Salma Hayek turns 55: her astonishing life in photos
The beginnings of a young actress in a small Spanish language soap opera who, at the end of the 1980s, was taking her first steps in the world of acting. With a look worthy of the era, Salma Hayek quickly became one of the most prominent Mexican actresses of the time.
Mexico's Salma Hayek Jiménez always wanted to be an artist. It was clear to her when, as a young woman, she decided to give up her studies in International Relations at the Universidad Iberoamericana in favour of acting. The daughter of a Lebanese politician and businessman, Sami Hayek, and a beautiful woman of Spanish descent, Diana Jiménez, Salma Hayek is born from two exotic cultures. Her first steps began in a play, 'Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp', to later participate in her first 'telenovela' or soap opera, 'Nuevo Amanecer' (New Dawn).
After 'Nuevo amanecer' came her big break with a starring role in 'Teresa', a 1989 Televisa production that catapulted her to fame. The soap opera, which ran for more than 100 episodes, gave Salma Hayek the opportunity to develop as an actress and explore new avenues in her career. Her objective? To write her name in golden letters in Hollywood.
As her career continued into the early 90s, she received small roles in TV series such as 'Street Justice', 'Dream On' ('Sigue soñando') or 'Nurses'. All of this led to 'Mi Vida Loca', a 1993 production that starred a young Salma Hayek.
She also continued participating in Mexican television productions (for example, 'El Vuelo del Águila'- see photo) but the actress was determined to make a place for herself in the difficult world of Hollywood stars. "I was doing very well as an actress in Mexico," recalls Salma Hayek in an interview with 'Vanity Fair', "but I decided to go to the United States and start from scratch. I was 24 years old, my English wasn't very good, I didn't know Los Angeles and my naivety played an important role: if I had known what I know now, I would have been terrified."
Her first steps onto the American screen came in the early 90s and included productions such as the short-lived 'Rebel Highway'. Tough beginnings for the actress, as Salma Hayek herself pointed out in Vanity Fair, "When I came to the United States, it was inconceivable that an actor of Latino origin would play a leading role. People laughed at me when I talked about it."
In 1994 came 'Roadracers' with David Arquette. Little by little, the young Salma Hayek was making the international public fall in love with her wonderful presence in front of the camera.
A year later, another great opportunity: 'El Callejón de los Milagros' ('Midaq Alley'), winner of the Ariel Award for Best Film acted as a springboard for the Mexican actress's career as she was nominated in the category for Best Actress, too.
However, Salma Hayek's first major role in Hollywood - or at least the most important to date - came in 1995 by filmmaker Robert Rodríguez: 'Desperado' ('La balada del pistolero' / 'Ballad of the Gunman'). The film, in which the Mexican actress shared the screen with the renowned Spanish actor, Antonio Banderas, became a huge success, nominated for various awards and was screened at the Cannes Film Festival. From then on, everything changed in Salma Hayek's life and career as an actress.
The roles continued to flow, one after the other, and the Mexican actress became one of the ambassadors of her country's art both at home and abroad. 'Four Rooms' and 'Fair Game' were made in the same year and she was becoming a sought-after actress,
In 1996, Salma Hayek added another great role to her filmography: the enigmatic and crazy 'From Dusk Till Dawn'. Her sensual final dance scene is, to this date, one of the most iconic in Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino films.
She also received a role in 'Fled', a film with bucket loads of action. So, little by little, she took one step at a time towards her dream. "Everyone thought I was crazy for having left a very stable situation to start from scratch: a Mexican woman in the Mecca of cinema. Those things didn't happen", the actress recalled in 'Vanity Fair'.
She was also able to give romantic comedies a go. She did so alongside 'Friends' actor Matthew Perry in 'Fools Rush In'.
And on a personal level, what was going on in Salma Hayek's life? In the late 1990s, the actress began a relationship with fellow actor Edward Norton. During their four-year courtship, the American starred in two of his best films: 'American History X' and 'Fight Club'.
Despite many people's assurances that their relationship would end in marriage, the news of Salma Hayek and Edward Norton's break-up hit the press in 2002. By then, Salma was already a Hollywood star in her own right.
Nevertheless, the actress was reluctant to get that great role that would get her out of that eternal Hollywood secondary role label. For this reason, she fought and fought until she achieved it through more commercial productions that counted on her presence.
In 'The Faculty', a teen horror film from the late 1990s, she played a high school nurse who had a dangerous secret, as did her fellow faculty members.
'Dogma' caused a stir and aroused controversy in some groups close to the Catholic Church because the twists in Hayek's script were considered insulting.
And then she starred in 'Wild Wild West', an adventure film with Will Smith and Kevin Kline, making her one of the highest-grossing actresses at the time. Salma Hayek was Hollywood star.
However, her big role was yet to come. After a spell in Spanish cinema in 'La Gran Vida', in 2002 came her big breakthrough: 'Frida'. No one was better than Salma Hayek to play the famous Mexican painter Frida Kahlo...
With this famous film, which starred and was produced by Salma Hayek herself, the actress became the first Mexican woman to be nominated for an Oscar in the Best Actress category. A wonderful film with which Salma Hayek proved that she was one of the top talents in Hollywood.
Already a Hollywood institution, Salma Hayek continued to sign roles in blockbuster productions such as 'Once Upon a Time in Mexico' where she showed her feisty side.
Bandidas' followed soon after, alongside her good friend Penélope Cruz. The actress from Madrid was still inexperienced in Hollywood and, hand in hand with Salma Hayek, she began to take her first steps into the 'Mecca of cinema'.
The actress was going down a solid path in the world of cinema, which, at the time, she shared hand-in-hand with her partner: the wealthy businessman François-Henri Pinault. She had a daughter, Valentina Paloma, with him in 2007 and married in a dream wedding in 2009.
Since then, her film appearances have been much less as she focused on her private life and the actress began to be more selective, accepting only new professional challenges. 'Americano' and 'Savages' are part of the Mexican actress's filmography.
Salma Hayek also took advantage of her fame and turned to awareness of important issues. She became a standard-bearer for the feminist struggle in the world, also showing her political preferences. In 2016 she expressed her support for the Democratic Party candidate, Hillary Clinton, showing her opposition to many of President Donald Trump's policies.
And throughout this long journey, has Salma Hayek achieved happiness? She herself answered that question in 'Vanity Fair'. "Yes, I am happy now. It turns out that everything they've been telling me all my life was a lie. They told me it was impossible to be Mexican and work as an actress in the United States. They told me that, after 35, you have to start lowering your standards with men...".
"... I didn't give in and I ended up winning, I'm with the best man I've ever met! I was told that after 40 you don't get job offers, but I'm in the best moment of my career and of my life. I guess I've always been very rebellious and that's negative in some ways, but in others it's positive."
'The Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard' is Salma's first film of 2021. It is a comedy-action film in which she worked alongside Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson.
'Eternals', is one of the Mexican actress' most recent films. A story based on 'The Eternals', produced by Marvel Studios and distributed by Walt Disney Studios. This Mexican actress has shown that she is still very much prominent in the industry while many are anticipating the actress' next projects.