Actress Halle Berry was just featured in a People video and shared how difficult it was to be of mixed race at her all-white high school in Bedford, Ohio. Berry said she was bullied “a little bit” and called “Oreo” by some of her classmates. She also experienced culture shock because there were only three black kids out of 2,500 white students. In that environment, Berry said, she was made to feel “less than” but used that hardship to motivate her to achieve enormous success as a model and actress.
However, that’s not how her classmates remember Bedford High. After the story hit the news, former students, many Berry’s classmates, took to Facebook to say she has it all wrong. Most remember her being very well liked by practically everyone. Not that it was a perfect experience -- it is high school, after all -- but most remember girls wanting to look like her and boys wanting to take her on dates. In fact, she was prom queen.
But mostly, her former classmates took issue with her calling Bedford “all white” with only three black people. Someone dug out their yearbook and pointed out Berry’s picture (third row from the bottom, at the end) and counted way more than three black students on that page alone:
Rachel W.: "Class of '86 here.....I didn't know Halle personally so while I certainly can't speak to her individual experience I can speak to how I looked at her and how all of my friends looked at her in high school. My female friends (black and white) and I thought she was gorgeous and wanted to look like her while my male friends (black and white) had massive crushes on her and wanted to date her. Curious also that she left out the fact she was elected Prom Queen by the entire student body, black and white."
Rob C.: "She's crazy, Bedford wasn't all white. I grew up in Bedford and Bedford heights 35 years, there are plenty of black folks then and still are."
Shannon T: "I remember everyone always being in awww of Hallie. She was always gorgeous and everyone seemed to look up to her."
James D.: "Bullsh*t, She was in my art class at Bedford HS, I talked to her everyday, she was a cheerleader too and treated like a queen! I always had respect for her until now!"
Paul T.: "Class of 84. We were at least 40/60 and never heard anything other than how pretty she was. She was our prom queen in 84. Hollywood distorts things."
Cindy K: "I know her very well. This is another 'Hollywood' story that makes for a good interview. She was NEVER picked on! She was popular and very outgoing... Years ago in another interview, she said she was beaten by a high school boyfriend and went deaf because of it, that never happened! On Oprah, she said she was accused of "stuffing" the ballot box because she won prom queen, that never happened! She tied with Vicki and won the coin toss! See the pattern here?"
The writer of the PJM article, Paula Bolyard, was also a student at that time. Here’s how she remembered things:
To understand the reasons for the fury, a bit of the backstory is required. Halle graduated from Bedford High School in northeast Ohio in 1984 (two years behind me). During her tenure at BHS, she was class president, a cheerleader, editor of the school newspaper, and prom queen. We were in the band together during my senior year (she was a flag girl), so I saw her nearly every day at school. She was well-liked by students of all races and I don't recall anyone ever saying an unkind word about her. People knew she was modeling and in pageants, which gave her semi-celebrity status at the school. At the time blacks made up about 15-20 percent of the 1500-member student body (maybe more), which was higher than the general population in the U.S. at the time.
Was there racism at the school. Yes, absolutely. My senior year a close friend who was white dated a black boy, the first time anyone could remember an interracial relationship. There were plenty of whispers and some very open derogatory remarks. So I wouldn't be surprised if a fellow student (or students) called Halle an "Oreo." Cee R. confirmed: "I grew up on the same street with her and she was called Oreo by all the black kids on my street."
But the takeaway from just about everyone, except for Berry, was that Bedford wasn’t some “hotbed for racism” nor does anyone like hearing the beauty-queen-turned-Hollywood-millionaire talk about how hard her life is.