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She worked in the children's department at Higbee's Department store. In the 1980s, she entered several beauty contests, winning Miss Teen All American in 1985 and Miss Ohio USA in 1986.She was the 1986 Miss USA first runner-up to Christy Fichtner of Texas.

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Her breakthrough film role was in the romantic comedy Boomerang (1992), alongside Eddie Murphy, which led to roles in films such as the comedy The Flintstones (1994), the political comedy-drama Bulworth (1998) and the television film Introducing Dorothy Dandridge (1999), for which she won the Primetime Emmy Award and Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Miniseries or Movie, among many other awards.

In addition to her Academy Award win, Berry garnered high-profile roles in the 2000s such as Storm in the X-Men film series (beginning in 2000), the action crime thriller Swordfish (2001), and the spy film Die Another Day (2002), where she played Bond Girl Jinx.

Her performance was awarded the National Board of Review and the Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Actress; in an interesting coincidence she became the first woman of color to win the Academy Award for Best Actress (earlier in her career, she portrayed Dorothy Dandridge, the first African American to be nominated for Best Actress, and who was born at the same hospital as Berry, in Cleveland, Ohio).

The NAACP issued the statement: "Congratulations to Halle Berry and Denzel Washington for giving us hope and making us proud.

In accepting her award, she gave an acceptance speech honoring previous black actresses who had never had the opportunity. This is for every nameless, faceless woman of colour who now has a chance tonight because this door has been opened." As Bond girl Giacinta 'Jinx' Johnson in the 2002 blockbuster Die Another Day, Berry recreated a scene from Dr.