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

She brought that same interest in non-movie-star people and their lives to her cosmetic line, insisting on price points low enough that most women could afford them. The Nuance products, which Hayek actively helped develop, are based on creams created by her grandmother in the city of Coatzacoalcos, where Hayek grew up, the daughter of an opera singer and a Mexican-Lebanese businessman. Her grandmother, who was a trained cosmetologist, relied on indigenous Mexican ingredients such as bark from the Tepezcohuite tree, which is used to treat burn victims.
The actress recalls accompanying her grandmother to buy bottles of injectable vitamin A (aka retinol). Hayek recommended them to her cosmetic team, but she says the dose turned out to be too concentrated to sell over the counter in the U.S. So they developed a time-release mechanism. Other lines may offer similar creams, Hayek says, but at prices far higher than hers ($22). “Every woman should be entitled to preserve her beauty and youth,” she says.

Hayek’sbeauty empire and acting obligations don’t take up all her time. She’s also developing an animated film adaptation of Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet; working with charities that address domestic violence; and promoting the Cooler Cleanse regimen. She plans to do a three-day cleanse herself this weekend, because she wants to drop a few pounds before her husband visits. “Everybody has a weakness,” she says. “Mine is food. If you love food and you love red wine and they put you in France, you’re in a good place and you’re in a bad place at the same time.” She laughs. “You have to weigh yourself every day, and you have to have an alarm number. When you get to that number, you have to start putting it in reverse. I think if I was not in love, I would probably let myself go faster. Love gives me the vanity to continue. I’m not necessarily vain, but when I gained fifty-something pounds in the pregnancy, it did something to me. Since then, at least I make an effort.”

By now the plane has landed, and we’re in a car on the tarmac. I compliment her on her boundless energy. “Ay, I’ve been tired for five years,” she replies. “But I’m the luckiest girl in the world. How could I possibly complain?” In her thirties, she suffered a restless, insecure period, when it felt as if, after Frida,nothing more was going to happen for her. “I could have done anything. I could have played anyone,” she says, “but I never got the chance. And I was very frustrated for a long time. But then I became so happy about other things in my life that it didn’t matter anymore . A good career—it’s a great thing to have. But I see a lot of people with great careers who are not happy people.

“And I never thought that I was going to direct,” she continues, “or produce a successful TV show that would help a community or be nominated for an Oscar. My daughter can always say that: ‘My mom was this actress from Mexico who was nominated for an Oscar.’ ”

She certainly never thought her forties would be her favorite decade, but that’s what’s happening. “I feel more relaxed,” she says. “I don’t have to prove something. I don’t have that urge of ‘Something’s missing, gotta get out there and find it somehow.’ ” She hugs me good-bye and gets out of the car. “I was always dreaming big,” she sums up, “but my life is better than anything I dreamed.”

JOHANNA SCHNELLER last profiled Kyra Sedgwick for More.

Next: Diane Lane is a Lane Changer

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