Salma Hayek Makes Waves

As a Mexican soap star, she had to overcome a Hollywood that mocked her dreams. But Salma Hayek kept fighting and had the last laugh with film and TV success, her own cosmetics line and a late-in-life family. “I’ve worked hard,” she says, “for everything I have”   

by Johanna Schneller
salma hayek red dress underwater image
GUCCI silk georgette gown; gucci.com for stores. MARTIN KATZ diamond and 18k white-gold earrings; 310-276-7200
Photograph: Alexei Hay

Salma Hayek knew she was right about the necklace—not one she owned but one belonging to her character, Elena, a Mexican drug-cartel queen, in Oliver Stone’s Savages. Elena flaunts her sleek style like a kind of armor, and Hayek wanted to crown it with a signature piece of jewelry, a choker of square diamonds that Elena would wear every day. “I kept fighting with Oliver about that,” Hayek says. “He said she would have new jewelry all the time, but I said no, always wearing the same one is a way to show her power.” If you’ve seen the film—with its ever-reappearing diamonds—you know who won the battle.

“Oh, that necklace!” Stone says now. “God forbid if we’d lost that! Salma’s very detailed. She’s exact about her hair, makeup, clothes, and she’s always got a point of view. She needs to get it right, and I adore her for it, because it pays off in the end. There were times I gritted my teeth—this is costing time. But she gets what she wants, this woman.”

Talk about getting what she wants: On a summer evening, Hayek is settling into a seat on the private jet that’s about to whoosh us from New York to Boston. She’s wearing a black Alberta Ferretti sheath meticulously tailored to her celebrated curves. Immediately she kicks off her towering black suede pumps and tucks her legs under her while her hairdresser, Robert, busily stows her bags, unfolds her tray table and lays out platters of fruit, cheese and crackers. The actress spent the day promoting Savages, and now she’s being flown back to the set of Grown Ups 2, the sequel to the 2010 hit comedy in which she played Adam Sandler’s fashion-obsessed wife. She’s carrying with her three days’ worth of Cooler Cleanse, the juice regimen she helped develop, and in a few minutes she’ll be telling me all about Nuance Salma Hayek, her beauty line for CVS, but for the moment business is forgotten: She’s on her cell phone, cooing “Besos!” (“kisses” in Spanish) to her daughter, Valentina, who turned five at the end of September.
Hayek scoops up a fig before the first plate is fully unwrapped, gesturing to Robert and me to help ourselves. She eats steadily (though in small bites—three per blackberry) for the duration of the 50-minute flight. “Do you want some wine?” she asks me. “I’ll have some.” Told there is no wine, she shrugs, taps my tape recorder and says, “OK, let’s go!”

I am mesmerized. Hayek, at 46, is insanely beautiful onscreen and even more so in person. Her voice is a cat’s tongue, warm and slightly rough, and her Mexican accent rolls out on a sea of elongated vowels.

She launches quickly into girlfriend mode—calls me “baby,” swats my arm or knee for emphasis, confides. “I’m not a skinny girl,” she says. “I push it. I’m at the limit of chubbiness at all times, but I’m happy at all times.” She says she’s scared of needles and plastic surgery and for now prefers using creams and oils. “I have to have all those tricks so I can show up for work and look fantastic.” She even teases a little, mentioning the intimate texts she receives from her husband, François-Henri Pinault, the French CEO of the luxury-brands firm PPR, whose labels include Gucci and Balenciaga. “Of course, I can show you a text that would surprise you,” she murmurs sexily. “I can show you a thousand things. But I’m not going to.”

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