The ESPNW: Women + Sports Summit featured several Black women who are breaking barriers in the sports and entertainment industry. Academy Award-winning actress Halle Berry was the keynote speaker of the conference.
Berry talked about her directorial debut and starring roll in the movie “Bruised” that is set to premiere on Netflix on November 24. She plays Jackie Justice, an MMA fighter and mother who is working to redeem herself. “Bruised” provided a classic underdog story, this is what attracted Berry to the project.
“Like all great fight stories are, there is an underdog who’s trying to overcome some obstacle to get redemption to realize their whole potential,” Berry said. “I know audiences love those stories because they see themselves reflected. We all had to fight our way through something.”
Initially, the main character was to be an Irish woman in her 20s, but Berry wanted to add something unique to the lexicon of fight movies. She then reimagined the leading role to be a middle-aged African American woman.
“Having a chance and then another chance is one thing, having a last chance is something all the way different and I thought a more compelling story to see someone fighting for their life,” Berry said.
Berry is also a fan of boxing and UFC fighting. Growing up, she became a fan of Muhammad Ali, Marvelous Marvin Hagler and Thomas Hearns. Seeing women like Rhonda Rousey battle in the UFC also piqued her interest.
To train for the movie, Berry learned Jujitsu, Judo, Taekwondo, wrestling, and Muay Thai. She ultimately trained for three years for this role.
“Towards the last year and a half, it was probably five days a week, four hours a day and really learning all these Martial arts that I’ve never knew,” Berry said. “The training was pretty intense, I knew when I started that you can’t just all of a sudden pretend to be a world class athlete.”
Next year marks the fiftieth anniversary of Title IX, a law that ended sex discrimination in academic settings. NAACP Image Award-winning documentarian Dawn Porter is a co-director and executive producer of the docuseries “Fifty/50: Title IX at Fifty Years.” Porter noted how Title IX is misunderstood.
“We’re following Angel City as they start their new professional soccer club,” Porter said. “We are following the Berkeley high school girls as they have sued their school under Title IX for equal opportunity and education.”
Nicole Lynn, the president of Football operations at Klutch Sports talked about how she became the first Black woman to represent a top three NFL Draft pick when defensive back Quinnen Williams was drafted in 2019.
“I had a 21-year-old young man take a chance on me, he was the number one player in college football,” Lynn said. “[He] said ‘I know I’m going to go number one, or number two or number three no matter who I sign with, why don’t I give a shot to a woman and change the trajectory for women’s sports forever.”