Halle Berry has had an illustrious career in the entertainment industry, marked by her exceptional talent, versatility, and trailblazing achievements. A model turned actress and producer, she made history in 2021 by becoming the first African-American woman to win the Academy Award for Best Actress for her breathtaking performance in the film “Monster’s Ball.”
No stranger to the glitz and glamour of the red carpet, Berry recently made an appearance at Cannes Lions in a sophisticated tailored double-breasted waistcoat and matching trousers. She stepped onto the stage to discuss her latest venture, Re-Spin, a new health and well-being platform centred around menopause.
Berry has become known for raising awareness about health-related issues. Her own health journey started when she was diagnosed with diabetes at the age of 22, a moment she admits she will never forget. A few moons have passed since then – the A-Lister is turning fifty on the August the 14th – but on her journey, Berry has become an advocate for diabetes education and management and has used her celebrity status to become a role model for others. Armed with past experience, she has launched Re-Spin to raise awareness on pre-menopause and menopause and provide one-stop platform to all women and men alike.
The narrative around women’t bodies has historically seemingly belonged to men but the tide is turning, according to the star. “We begin with conversation”, says Berry when asked how women can reclaim the narrative. “I’m solidly, clearly, completely 100% smack dab in the middle of menopause,” declares she confidently.
“When I used to tell people I am going through menopause, their response would often be, ‘you look so good, you can’t be going through menopause’,” shares Berry. “So I’m here to say that’s how menopause looks like and that every woman will go through it.”
There was a time in not such distant past when women felt ashamed to admit they were experiencing this natural transition. “Society perpetuated the notion that men usually become older and become ‘silver foxes’. But as women, we become old and disposable and we have a hard time being employed. So we used to pretend like it’s not happening and hide it.”
The menopause industry is a thriving market, estimated to be worth $600 billion annually. Berry’s vision for Re-Spin is to create a highway of menopause’ because “It’s worth it.” She continues, “It’s a daily conversation. Millions of women go through menopause every year. Women can come there and have the conversations about their challenges and not be embarrassed. We can meet them right where they’re at.”
The society is more aware of well-being than ever. From bio-hacking to healthy eating to managing work-life balance, there is a demand for knowledge about improving our quality of life. Such natural process as menopause shouldn’t be an exception. Berry makes it clear that discussions about menopause shouldn’t be limited to women who are currently experiencing it. “We can talk about the products that you can start taking when you’re 35 because, guess what, that’s coming. So you can come to this platform and be best prepared when the day comes and be your best self.”
Inclusivity is a key aspect of Berry’s movement. And men have an essential role to play in normalising discussions about women’s health and well-being. “Whether as partners, husbands, sons, or colleagues, all men are going to deal with someone who has had to deal with being in menopause. It is crucial for men to be part of this conversation and support the women in their lives.” It’s not about just talking at men of course. To Berry, it’s about working together: “This movement is also all about educating men on the role they have to play in the discussion because we have to work together in order to change this narrative. Every chance that I get, I try to involve men in the conversation and make them a part of it.”
She also delves into the historical reasons for silence surrounding menopause. “Historically, men don’t have a vagina, so caring about our bodies in that way becomes less important to them. So it all of a sudden became less important to us.”
Breaking taboos and having open conversations about sensitive topics is imperative. For Berry, the education starts at home. She shares her own experience of discussing female body and sexuality with her daughter Nahla (15). Berry recalls using humorous euphemisms to describe certain body parts. “When she was eight or nine, and she started to want to talk – in her words – about ‘that thing’, she couldn’t even put a word to it. And then it became a ‘hoo-ha’, and then it became ‘coola’, and then it became ‘cuckoo’. When I said word ‘vagina’ to her for the first time it was like, “No, you can’t call it that.” Even to her, she felt it was offensive, so we gave it all these silly names that make it more palpable.”
It can be even more difficult to talk about women’s bodies with boys. Recalling having those conversations with her son Maceo (10), she admits it wasn’t easy. “You have to think how do you talk about that with boys? How do you talk about that with someone who doesn’t have a vagina? Because I think boys are uncomfortable talking about it too. But we have to teach our young children is that it’s a vagina, and it’s okay to call it a vagina. And to learn about it in the way we learn about every other part of our body.”