Salma Hayek: From Veracruz to Hollywood, a Mexican-American Icon
From fighting for women’s rights, to championing older actresses in an increasingly competitive industry, Salma Hayek is the superhero we never knew we needed.
In the world of film and entertainment, Salma Hayek is a name that resonates with talent, beauty and grace. The Mexican-American actress and producer, who recently turned 57, has captured the hearts of audiences worldwide with her captivating performances and her candid discussions on ageing – particularly when it comes to the role of older actresses in the industry.
In a recent interview with Glamour magazine, for example, she reflected on being told that, as an actress, you stop working around the age of 30. “Imagine? I did really feel it at the time, and it’s unfair,” she explained. “If I had said instead to myself: ‘Don’t worry, your best professional moments are going to be in your 50s,’ I would have been devastated: ‘Oh my God, do I have to wait that long?’ But it’ll happen.”
From her early life and illustrious career highlights, to insightful perspective on the art of growing older, here is exactly why she’s in it for the long haul.
Salma Hayek: Talent From a Young Age
Born on September 2, 1966, in Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz, Mexico, Hayek's journey to stardom is marked by determination and a deep love for the arts.
Growing up in a conservative, well-to-do family, her passion for acting was nurtured from an early age. Not only did her time spent at a Catholic boarding school instil discipline and ambition in her, but her parents, Diana Jiménez Medina and Sami Hayek Dominguez, also encouraged her to pursue her dreams, despite their reservations about a career in Hollywood.
Salma Hayek's multicultural heritage, with a Mexican father and a Spanish-Lebanese mother, also meant she was fluent in both Spanish and English, which would later prove invaluable in her acting career.
Pioneering Mexican Representation in Hollywood
Hayek's career breakthrough came with her role in the biographical film Frida (2002), which she also produced. Her performance as iconic Mexican artist Frida Kahlo earned her an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress, making her the first Mexican woman to be nominated in that category.
In fact, her determination to challenge stereotypes and pave the way for Mexican talent in Hollywood is evident throughout many of her projects. She co-founded Ventanarosa Productions to create opportunities for underrepresented voices in the industry, producing the successful television series Ugly Betty and the animated film Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet, while other standout roles include the midriff-baring bibliophile Carolina in Robert Rodriguez's Desperado (1995), where she starred alongside Antonio Banderas.
While this role catapulted her into the international spotlight and marked the beginning of her successful Hollywood career, in 2021 Hayek opened up about how she struggled during love scenes with Banderas, who played the long-haired, gun-slinging musician El Mariachi. She said she would start sobbing each time the pair began to film one.
Why Salma Hayek is a Force For Good
Not to be outdone by her remarkable talent, Hayek is also passionate about leaving the world a better place than she found it, and has been involved in many significant philanthropic endeavours over the years.
Using her fame and resources to make a positive impact on various causes, particularly those related to women's rights, children's health, and social development, she is a co-founder of ‘Chime for Change’, (alongside Beyoncé, no less). A global campaign launched in 2013, it promotes gender equality and empower women and girls around the world, while she has also been a dedicated ambassador for UNICEF (the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund) since 2008. Her work with the charity has involved advocating for the rights of children and promoting various initiatives to improve the lives of children in need.
What’s more, the actress has been an outspoken advocate for survivors of domestic violence, working with organisations dedicated to assisting domestic violence victims, helping to raise awareness about this pervasive issue, and supporting efforts to provide resources and support to those affected.
Salma Hayek on Ageing With Grace
While it’s no secret that Hollywood has a dodgy history of disposing of female actors as soon as they turn 40, Hayek is leading a pack of actresses including the likes of Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon and Angelina Jolie, who are all proving that with age comes an enduring talent. So much so that earlier this year she starred alongside Channing Tatum in 2023’s sexiest film, Magic Mike’s Last Dance.
She has also been refreshingly candid about the topic of ageing in an industry known for its obsession with youth, advocating for embracing the natural process and the wisdom that comes with it. In the same interview with Glamour, she said: “I thought getting older meant I wasn’t going to work; I’m working. I thought getting older maybe meant that you’re not in love anymore; I’m in love,” said Hayek Pinault, who married French billionaire François-Henri Pinault in 2009.
Adding that “everything” about ageing is different from what she expected, she said: “I don’t feel that I lost my flexibility or my agility or even my strength. I do have to say that I have found it beautiful, getting older with someone.”
Having just turned 57th on September 2nd, Hayek marked the occasion by sharing a social media picture on a tropical beach alongside the caption: “I’m so happy to be alive and so profoundly grateful for all the blessings!!!! “My beloved family, my precious friends, my health, my work that keeps me going, my empowering team, my relationship with animals and nature, and the love of all my loyal fans. Happy 57th birthday to me!!!”
“I’m so happy to be alive and so profoundly grateful for all the blessings!!!! Happy 57th birthday to me!!!”
Salma Hayek: Plenty More Yet to Come
It’s safe to say that, throughout her life, Salma Hayek has challenged stereotypes, broken barriers, and exemplified the strength that comes from embracing one's heritage. Her words on ageing reflect her wisdom and authenticity, inspiring not only those in the entertainment industry, but people of all ages, to embrace the passage of time with grace and self-assuredness.
As she continues to grace both the silver screen and the public discourse, her influence and impact remain as timeless as her beauty.