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
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Photograph: Alexei Hay

Hayekis having the time of her life, both professionally and personally. Not giving birth until age 41 was “the best thing that ever happened to me,” she says. “I think I’m a better person now, I understand things better now, so I can be a better guide. I’ve done a lot of things with my life that I’m satisfied with. So I don’t have the sensation that a child is limiting me. If I sometimes have to stop everything and just be a mother, I’m like, ‘Ooh, that’s cool. I love it.’ It’s different for everyone, but in my case, it was better to do it now. Not to mention I found the right guy now, too.”

Hayek sounds giddily, happily married, which thrills her, because she didn’t think she could be. Though she’d had her share of high-profile boyfriends, including the actor Edward Norton, “I didn’t think marriage worked,” she says. “I thought everybody who was married was secretly miserable—that it was something they just put up with for their children.”

Instead, she’s delighted that she still feels in love. “And my God, you have a partner who’s there with you and for you,” she says enthusiastically. “I have a master of decision making helping me out, so of course my life and my career are better. I really enjoy having somebody that I can be weak with. If I’m insecure or afraid, I can talk about it, and he’ll give me strength and courage. I noticed in the past, a lot of guys who like strong women, they really freak out if you’re not strong 24/7. Or they complain about you being strong, then the moment you’re not strong, they’re like, ‘Oh, no, no, no.’ With us, there’s no power struggle. I don’t mind doing things for him because he does so much for me, and he feels the same way.”

Her professional life is equally strong. Hayek enjoys her work more than ever—“now that I don’t have to work,” she interjects, laughing and swatting my arm. “It’s so much more fun! The minute I didn’t have that huge pressure over my shoulders, I started getting more work.” Her electrifying, slyly comic mix of the maternal and the lethal stood out in Savages. In the French independent film Americano, released in the U.S. last June, she played a struggling Tijuana prostitute and performed an erotic striptease.

“I was in the best shape of my life,” she says with a grin. “I exercised, dieted. I was so excited about my body. I thought, I can do this! This can happen!” Then, the day before filming started, she aggravated an old ankle injury and, with no budget for reshoots, had to do much of the dance lying down. “But it worked for the character and turned out to be very sexy,” she says. “I thought, What the heck. This for sure will be the last prostitute I ever play. In the next one, I’ll be the madam.” She laughs.

It’s easy to see Hayek in a sexy role; more surprising, perhaps, is her involvement in another new film, this month’s Here Comes the Boom with Kevin James, best known for the TV series The King of Queens. Hayek plays a high school nurse who helps a teacher (James) become a mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter to save their school’s music program. “I take things for a lot of reasons that make no sense for anyone else,” Hayek says. In this case, she came aboard because of her affection for James and for Adam Sandler, whose company produced the film. “I love them and their wives. I’ll go with them anywhere, I don’t care what the movie is. Because we have fun, they take care of my child, it’s a great family environment.” She’s happily impressed with the way Boomturned out. “One of my favorite movies is Rocky,” she says, “and this is in that vein of sporty movies where the underdog succeeds.”

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