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Halle Berry attends the 24th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards.
Photo: Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for Turner

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Halle Berry Is Launching a Lifestyle Site, and It Might Be the Rare Celeb Wellness Brand We Actually Like

The Oscar winner is rebranding herself as a lifestyle expert.

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Halle Berry posted a provocative picture of herself on Instagram last month. In the photo, which shows her from the back, the Oscar winner does a headstand clad only in lace panties. While the image shows an abundance of flesh, it’s not only meant to be racy. Her yoga pose, sirsasana, revealed her strength, flexibility, and tone. She shared it with her 2.6 million followers in honor of what, since January, she’s dubbed #FitnessFriday. That’s right. Halle Berry is the latest celebrity to rebrand herself as a health guru, but her ongoing health challenges and personal turmoil distinguish her from other actresses who’ve made this transition.

“Each Friday I’ll be posting something about fitness that I hope will inspire you,” she said on January 12. “So many of you are asking how I have managed to stay in great shape over the years.”

She went on to announce the upcoming launch of her site, Hallewood, which will feature health, style, fitness, and beauty content. And she attributed being in “the best shape“ of her life to personal trainer Peter Lee Thomas, who she says has taught her about fitness, nutrition, and self-defense. Just last week, Berry revealed her partnership with the New York Beautycon Festival’s B-Well experience focusing on health and wellness.

Given the glut of actresses who’ve entered the wellness, style, and beauty arena in some capacity — Goop, Cameron Diaz, Tracee Ellis Ross, Reese Witherspoon, and even soon-to-be member of the British royal family Meghan Markle — it’s tempting to dismiss Berry’s foray into the lifestyle market. But Berry is the rare celeb uniquely primed to dole out wellness and beauty tips. She was diagnosed with diabetes in young adulthood after reportedly falling into a coma. Now, at 51 years old, it certainly takes her a lot more effort to maintain her health than, say, a 26-year-old like Shailene Woodley (the Big Little Lies actress has recommended fads like oil pulling and urged women to sun their vaginas).

Moreover, when Berry praises her trainer for teaching her to defend herself and her two children, she’s not doing so to send a glib message about women’s empowerment. She’s a domestic violence survivor who says she lost hearing in one ear after a boyfriend assaulted her. For years, she’s supported the Jenesse Center, a domestic violence intervention program started by a group of black women in South Los Angeles. As recently as 2015, she told People magazine that she still suffers emotionally because she grew up witnessing her father batter her mother.

Halle Berry at the 2012 Jenesse Silver Rose Awards gala and auction.
Photo: Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic

A victim of trauma living with a chronic health condition, Halle Berry isn’t selling sunshine, elitism, and perfection like Gwyneth Paltrow and Kate Hudson. She’s selling survival. Each time she posts a picture of herself boxing, sweating, or with her lean muscles on display, Berry draws attention to the fact that she didn’t fall apart in a society that devalues women of color, battered women, and anyone living with a chronic disease. Such individuals are expected to unravel by slowing killing themselves — turning to drugs, drink, overeating, undereating, or allowing the trauma they’ve accumulated to present as hypertension.

But the fact that Berry’s life has been so traumatic is the very reason she’s been dogged by criticism throughout her career. In recent years, she’s made more headlines for messy custody disputes, disgruntled exes, and beefs with paparazzi than for her film career. With three ex-husbands, she’s no different from Drew Barrymore or Jennifer Lopez, but Berry has faced misogynistic attacks implying that she’s unbalanced or “can’t keep a man” because her splits with some men have become tabloid fodder.

She’s also faced some bad press related to her diabetes diagnosis. Apparently, it’s unclear whether Berry has Type I or Type II diabetes. While the former requires insulin, the latter doesn’t necessarily and may be managed with diet and exercise. In some cases, it may be reversed. When a publication quoted Berry as saying she’d “cured” what was reportedly Type I diabetes, the diabetic community called her irresponsible. Later, doctors told ABC News that Berry had likely been misdiagnosed and had Type II diabetes all along. Berry’s camp didn’t comment further on the matter.

Marketing herself as a wellness and beauty guru means Berry will be exposed to a level of scrutiny that she could avoid if she simply stayed in the actress lane. Outlets like E! News have already published some of her nutrition tips and shared her Instagram photos. But she appears to be up for the challenge. In January, she declared “[I’m] coming for you 2018.”

For people with messy personal lives, childhood trauma, disabilities, or chronic illnesses, getting wellness inspo from a decidedly flawed celebrity marks a refreshing change from all the stars selling an unattainable lifestyle. Sure, Berry’s fans will never look like her, even at 51, but the challenges she’s overcome make her so very human.

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