Halle Berry is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful women in the world. Named one of the 50 Most Beautiful People of 2004 in People Magazine and ranked
number seven in FHM’s Top 100 Sexiest Women in theWorld, Berry’s looks are internationally admired, discussed and held to the highest degree. Yet it is her immense determination and talent that has fueled Berry’s incredible success and accomplishments in her career.
When director Mike Forster initially refused her the role of Leticia Musgrove in Monster’s Ball, claiming that she was too attractive to understand a character of such distress and misfortune, Berry lobbied for the job by appearing at the studio for her appointment completely in character; she was the disheveled, volatile, and terribly anxious wife of a death row inmate. Forster was floored, and immediately gave her the part that ultimately won her the Academy Award for Best Actress, making her the first African-American woman to win the coveted prize.
In addition, she was awarded the Golden Globe for Best Actress for her depiction of Dorothy Dandridge in the HBO television movie, Introducing Dorothy Dandridge. The particular project that was very important to her because of its potential to bring the legendary actress’ life to millions of modern audiences, who may not have been familiar with her.
Now, Berry is comparable to her renowned predecessor, exploding on the screen with her ravishing looks and seemingly unbounded talent, while making groundbreaking achievements for the African-American community in Hollywood.
What you may not know about this Cleveland-born talent is that she shares our love of animals! Berry spoke with us about her childhood pets – three Malteses all named “Boikie” – who were the first (canine) loves of her life.
“Don’t even ask. My mother came up with it,” she said of the unconventional name given to her childhood dogs. “My mother just made it up. God only knows. It was her name, she named them.” Next in line were Bumper, and the two Malteses that are always by her side, Polly and Willy. With the coming of her new action-thriller, Berry, once so singularly devoted to dogs, told us about how her new movie turned her into a “Catwoman” in real life, as she welcomed a new feline friend, Play Dough, into her family of pooches.
After a successful high school career – Berry was an editor of her high school newspaper, class president, a member of the Honor Society, a cheerleader, and voted Prom Queen – she got the chance to name a Maltese of her own. As she reminisced about her earlier glory days, she remembered how she got one of her most beloved canine friends.
“My boyfriend gave him to me when I was in the 12th grade as a graduation present from high school. I named him Bumper.” As opposed to the silly arbitrariness of the name “Boikie,” Berry explained that Bumper’s name was thoughtful and fitting. “He had a lot of fur on his face and he just bumped into everything. He was very clumsy, so I named him Bumper. He was like a little bumper-car!”
Berry went on to win Miss Ohio, Miss Teen All-American, and in 1986, was first runner-up in the Miss USA pageant. She was the first African-American to represent the United States at the London based Miss World competition. Bumper was by her side when she attended Cleveland’s Cuyahoga Community College to study broadcast journalism. She thought she wanted to be a news reporter until she had a fated change of heart.
She moved to Chicago to pursue a career in the modeling and the entertainment industry. Bumper and Berry later moved to New York, and after she experienced moderate success as a catalog model, she moved to Los Angeles. “Bumper was my road dog. He grew up with me in a way, so I had a really special relationship with him.” There she landed her first television role on the 1989 short-lived sitcom, Living Dolls.
In L.A., Berry was spending a lot of time on the television set of her next show, Knots Landing, so Bumper was frequently left alone. Berry decided to get him a playmate, and chose another Maltese, whom she named Petie. “The vet said, ‘OK, you can’t just bring the dog in – Bumper is going to be devastated,’” Berry said. “So I took Bumper out of the house and I put this little puppy under the bed. I let Bumper find him so that he didn’t think I brought this puppy in…he was thrilled. He really thought that he had found this thing and he took care of this dog like it was his own.”
When Berry finished her television stint, she landed her breakthrough role in 1991, as the crack-addicted girlfriend of Samuel L. Jackson in Spike Lee’s Jungle Fever, and took Bumper and Petie to the set with her everyday of shooting. Due to her spectacular performance and utter radiance, Berry’s film career subsequently thrived, and at that point, Bumper and Petie traveled with her everywhere.
However, after years of camaraderie, Berry and her pet family suffered a tragedy. When Berry was out running one day, she left Bumper and Petie out in her yard at her Los Angeles home, and upon her return, she found that a coyote had killed them.
“I hadn’t really done that – left them out like that before. I was feeling like my backyard was really secure. I didn’t even know about coyotes at that time. It never really occurred to me. So I came back two hours later and they were just sort of strewn all over the backyard. It was horrific. It was probably one of the worst things I’ve ever lived to see because I was so close to them… It was a big, big heartbreak.
Resilient and grateful for their time together, Berry had Bumper and Petie cremated and keeps their ashes with their collars in a white satin box in her bedroom. Her mother flew to L.A. to comfort her grief-stricken daughter. “I remember saying, ‘I never want dogs again,’ and my mom said, ‘No, you have to. You have to get two new dogs right away.’ So I did.” Berry named them Polly and Willy. “I like my dogs to have people names, because growing up I had three Boikies that I never understood.”
When the two were only ten months old, Willy got Polly pregnant on the set of Why Do Fools Fall in Love? Berry desperately wanted to keep the two puppies, but felt it would be overwhelming and eventually resorted to finding homes for them amongst friends. She described her dogs mating as the most outrageous animal-related event she’s encountered on a set, including her experience working with 60 rescued cats on the set of her latest film, Catwoman.
“I never had cats. And I thought I wasn’t a cat person…until I did Catwoman.” In the film, Berry plays Patience Philips, a reticent and innocent young woman who finds the stealth, speed, and senses of a cat bestowed upon her. Her newfound feline-self proves to be empowering, and she scourers the urban dystopia where she lives, straddling the line between hero and villain.
“My research provided me with lots of materials that led me to understand them better, and I realized then that it was really because of my ignorance that I didn’t get into cats; I didn’t understand them. Now that I do, I have a cat that I just adore, and I don’t know how I never had a cat before.”
Berry hand picked her cat, Play Dough, from the 60 cats that were rescued from a shelter to be used in the film. “Being a part of these scenes, I’d be around these cats everyday. I just loved one more than the next. But there was this one cat, Play Dough, that just attached to me, and I attached to him, and I just loved him.” The trainer, Boon Naj, agreed to let her keep Play Dough, and when she took him home, she said it really felt like it was meant to be because of how well her new feline got along with her Malteses, Polly and Willy. “No fighting, they just sort of checked each other out for a week or two.”
Like her iconic counterpart, Berry is truly a force to be reckoned with. She knows what she wants, and fights for it, shelving any concern for whether others perceive her as good or bad, hero or villain. She is a gracious, beautiful and determined young woman who charges her dreams and learns from her mistakes. Unfortunately, she hasn’t had the same luck with her past relationships with the opposite sex, as she has had with her pets and career, so we asked Berry what breed of dog would be her ideal love interest be?
“I think I would choose a mutt, instead of a purebred, big, beautiful, gorgeous dog. I’d take a little scraggly mutt so I know it’s going to love me and appreciate the fact that somebody’s going to love this little mutt! That’s what I would choose. I would choose a mutt man.”