think Halle can’t be with a man for too long. She and Aubry were together for years and had a child then next thing we know she’s with Olivier Martinez who is a true playboy (kylie is the exception) Aubry was obviously hurt by the split as evidenced by his hit it and quit it with Kim K. I still have hope for them….

  26. Kaiser says:

    Jeane – You do realize that Halle is the one talking about her low self-esteem, right? That I’m not some hateful woman-hater who put those words into her mouth?

    As for several commenters’ rantings about “double standards” – it comes down to what comes out of celebrities’ own mouths. If someone is unapologetically out to get laid (See: Gerard Butler), I don’t care and I judge them only by the standards they set for themselves. Gerard isn’t giving lip service to “just wanting a nice girl” or “settling down”. It’s the hypocrisy that pisses me off, and if a celebrity is honest (or simply silent) about their crap, I give them a pass.

    I like Halle Berry. I admire and applaud her work with abused women. But she’s fucked up about men, plain and simple. Her abusive father is likely to blame, but that doesn’t change the fact that she’s an adult woman, and a mother, who has some serious issues with men. Her first husband was physically abusive, and her second husband was a compulsive womanizer. She dumped the father of her child, who was by all accounts the nicest guy she had ever been with, and she jumped into a whirlwind affair with yet another known womanizer (Olivier Martinez).

  27. Kiska says:

    Therapy helps but nobody can give you self-esteem. I’ve been through a lot of therapy over the years and I still don’t have it.

  28. machiavelli says:

    I empathize with her situation. She seems to be self-aware, and has access to the best therapy. I wonder why she is not able to get past the tendency for self-destructive behaviour.

    For all her riches and all her accomplishments, she seems to still have low self-esteem.

    I dont feel as bad about myself now. I guess a lot of the work needs to come from oneself. That is hard.

  29. mslewis says:

    @Kaiser . . . I’m so glad you responded because there are a lot of commenters who seem to think YOU are the one saying Halle has low self-esteem. People need to comprehend what they read.

    I so totally agree with you. It is obvious to me that Halle has not looked at the reasons she gravitates to men who cheat on her and toss the good ones aside. The girl needs therapy, if not for herself, she needs to think about her daughter’s future.

    You left out the worse of her bad men . . . Wesley Snipes is the one who hit her so hard she lost most of her hearing in one ear.

  30. Kiska says:

    @ Mimi ITA however when someone offers unconditional love to a person with low self-esteem the person feels they don’t deserve it and in turn sabotage it completely. Of course, I’m speculating but it seems easier to return to what is known. (excitement, abusers, womanizers)On the surface, Halle appears to have it all but inside she doesn’t.

  31. Jeane says:

    @ Kaiser, I’m aware of that. My comments were not only about this post or about your write-up, but also about the occasional tone of this site and the commenters.

    You have to realize that there IS a double standard though. If a woman would say that she just wants to sleep around, people won’t think it’s cute or even normal. There is psychobabble about low self esteem, bad parenting, nasty comments about sluts and homewreckers.

    I very rarely get worked up about celebrities since I don’t know any of these people personally, I don’t know what they’re lifes/relationships are really like and I don’t pretend that I do. I read gossip for entertainment. Something can make me laugh or frown but that’s it.
    What does bother me though, is the reactions of some people, especially about other women. I’ve seen some vile language uttered by women claiming to have some kind of moral highground. It bothers me because sadly it is a pretty representative view. Women don’t get away with half of the stuff that men do. So I stand by my original comment: women are bitches, especially towards other women.

    (So sorry for this long ass off topic comment, but felt like I had to explain myself a bit. No offense to Kaiser.)

  32. DGO says:

    I don’t know how much of what Halle says is the truth. For example, I remember her on a talk show years ago, when I was still a child, talking about how wonderful her father was and how he read to her each night at bedtime because education was so important to him. She claimed he still read to her each night when she was in Grade 8. I was thinking that either couldn’t be true or it was a whacked up situation. Then years later she claimed he abandoned the family when she was still little. So yeah, date changes, different scenarios each time she tells a story, and I don’t know when she’s telling the truth or making up something in her head. Whatever the case, I wish her little girl well.

  33. Kaiser says:

    Jeane – It sounds like you should be reading Jezebel or some women’s-issue-driven site, not a celebrity gossip site with “bitch” in the title. As far as the “double standard” that’s oh-so-prevalent on this site specifically, here’s just one example of how wrong you are:


  34. henriette says:

    It’s terrible that her mom was abused by her dad. But many of us come from extremely dysfunctional backgrounds and don’t turn out as batsh*t crazy as Halle. Her charity work is valuable and worthwhile but she is also deeply troubled.

