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Halle Berry: Actress

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Thanks to her tearful Oscar victory speech, we now know that it’s impossible to take a bad photograph of Halle Berry. “You could dip her in a vat of mud, and she’d still be beautiful,” CSI star William Petersen observed while watching Berry collect a SAG award (also for her Monster’s Ball performance) in March. But now that the 35-year-old star is enjoying the ride of her life—from Best Actress to archetypal Bond girl in the forthcoming Die Another Day—Berry is earning kudos for her smarts as well. “People look at Halle and think that she’s so physically perfect she must be dumb, that there has to be a flaw,” says Monster’s Ball producer Lee Daniels. But there are more facets to the 5W former Bedford (Ohio) High School prom queen, class president, honor student and school newspaper editor than the Halle Berry we ogle on the red carpet. “She’s got her look for public appearances—the diamonds, the lipstick, the hair, the va-va-voom,” Daniels says. “Then there’s the private look, when she ties a scarf around her head and dresses very low-key, no makeup.” Then there’s his favorite: Business Berry, in evidence when she met with the Monster’s Ball filmmakers to convince them she was right for the part of a worn-out waitress. “She wears just a little makeup and a suit. It’s when I find her most stunning. That’s when you see how smart she really is.” In her personal life, Berry wasn’t always so wise. She has admitted to making mistakes with men, and her three-year marriage to baseball star David Justice ended in an ugly divorce. But she made a new start with a secret marriage in January 2001 to R&B singer Eric Benét, whose daughter India, 10, she’s helping to raise. Does she ever tire of being called a “beautiful person”? “You know,” Berry says, “I could think of a lot worse things to be labeled.”