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The Untold Truth Of Salma Hayek

Salma Hayek has had a career spanning more than three decades, over which time she has become a household name. She is also arguably one of the most famous Latina actors of all time. In fact, she is one of only four Latin American women (and the first Mexican one) ever to be nominated for a Best Actress Oscar (for "Frida"). In addition to acting, Hayek is an accomplished producer, an occasional director, and a devoted humanitarian.

Hayek's first big break in America was the 1995 film "Desperado," after which she went on to star in movies like "From Dusk Till Dawn," "Fools Rush In," and "54." In the 2000s, she continued to appear in a diverse array of projects — everything from crime thrillers like "Once Upon a Time in Mexico" to comedies like "Grown Ups" and its sequel. As of this writing, she is currently starring as Ajak in Marvel's "Eternals," directed by Chloé Zhao, and in Ridley Scott's "House of Gucci." With her career at a high point, we thought it would be a good time to delve into Hayek's background. Here is the untold truth of Salma Hayek.

Her parents were not initially supportive of her career

The daughter of an opera singer and an oil entrepreneur, Salma Hayek grew up in Mexico and had a privileged upbringing. Despite her well-documented dyslexia, she told CBS News that she graduated high school at 15, and that her father made her wait a year before she could go to college. It was during this time period that she decided upon becoming an actor, but it would be a couple more years before she got up the courage to really pursue acting as a career. After two years studying political science and international relations at Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City, Hayek dropped out of school to pursue her love of film.

While her mother was an easy conversation, breaking the idea to her father was not exactly easy for Hayek. "I said, 'I'm dropping out of college.' And he went crazy. And he said, 'No, you're gonna take an acting class on the side, and then you continue,'" she told CBS News. "I said, 'I've been doing that already, but it's just the college, it's really taking so much of my time. And I just can't continue.'" She says her father is now one of her biggest supporters, once telling Town & Country that "Nobody is more proud of my career than my father."

Salma Hayek was a big telenovela star in Mexico

Salma Hayek quickly became a big television star in Mexico, starting with her role as Fabiola in "Un nuevo amanecer" in 1988. She then went on to star in the telenovela "Teresa," which she did for 125 episodes in 1989. But television was not her passion, and Hayek decided to leave Mexico for the United States in pursuit of becoming a film star. "My dream was not to be a star. My dream was to do movies," Hayek told CBS News. "So an extra in a film, it's closer to my dream than a telenovela star. I had a clear understanding of what I loved. And I loved films."

Hayek studied with Stella Adler upon her 1991 arrival in the United States, though the move was an adjustment. According to an interview she did with Oprah Winfrey, Hayek knew little English, had no driver's license, and did not even know she had to get an agent, as she had been randomly discovered on the street in Mexico. Still, she knew she had to make the move for her own growth. "I wanted to do films, and at that time in Mexico, a film industry didn't really exist," she told Oprah.com. "So where do you go to do movies? You go to the mecca. I also was afraid I was a very bad actress, because I'd become famous very fast and was making money for people." While most people stateside did not recognize Hayek upon her arrival, she does recall getting mobbed by an interesting group — Hollywood valets (via the Orange County Register).

Her accent has sometimes been a barrier

Salma Hayek did not speak much English when she arrived in the United States, which limited her earliest roles largely to Spanish-language media like "Mi vida loca" and "El vuelo del águila," and smaller guest stints on "Dream On," "Nurses," and "The Sinbad Show." But even after learning the language better, Hayek found that her heavy accent was a barrier to being cast in Hollywood. "I had studio heads say to me, 'You could have been the biggest star in America, but you were born in the wrong country. You can never be a leading lady, because we can't take the risk of you opening your mouth and people thinking of their maids,'" she is quoted as saying to Vanity Fair (per The Guardian).

Until then, having an accent was not something Hayek worried about because, in Mexico, "you either speak English or you don't," she explained to Oprah.com. According to that same interview, she also assumed that she could succeed based upon the Hollywood presence of other accented stars, like Arnold Schwarzenegger. Due to her early struggles, Hayek expressed shock when she was cast as a voice actor in "Puss in Boots," specifically because of her accent. She told Yahoo! Entertainment that she found her casting — and the casting of her friend Antonio Banderas — in the movie to be "bizarre" at first. Hayek has since done other voiceover work, most notably in 2016's "Sausage Party."

Salma Hayek was typecast in Hollywood for years

Many actors deal with typecasting in Hollywood, and Salma Hayek is no exception, losing out on roles due to both her heritage and her looks. She told Town & Country that she struggled to find roles until she was cast in the 1995 film "Desperado," and after that, she was slotted into the spicy Latina in action films like "From Dusk Till Dawn" and "Fair Game." "They wouldn't even give me the auditions. We tried really hard. I said I know I can do drama, but what about romantic comedies and action comedies?," Hayek told Variety. "For them, it was like, 'Oh, no, she's just like a sexy Mexican.'" She was even told by directors that she should speak faster and try to "sound dumber" (via Page Six).

