Oscar-winning actress Halle Berry’s legendary career has inspired rappers of every era – from Common and Jay-Z to Ye (formerly Kanye West) and Kendrick Lamar – to mention her in their songs, often as the standard of beauty. In 2009, Hurricane Chris took it to another level with his hit “Halle Berry (She’s Fine)” about a woman so attractive that every man wants to call her “Halle Berry, Halle Berry, Halle Berry, Halle Berry.” This repetition of his name is the chorus itself.
Berry has been gracious to the endless compliments so far, even telling the YouTube show “Hot Ones” in 2019, “I love all these artists. I’m always flattered when one of them includes me and still remembers me and knows who I am.
So far, Berry has been gracious to the endless compliments, even telling Hot Ones in 2019, “I love all these artists.” I’m always flattered that they still remember me and know who I am.
Everything was going well – until Drake went too far. To promote his new single “Slime You Out,” he shared a photo of Berry covered in green slime in 2012 at the 25th Annual Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards. In response to an Instagram fan who asked about the photo, Berry said of Drake: “I didn’t get my permission. That’s not cool, I thought better of him!
Berry’s original comment doesn’t seem to fully explain the situation. Getty Images owns the photo and can license it for a fee. But, as Berry later explained in another comment on Instagram, Drake’s team reached out to her team to ask if she was OK with him using that photo to promote his single and she said no .
When asked online why she was so upset, she replied: “Because he asked me and I said NO, that’s why.” Why ask if you’re going to do what you want to do! That was the fucking you for me. Not cool, you know?
Today.com reached out to a representative for Drake for comment but did not receive a response. As of Tuesday afternoon, he had not publicly responded to Berry’s remarks.
There is precedent for men in hip-hop exploiting women in ways they would never exploit men. Perhaps the most egregious example is Ye, whose label used a photo of Whitney Houston’s drug-strewn bathroom (taken by her sister-in-law Tina Brown) for the cover of Pusha’s 2018 album T, “Daytona.” Tina Brown sold the photo in question to the National Enquirer in 2006. Pusha T said Ye claimed to have paid $85,000 for the photo. Even though he did, he did not authorize its use with the Houston estate, and Houston’s cousin rightly called the use of the photo “absolutely disgusting” and “cheesy” . He is right. Paying for the photo wouldn’t make it morally right for Ye to use it.
Of course, Berry’s image of her at an iconic children’s TV show awards ceremony is innocuous. But if she said no to Drake, then the innocence of the photo doesn’t mitigate her apparent decision to disregard his response.
Every woman in her situation would be justified in her anger. But in her specific case, Berry spoke openly about growing up with her abusive, alcoholic father and, as an adult, surviving domestic violence. Then consider how important it must be for her, in particular, to tell a titan of the music industry that no, she doesn’t want him to use her photo and how offensive it is for him to use anyway.
There is precedent for men in hip-hop exploiting women in ways they would never exploit men.
There’s a spiral of shame that often accompanies the kind of abuse Berry says she suffered. Saying no can take courage. Berry’s past is one reason why it’s irrelevant whether Drake has the legal right to use the photo. She said no, and that no should have been respected.
It doesn’t matter how famous she is, how often her name has been mentioned in hip-hop songs, or how kind she is to those who have mentioned her in their lyrics. Depriving Berry of this right is just another way to objectify her, to separate her voice from her body and subject her to the scrutiny she never sought.
Although she may assert a “right of publicity,” Berry said on Instagram that she has no interest in suing Drake. Instead, she simply stands up for herself, something she encouraged all survivors of domestic violence to do in a 2011 speech, when she said, “I want women to stand up and break the silence, get rid of shame and fear and find a way to fight back.
If anything, this unnecessary debacle should remind us that while Berry is most often associated with attractiveness, now is the time to associate her with something else: standing up for herself.