Is it her Lebanese genes? Salma Hayek on her youthful looks as she approaches 50
They told Salma Hayek she would never make a leading lady because she sounded “like a Mexican maid”. Then she scored a string of major roles.
They said her career would be over once she passed 35. Then she played the role of a lifetime at 36.
Now the next big myth in Salma’s sights is that everything goes downhill for a woman once she hits 50.
The Mexican-born star is about to turn 49, but thinks the big five-oh will be no big deal.
First hit: Desperado with Antonio Banderas
Salma, whose first leading role came in the 1995 film Desperado with Antonio Banderas, says: “In the past, when I tried to imagine what I’d look like and what my life would be like at this age, I was terrified. I imagined myself looking old, but instead I think I still look OK, and I’m fine with my appearance.
“For too many generations, women have suffered from this terrible lie that age 50 is like falling off a cliff.
“Women have believed for so long we’d act and feel as if we were finished, and we surrendered to that myth.
“Fortunately, we’ve stopped believing that. Fifty is a great age where we can be very productive and happy and not feel limited by anything.
“I’ve realised I can still be beautiful and attractive as I approach 50. I feel very good about my life.”
Salma is back on the big screen soon in a critically acclaimed fantasy called Tale of Tales. She plays a fairytale queen desperate for a child who is told to get pregnant she must eat the heart of a sea monster that has been boiled and served by a virgin. As you do...
Salma did not have her first child until she was 41 and although she did not quite go THAT far, she admits that she too was desperate to be a mum.
“I waited a long time to have a child and now I have Valentina I feel so deeply responsible to her as a mother.
“I have to make sure I don’t try to do everything for her, but it’s hard. I’m the kind of mother who is always fussing over my daughter. I’ve never been away from her for more than two weeks.
“But she keeps telling me she doesn’t want me to turn down jobs because of her. She says when I’m offered a good role, I have to take it.”
Acclaim: As painter Frida Kahio (Buena Vista)
Yet this self-confessed fussy and overprotective mum is also one of Hollywood’s most outspoken stars. Even tough film magnate Harvey Weinstein calls her “a ball-breaker”. And she still rages against the system.
She says: “There is still an age bias when it comes to acting roles for women. When I came to Hollywood I was told my career would be over when I hit 35.
“But I’m still working and I’ve been getting some good roles. But there aren’t enough roles for women. Too many stories only give women secondary kinds of parts where we’re not involved in driving the story the way men are. It’s changing, though. We’re seeing more women doing comedies and in action films, so that’s a good sign.
“I’d like to find some really great roles in the future. I still don’t think I’ve done my best work yet.”
Born into a wealthy family in Veracruz in 1966, Salma was a big star on Mexican TV at 23 and moved to Hollywood two years later.
Desperado came four years later followed by a brief but memorable role as a lap-dancing vampire in the cult hit From Dusk Till Dawn.
Vampire: As a dancer in Dusk Till Dawn
After sailing past the supposed barrier of her 35th birthday, her most acclaimed role came in 2002’s Frida, the powerful life story of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, which won her a best actress Oscar nomination and other plaudits.
As soon as she had a celebrity profile Salma used it to promote the causes she cares about, raising awareness of violence against women and discrimination against immigrants. She also advocates breastfeeding and on a Unicef trip to Sierra Leone in Africa she famously breastfed a hungry week-old baby whose mother could not produce milk.
She started her own production company in 2000 and has produced and directed many films and TV series, including Ugly Betty and a music video for Prince.
Hearty meal: Salma in Tale of Tales
Her role in Tale of Tales, based on three 17th century fables.
Salma says: “The movie talks about three important subjects for women – the things we fight to hold on to.
“The first is our children, the second our youth and the third our freedom.
“What’s extraordinary is the stories were written so long ago, and it’s still contemporary because we are still struggling with these three issues.”
Her own daughter Valentina, now eight, was born after a tricky pregnancy in which 5ft 2in Salma gained 50lb.
But she says she welcomed seeing her body “completely disfigured – for a very good reason”.
Hubby: Salma with billionaire fashion boss Francois
She adds: “I never exercised my whole life. Now I do yoga. as I like my food. And frankly, I like my wine.” On Valentine’s Day 2008 Salma married Valentina’s father, French billionaire Francois-Henri Pinault, 53, head of the group which owns the Gucci, Saint Laurent, Stella McCartney and Alexander McQueen brands.
The family now live in London, where Valentina goes to school. Salma says: “My husband’s a strong, confident man not afraid of a strong woman. That’s been one of the great strengths of our marriage. He respects me and has always encouraged me to work and fulfil myself. I’m very lucky. But you have to find the right guy. It’s so hard because there are so few of them.
“What is important in a marriage is generosity, thoughtfulness, thinking of the other person all of the time.
“Spend quality time together. And don’t forget over the years.”
Campaigner: On fundraising mission for Syrian refugees
Salma loves the fact she bagged one of the biggest names in fashion when she doesn’t care about it . She explains: “I was never a fashionista. I was surrounded by fashionistas who made fun of me as I didn’t care. When I started going out with Francois they said, ‘How did you of all people land this guy? You don’t care about fashion.’
“And I said, ‘You know what. That was probably refreshing.’ ”
Though she’s married to a billionaire, Salma says: “It’s important to me I keep working and earn my own money. I like to feel independent, pay my own bills, and not turn into a society lady.
“I know how to behave if I’m invited to Buckingham Palace – but then I’ll go back to my ranch and feed the chickens. That’s important for my daughter to see too. She’s surrounded by a lot of strong women in our family and I hope she grows up to appreciate that.
“I don’t know what my future holds. My true greatest passion is directing but I’m not in a hurry – so I’ve something really special to look forward to in my 60s. I have a great future ahead of me.”
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