Halle Berry: "I struggled to find women who reflected me growing up"

When you're offered the chance to grill Halle Berry on beauty advice, you grab a notepad and take some serious notes. Here, the Academy Award-winning actress and brand ambassador of beauty tool brand Finishing Touch Flawless shares her thoughts on beauty lessons, roles models for women and her hopes for the next generation. And yes, we clung onto every single word...

Great to speak to you Halle! Can you tell us about your move into beauty, working with Finishing Touch Flawless?

Well, this is a brand - even before I became part of the company in this way - that I was very interested in. They are things that I used on my own. So when they [Finishing Touch] invited me to come to their big office and explained the whole line to me and asked me if I would like to partner with them, I was flattered.

What did you think of the products?

I was surprised because when I got there I realised, 'Oh my god, you guys have all these new things I didn't even know about'. I was using just one or two things! Right away I was struck by just how beautiful these products are, you know? I wanted to pick them up right away and hold them. They're well made, they're very feminine, the colour ways are beautiful. I think hair removal has always been an issue for women and shaving feels masculine. Who wants to do it? It's kind of gnarly to shave your moustache [laughs]. So these products made it OK for us to do the things we want to do. And because they're so beautiful, we can be proud of it in a way! I thought that was really important messaging to send to women. Especially because my daughter's turning 13 and she's struggling with her hair. So this is really helping her come to terms with how to manage it.

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It's so great hearing women like you talking about it because when I was 13, this kind of thing was pretty taboo to talk about. You had to really search to find any information on what to do about body hair, didn't you? 

I had to use products - I won't name them - where you put it on your face and it burns off the hair. But it also burns off a layer of your skin! I can remember trying to get rid of a little moustache that burned my face so then I'd have a permanent muzzle for like six months from a product! I remember those horror stories growing up so I’m so grateful for these kind of products now that my daughter's coming into her teenage years. Because she's going to have none of that. She's not going to cut her legs shaving. She’s not going to burn her lip trying to get rid of her little moustache. I'm really excited to be a part of the company.

God, teens these days don't know how easy they've got it, do they?

Oh my god, do they ever! Life has been made so easy for them.

How would you describe your approach to beauty?

I'm all about the new for the reasons we just talked about. These new technologies and new inventions are designed to make life easier for us. And I'm all about trying all of it, all the time. To just see what works for me, and what doesn't.

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Here in the UK we’re coming out of lockdown and it feels like there's a collective excitement about experimenting with makeup again and getting glammed up to go out. Have you noticed the impact makeup and beauty - or the recent lack of - has on your mood? 

I have. I think people are ready to get back to getting dressed up. Like I put on this outfit today and I think, 'This is fun!' because I've been used to sweats and gym clothes, you know? Just lounge stuff. So I think we are ready. But I also think what we've learned about this pandemic is how important self-care is. So many women have been doing manicures, pedicures, facials, bath soaks and things like that in their own home. And we didn't use to do those things - like I didn't do mani-pedis myself at home. But this year I have. And there are some Flawless products that have helped me do that more easily. Even when the pandemic is over I'm going to keep doing that because I'm empowered now - I know I can. I don’t have to spend loads of money to go have someone else do it. I just need a few tools. I'm never going to do that again the way I used to.

That's interesting, it makes you feel less reliant and dependent on other people, doesn't it?

Exactly. And you don't have to spend as much money. You can really find value in these products and do it for yourself.

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Absolutely. I'd love to know - as a beauty icon yourself - who did you look to for inspiration growing up? Who were your beauty icons?

Well, I struggled to find women who reflected me when I was growing up. Being a woman of colour, I can't say there were many around me. There was, of course, my mother. But she was a blue-eyed blonde. And while I looked up to her - every little girl does her mother - I struggled to find images of women that looked like me. So I would have to say probably Dorothy Dandridge, Diahann Carroll and Diana Ross. These were people that felt like me to me, that I could relate to. They were my beauty icons, in my mind.

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I saw your Instagram post about Zendaya the other day, where you spoke about how much you love her and what she stands for. How does it feel as a mother to know your daughter has incredible role models like her to look up to, who she can identify with?

Amazing. And you know, I realise how important these images and these role models are to her, because I know what I didn't have. For her, it's almost as if it's just completely normal. She grew up in the years that Barack Obama became President. So for her to have a black president, it's like, 'Well of course!'. She doesn’t know how monumental that was because that's all she's ever known. So it's nice to see how evolution actually comes into play. Zendaya is totally normal for her and this isn't a day to look up to, in her mind.

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What’s your approach to talking about beauty at home with your daughter?

I talk about it but my daughter is a little bit too young to really be getting into makeup right now. She's only 13 and she's more on the innocent side than not. So we're holding off on that. But I am trying to teach her solid beauty regime routines, like taking care of her skin. Realising that it starts right now, having a regime and a plan and sticking to it every day. The importance of always taking care of her skin and eating right and using some of these products we're talking about. She can now shave and never have to cut herself and use the cleanser products. I'm trying to teach her about beauty from a holistic standpoint, just taking care of the skin she's in and really honouring that. Because that skin is going to have to last her a very long time if she's lucky, so we have to take care of it now.

Halle Berry for Finishing Touch Flawless is available at Amazon, Argos, and Superdrug.

Sophie Goddard is the Entertainment Editor of Marie Claire UK, as well as working across other titles in a freelance capacity. She has over 10 years journalism experience working on both digital and print platforms and prior to Marie Claire, worked at Glamour and Cosmopolitan magazine. Sophie writes about a number of topics, specialising in celebrity interviews and features. At Marie Claire, she is responsible for booking and interviewing cover stars and other celebrity interviews and is always open to pitches from publicists (she is always open to discussing sausage dogs, too).