Even when she was cast in comedy and romantic fare, Hayek was still uncomfortable with the labels put upon her. At one point, Hayek even got depressed over being considered a "bombshell" – a label that was thrown at her after "Desperado," and then again when she played a pregnant woman two years later. "Then I do 'Fools Rush In,' and I'm playing a pregnant woman. And they say I'm sexy again! I go, "But I'm pregnant!" I'm not even naked in this movie, and they still say I'm sexy," she told Oprah.com in a 2003 interview. "And then it became very depressing — I thought, 'I guess I'm reduced to that now. That's all I am in the perception of these people.'"

She had a very hard time with her Desperado sex scene

Salma Hayek's performance in "Desperado" put her on the map, and the movie's director, writer, and producer Robert Rodriguez became a big factor in her early career. Rodriguez subsequently cast Hayek in two other films, "Four Rooms" and "From Dusk Till Dawn," the latter of which remains one of her best known roles. But while "Desperado" was a big break for Hayek, it was not without its challenges — namely, the sex scene with Antonio Banderas.

According to an interview on the podcast "Armchair Expert," the scene was not in the original script, and was only demanded when the studio noticed the chemistry between the pair. Though the set was closed and Banderas was respectful, Hayek found the scene to be a nightmare. "I cried throughout the love scene," she said in an Oprah.com interview. "That's why you never see long pieces of the love scene — it's little pieces cut together. I'm crying most of the time so they have to take little pieces. It took eight hours instead of an hour. I nearly got fired."

The drama did not end there for Hayek, as she also had a tough time when it came to the scene hitting theaters. She told Elle magazine that she walked out of the premiere when they played it, and that she forced her family to do the same. "I didn't want any of them to see it. They were happy to walk out right away and then we came back again. I don't think they noticed anything," she said.

She almost died from COVID-19

According to CNN's world tracker, there have been over 250 million cases of COVID-19 around the world since the pandemic began. One of these cases belonged to Salma Hayek, who became incredibly ill with the virus. Only in 2021 did she begin discussing her experience, though Variety reports that she was diagnosed towards the start of the public health emergency. "It was scary because you didn't know much about it, and then it kind of lingered," Hayek revealed to Ryan Seacrest and Kelly Ripa on "LIVE with Kelly and Ryan."

"My doctor begged me to go to the hospital because it was so bad," Hayek told a reporter for Variety. "I said, 'No, thank you. I'd rather die at home.'" Thankfully, the actor was able to recover, but not before being put on oxygen and self-isolating for an extended period of time. She says that she lived in a separate area of the house — a single room — for seven weeks, in order to not infect her husband and daughter.

Salma Hayek is very into yoga and meditation

No stranger to Instagram bikini photos, Salma Hayek claims not to work out (via People). And since she loves food and considers herself to be an "emotional" eater (per Hola!), Hayek has had to develop other tricks to stay in shape. "I work with a woman in London who taught me how to hold my body in a way where the muscles are activated all day long," Hayek told People. "It's restorative yoga. She taught me to tone [my muscles] without clenching them. You relax them and focus on the parts that need to be used, but never with tension."

In addition to apparently activating her muscles all day long, Hayek also loves meditating. In an interview with InStyle, she gave credit to meditation for helping her to accept her body in any state. "My body has been incredibly generous. I don't think I am some hot tamale, but I know that for my age, for the lifestyle that I lived, I'm not doing too badly. And I attribute all of this to meditation," she said. She likes to couple meditation with juice cleanses, which she told Hola! help her to eat healthier and live more mindfully.

She is happily married to a billionaire

While Salma Hayek always wanted to get married, she was not always sure it was in the cards for her. "There were many times when I had to emotionally come to terms with the fact that maybe I wasn't ever going to get married," she told Redbook magazine. "And I started getting comfortable with that." But then, in 2006, at age 40, Hayek met billionaire businessman François-Henri Pinault. The couple married three years later, a year after they had their only daughter.

Hayek refuses to say how she met her husband, telling Town & Country that "it's such a romantic, amazing story, but it is mine. I don't want to vulgarize it by making it into a story to make myself interesting." That said, she has no problem talking about her marriage, which she frequently does glowingly. She has told Vogue how "proud" she is of her marriage and told Redbook that they have had only one fight (though it was a doozy and they separated for a few months, back in 2008).

And while it is perhaps inevitable that people will make assumptions when someone marries rich, Hayek is so in love that she does not even care what people say. "When I married him, everybody said, 'It's an arranged marriage, she married him for the money,'" Hayek said on the "Armchair Expert" podcast. "I'm like, 'Yeah, whatever b*tch, think what you want.' Fifteen years together, and we are strong in love, and I don't even get offended."

She is happy she was an older mother

Salma Hayek had her daughter Valentina at age 41, a couple of years after meeting François-Henri Pinault. While she admits to being "tired" (per Town & Country), Hayek told AARP that she thinks she has been a better mother because she had Valentina at a later age after already finding success. "It's painful to have children because you're worried 24-7, you judge yourself 24-7, and they judge you 24-7. Society does, too," she said. "If you have dreams, career dreams, it's easier to raise children once you have had the good fortune to establish your career. Then you're not as distracted."

