Early Life and Career in Mexico
Salma Hayek was born on September 2, 1966 in Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz, Mexico. Her father, Sami Hayek Domínguez, is of Lebanese descent and owns an industrial-equipment firm and an oil company. Her mother, Diana Jiménez Medina, is of Mexican/Spanish ancestry and is an opera singer and talent scout. Salma has one younger brother, Sami Jr., who is a furniture designer.
Salma showed an interest in acting from an early age. After seeing Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971) in a local movie theater, she decided she wanted to become an actress. At age 12, she was sent to the Academy of the Sacred Heart in New Orleans, Louisiana, where she learned English and developed a love for theater. She returned to Mexico at age 17 and enrolled in the prestigious Universidad Iberoamericana, where she studied international relations.
However, her passion for acting soon took over her academic pursuits. She dropped out of college and landed her first major role in the telenovela Teresa (1989-1991), which made her a star in her native country. She followed this success with starring roles in several Mexican films, such as El Callejón de los Milagros (1995), based on the novel by Nobel Prize winner Naguib Mahfouz, which won more awards than any other movie in the history of Mexican cinema.
Breakthrough in Hollywood
Despite her fame and popularity in Mexico, Salma was eager to pursue a career in Hollywood. She moved to Los Angeles in 1991 with the hope of finding more challenging and diverse roles. However, she soon faced many obstacles and rejections due to her ethnicity, accent and appearance. She was typecast as the mistress, maid or local prostitute in many projects. She also faced sexual harassment and discrimination from some powerful figures in the industry.
She did not give up on her dream, though. She worked hard to improve her English skills and auditioned for every role she could find. She eventually caught the attention of director Robert Rodriguez and his wife Elizabeth Avellan, who were impressed by her charisma and talent. They cast her opposite Antonio Banderas in the cult classic Desperado (1995), which marked her Hollywood debut and brought her into the spotlight.
She continued to work with Rodriguez in several other films, such as From Dusk Till Dawn (1996), The Faculty (1998) and Once Upon a Time in Mexico (2003). She also collaborated with other prominent directors, such as Kevin Smith (Dogma (1999)), Barry Sonnenfeld (Wild Wild West (1999)) and Mike Figgis (Timecode (2000)). She proved her versatility and range as an actress by taking on different genres and characters.
Frida and Beyond
Salma’s career reached new heights when she produced and starred in Frida (2002), a biopic of the legendary Mexican painter Frida Kahlo. Salma had been fascinated by Kahlo’s life and work since she was a teenager and had dreamed of bringing her story to the big screen for years. She faced many challenges along the way, such as securing financing, finding a director, battling lawsuits and overcoming injuries. She also underwent extensive physical transformation to resemble Kahlo, including shaving her eyebrows, wearing prosthetic teeth and gaining weight.
Her efforts paid off when Frida received critical acclaim and commercial success. The film earned six Oscar nominations, including Best Actress for Salma, making her the first Mexican actress to be nominated for this category. The film also won two Oscars for Best Makeup and Best Original Score. Salma also received numerous other accolades, such as a Golden Globe nomination, a BAFTA nomination, a Screen Actors Guild nomination and an Independent Spirit Award.
After Frida, Salma continued to produce and star in various films, such as In the Time of the Butterflies (2001), a historical drama based on the true story of the Mirabal sisters who opposed the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo in the Dominican Republic; After the Sunset (2004), a heist comedy with Pierce Brosnan; Bandidas (2006), a western comedy with Penélope Cruz; and Grown Ups (2010) and Grown Ups 2 (2013), two family comedies with Adam Sandler.
She also ventured into animation, lending her voice for the character of Kitty Softpaws in Puss in Boots (2011), a spin-off of the Shrek franchise, and Teresa del Taco in Sausage Party (2016), an adult comedy. She also played Ajak, the leader of the Eternals, a group of immortal beings who protect Earth from cosmic threats, in the Marvel Cinematic Universe film Eternals (2021), which became her highest-grossing live action film.
Television Work and Awards
Salma has also been active in television, both as an actress and a producer. She won a Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Directing in a Children Special for The Maldonado Miracle (2004), a film she directed and produced for Showtime. She also received two Primetime Emmy Award nominations, one for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series and the other for Outstanding Comedy Series, for her work on the ABC television comedy-drama Ugly Betty (2006-2010), which she executive produced and guest-starred as Sofia Reyes, a magazine editor.
She also produced and played Minerva Mirabal in the Showtime film In the Time of the Butterflies (2001) and guest-starred on the NBC comedy series 30 Rock (2009-2013) as Elisa Pedrera, Jack Donaghy’s love interest. She also starred in the Netflix limited series Monarca (2019-2021) as Ana María Carranza Dávila, the head of a powerful Mexican family that owns a tequila empire.
Salma has received many honors and awards for her contributions to the entertainment industry and society. She was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time magazine in 2023. She was also awarded the Legion of Honour by French President Nicolas Sarkozy in 2022. She has also been involved in various humanitarian causes, such as raising awareness and funds for women’s rights, violence against women, immigration reform and childhood education.
Salma Hayek is an inspiration to many people, especially women and Latinos. She has overcome many challenges and barriers to achieve her goals and dreams. She has shown that talent, passion and perseverance can lead to success and recognition. She has also used her fame and fortune to make a positive difference in the world. She is a true example of power and beauty.