  35. Rosanna says:

    She looks gorgeous but I’m tired of all of her abuse talk!

  36. 4Real says:

    Thank you ROSANNA! Can we get back to the “bitchy” please! Poor “lil Halley” my A$$S!

  37. JenJen says:

    Good for her,wow there actually is a celebrity with a heart.

  38. original kate says:

    “Ah well, women are bitches. Especially towards other women.”

    jeane: is that the feminist in you talking?

  39. CB Rawks says:

    “I’m little Halle….a little girl growing in this environment that damaged me…I’ve spent my adult life trying to really heal from that.”

    I know exactly what that’s like. It’s so awful, it’s like you can list your good qualities and try to tell yourself you are okay and it was not your fault, etcetera, but that awful degradation you suffered just trumps everything and you can’t believe in yourself. You just believe the bad things you were told. It’s so hard to get free of.

  40. truthzbetta says:



    Women and men behaving badly get a royal ass kicking here. Mmm…where have some of you been? And if it’s really, really bad man behavior they really take them to task. Again, don’t see how you missed that.

    If Gerard beat up women or even cheated on them, you’d have a point.

    But getting yourself beat up on cheated on over and again into your 40′s and then kicking a good guy to the curb for another sketchy choice?

    These are TWO DIFFERENT THINGS, hence, not treated the same.

    Why would some of you even want to see this woman continue to play public doormat for life? You want those two things treated the same? Try a Dominators only S&M dungeon, or life here 150 years backward in time.

  41. teehee says:

    Hey but seriously it does take a hella ass lot of work to get over it. I suppose if you havent been in those shoes its hard to get and yes, I lose patience with it myself, too and its irritating. But when it comes down to the very hardwiring of your being, thats a little hard to undo. And then how to redo it? That is a question that takes even more years to answer because there is so much freedom and choice involved.

    And ok yes, Ive said this a zillion times, and I guess I should add it as an automatic signature- I dont take the time to detail everything and can only make general statements here. I dont come here to write books and be exactly on the mark, I come here to write my instant reactions and fast thoughts on headlines or topics posted here, and I speak from my experience, yes, like everyone else does.
    If its not representative of the larger population, I am totally not surprised. :) Its just what I’m thinking.

  42. Tess says:

    I think she broadcasts her problems by dressing in such an overtly sexual manner. She used to present herself as a goddess-type. Now it’s sex-on-wheels.

    Time to be an adult. She’s a mother of an impressionable daughter. If she doesn’t want to be seen as a less-than object, or a sexual object, she might consider not dressing to emphasize—AND SELL—-her sexuality.

  43. Anti-icon says:

    I’m a little late reading this; but I both admire Halle (and think she’s perhaps THE most beautiful woman alive) while Also Thinking she’s screwed up about men.

    I thought that was the basis of good gossip–being screwed up about something, and DARING to discuss it. Halle’s always been up front about her issues, and I continue to applaud her for it.

    I hope she keeps acting, because her beauty alone is worth the ticket price.

  44. RHONYC says:

    good on her for the work she’s doing.

    pity she can’t move on from her past to be truly happy with a mate.

    lastly, is it me or are those lapels straight-up 1991 tahari or what? lol :-)

  45. JustBored says:

    The reason I have no respect for Halle or her sob stories is this:

    Every time she has a movie to promote you hear another story about abuse. It’s like she has all these stories and release them one at a time to get sympathy and to promote a movie.

    Now I am not saying these things didn’t happen. They may very well have, but for somebody who talks about being private, this is certainly not the way to speak about it. Try therapy if that hasn’t happened before. These stories while promoting makes me sick and if she is just doing it for promotion that makes it worse.

  46. cole says:

    @leana80 TOUCHE

    Very true, very true and there are many and more than this example everywhere.

  47. JenJen says:

    It’s sad to come back and see comments about “women hating women”. How many people did NOT even read Kaiser’s post about how Halle is HELPING other women?

  48. Anti-icon says:

    #45 Just Bored: yes, you are right about that. She does pull out the “woe is me” stories….but the story that BUGS me the most, that she gave, is that she likes to have ELABORATE dinner parties where people dress in ball gowns. That’s weird, for me, when it’s private and not even for a charity.

    It was Halle’s Big Hollywood Time, I guess.