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“I think I’m a lot closer to him now than I ever was when he was alive.” Growing up, Berry says, she struggled to fit in.Most of the time, “I was just trying to be liked,” says the former class president, honor student, school newspaper editor and prom queen, allowing, “I was always trying to overcompensate for being different.” Even as a big-haired teen in the ’80s, Berry stood out.Especially as I started to grow and go through all kinds of trials. “The hardest part,” she says, “is trying to convince people, ‘Hey, I’m just like you. People will try to find something to add controversy to everything that I do.I got that wrong, but next time I’ll get it right.’ ” She says she tries to avoid too much self-criticism. I’ve come to terms with that.” Motherhood, though, has added a new dimension to her sense of self.“My mom always said, ‘Beauty is what you do.’ ” One thing she wasn’t able to do was reconcile with her father—who she says abused her mother—before his death.(He had been suffering from Parkinson’s disease.) Long estranged from him, she spent years blaming her father’s abuse and absence for her own problems with men.(India’s biological mother, Tami Stauff, died in a ’93 car accident.) “India has been a great addition to my life, because I no longer just focus on me,” Berry says.

“Even though I didn’t squeeze her from my body, this little person loves me unconditionally.” As for future kids, she says simply, “I hope so.” Three-time costar Hugh Jackman lauds Berry’s generosity toward her family—and his.Berry, 36, a former catalog model and Miss USA first runner-up (Note to judges: Oops!), seems to get more gorgeous with every passing year.ACTRESS HALLE BERRY THERE ARE KISSES AND THEN THERE ARE kisses—rock-your-world, paperback-romance kisses that set hearts aflutter and make knees buckle under.Such was the case when surprise Best Actor winner Adrien Brody leapt onstage at this year’s Oscars and embraced presenter Halle Berry for what seemed like forever. “I didn’t kiss back at all.” Of course, “I didn’t stop him either!

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