Hayek has said that she was not sure she would be able to have a child in her 40s and that she feels grateful to have been able to have her daughter (via Holmes Place). And though she had only one biological child, Hayek did inherit a large family. She is stepmother to Augustin, François, and Mathilde, her husband's three children from a previous marriage. She told Holmes Place that she feels "lucky to have four children, a big family, and that I have a career...still."

She spends most of her time in London

Salma Hayek is originally from Mexico, but currently has homes in three other countries — the United States, France, and England. And though she claims to pay her taxes in America, where she is a naturalized citizen (via Us Weekly), she spends most of her time in Europe. According to The Guardian, Hayek and her family live mostly in London, as that is where her daughter goes to school. As it turns out, the giant mansion they live in was reportedly once rented by Justin Bieber.

When they are not in London, the Hayek-Pinault family are often in France, which makes sense given that Hayek's husband is of French descent. They stay at their country home outside of Paris, per The Guardian. Though she is said to own property in Los Angeles, Hayek is rarely in the United States nowadays. In fact, she told InStyle that she will not even shoot films in America because it is too far from her husband and child. Luckily, "House of Gucci" filmed in Rome (per InStyle) and much of "The Eternals" was filmed in the United Kingdom and Spain (via Lad Bible).

Salma Hayek has her own production company

In 1999, Salma Hayek set up her own production company called Ventanarosa. She explained to CBS News that the name "pink window" and that it reminded her of a window she would sit in front of as a child. When she first created the company, she had no idea how many projects she would end up developing — just that she wanted to try. "I was doing it to make the difference, to make the change so that we could change a situation. We could change a perception. We could change a way of thinking," she explained. "So that it would be laughable to think that because you're Latino you have no place in front of the camera unless you're an extra or a drug dealer, or a maid or a prostitute. And that took a long time. It took a lot of stamina."

Hayek has found success as a producer over the years, serving as an executive producer on the award-winning television show "Ugly Betty" and as a producer on "Frida," her passion project that earned her an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress. In June 2020, Ventanarosa signed a first-look deal with streamer HBO Max, and according to Variety, as of this writing, the company has 15 projects on the go. One of these projects is a comedy called "A Boob's Life" (per Deadline).

She has a pet owl

Salma Hayek walks to the beat of her own drum, and so it really should not shock anyone that she has a completely random bird for a pet: a rescued owl. According to Vogue, the bird is named Kering, after her husband's luxury goods company. In a memorable interview on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show," Hayek admitted that her owl once coughed up a giant hairball on top of popstar Harry Styles' head. "He was okay ... he was sweet," she told DeGeneres.

After coming into contact with an advertisement for an owl adoption organization, Hayek adopted the owl, and the actor told InStyle magazine that she even sleeps with it when her husband is away on business. "Her favorite place to be is in the yoga room when I'm meditating. She's completely calm. She gets it," Hayek said in the interview. In addition to Kering, Hayek has many other animals, including horses, alpacas, rabbits, and chickens (via Vogue).

Salma Hayek does not believe in Botox

Given her stunning looks and youthful skin, it is almost difficult to believe that Salma Hayek does not use medical enhancements. However, the actor swears that she does not do, and has not done, Botox. "I don't believe in Botox because your face doesn't move, and it's something you have to do for the rest of your life, more and more every time," Hayek said in an interview with DuJour magazine conducted when she was 50. "I don't look at things short term; I think of longevity." She also said that she wants her husband to still find her beautiful when she is older and that her way of ensuring that is through proper skincare, not Botox.

Speaking of skincare, Hayek does not believe in washing her face in the morning (per The New York Times). She simply rinses her skin in the morning — sometimes with rosewater — and then applies cream (per Glamour). Whatever she is doing, it seems to be working, and she credits not having Botox as ensuring her career success as a woman in her 50s. "I have a friend — an Italian friend who's a brilliant actress ... she's working a lot, too, and we were looking at each other one day and saying, why are we working so much? And she said: 'You know why? We don't have Botox!,'" she told NPR. "We don't have the injections. This is what it is! We don't look as hot, that's true ... but we're working non-stop because we can look like real people."

She once nursed a starving baby in Africa

Salma Hayek has been in the public eye for more than three decades, and so she has weathered a few scandals. Her biggest one occurred when the actor did something selfless — she decided to nurse a starving baby on a 2009 trip to Africa (she was weaning her own child at the time, per CBS News). The actor was on a goodwill mission in Sierra Leone at the time — through her charity, Salma Hayek Foundation — and news cameras caught it on camera (via Redbook).

According to ABC News, the story made headlines around the world, and the actor was forced to defend her actions. Still, Hayek has no regrets about the situation, and in a 2011 interview with The Orange County Register, she even admitted that she breastfed more than one baby on that trip. "If you are carrying these buckets of milk, and not using them, and then all of sudden there are these starving children desperate for milk, is it right to throw the milk on the ground?," she asked the interviewer.