YOU cover story: Salma Hayek ‘I have to work. It’s not about money, it’s about passion’
'I don’t want to be size zero and I’m glad I’m not. But I do struggle to stay slim'
You’d think that marriage to a billionaire tycoon would have slowed actress and activist Salma Hayek down. Not possible, she tells Elaine Lipworth
Love food and I love to eat,’ proclaims Salma Hayek over lunch in a sunny hotel suite overlooking Rome’s Popolo Square. Lunch, by the way, is not one of those spartan affairs that rail-thin Californian actresses go for.
Salma has ordered us a sumptuous feast on room service: grilled artichokes, mozzarella and tomatoes, prosciutto, octopus, pasta… It’s a meal that speaks volumes about the Mexican actress. This is a woman with an appetite not just for food, but for life.
Salma is both petite (five foot two) and curvy. ‘I sometimes wish I was thinner because it’s easier to look good in clothes,’ she admits. But at 46, she looks a decade younger.
She is also a great raconteur, whether she’s sharing her secret recipe for roast chicken (‘the
only dish I make that everyone in my family likes’), telling me about her love for her late grandmother Maria Luisa Lopez (‘a magnificent woman who loved knowledge and was an avid reader’) or waxing lyrical about an idyllic-sounding childhood in Mexico, where ‘the weather is always fantastic, the people have a wonderful sense of humour and there is music everywhere’.
Salma is married to French billionaire fashion tycoon Franois-Henri Pinault and the couple have a five-year-old daughter Valentina (Pinault has three children from earlier relationships). Her life sounds impossibly glamorous, with a house in Paris, a chteau outside the city and a home in Los Angeles. But she doesn’t come across as jaded.
Her life, she says, is governed by hard work and down-to-earth values learned growing up in Coatzacoalcos, Mexico, with her mother Diana, an opera singer, her father Sami, an oil company executive, and younger brother, also Sami, in a close-knit community.
As a child Salma was a talented gymnast. ‘At one point I had to leave my little town to go and train in Mexico City, and then when it was time to get drafted [compete seriously] and stay there, my father didn’t allow it. I had to go home.’ She studied international relations at college, left to pursue acting and starred in a popular Mexican soap opera before moving to LA, aged 22.
She admits it was an uphill battle to get decent parts. ‘People advised me to go back to Mexico, settle down and have kids.’ Ignoring them, Salma taught herself English and landed her first major
film role in the 1995 blockbuster Desperado, opposite Antonio Banderas. Since then she’s appeared in a variety of hit movies. But it was her 2002 Oscar-nominated role in Frida, about revered Mexican artist Frida Kahlo (which she also produced) that transformed her career, establishing her as a formidable talent and Mexico’s first global film star. She produced the popular TV show Ugly Betty, has directed TV dramas and recently starred as Kitty Softpaws in the animated Puss In Boots (again with her pal Antonio Banderas).
A passionate advocate for women’s rights, Salma is involved with Avon Foundation’s Speak Out Against Domestic Violence programme and directed her friend, actress Jada Pinkett Smith, in a video for the global campaign Don’t Sell Bodies aimed at stopping human trafficking and slavery.
She’s in Rome with director Oliver Stone promoting his crime thriller Savages, but we are meeting to talk about Here Comes The Boom, an entertainingly raucous comedy with Henry Winkler (best known as the Fonz from Happy Days), who plays a music teacher about to lose his job because of budget cuts. Another teacher at the school, American comedian Kevin James, decides to compete as a mixed martial artist (boxing, kickboxing, karate and judo), even though he is out of shape, in a desperate bid to raise funds from his winnings, save the music department and help his friend. He is also hoping to impress Salma, the beautiful school nurse – who can pull a few punches herself.
‘I’m never sure how many there’ll be for dinner. But it’s lots of fun. I really like a sense of community’
I attack (my co-star) Kevin James on our first date. It’s a very funny scene in Here Comes The Boom. He has asked me out 20 times, finally I agree and I go to his apartment for dinner. He thinks it’s going to be the most romantic dinner possible but I jump on him, we start wrestling
and tear the apartment down. I am teaching him how to fight properly because I do not think he’s doing a good job, and I decide to show him how to get it done. It was crazy, we had to improvise
the fight and we really got a bit bruised and battered. But I love comedy and Kevin and I are very funny together.
I don’t want to be size zero and I’m glad I’m not. But I do struggle to stay slim. Unfortunately when you’re always in the public eye it can be stressful. My body has not always been in perfect shape, and I know I am on the limit of maybe being, you know, chubby. Sometimes I go over my limit and eat too much, then I try to do a little better the next day. I’m always one or two kilos over the weight that I wish I was, but never ten kilos over. I will tell you one thing though – I don’t have as many wrinkles as most girls do at my age. When women have been skinny for ever and are very rigid with their diet, they have more lines.
I love to cook for my husband and daughter. I enjoy going to the market for fresh vegetables. I
see what they have and then try to do something that will work for everyone in the family…which is
not always easy in our house because there are often a lot of children. We have our daughter Valentina, and sometimes my husband’s other three children. Everybody wants something
different. But they all like my roast chicken. I take an organic chicken and put half a lemon inside, then I massage olive oil into the skin. I put mushrooms, green olives and rosemary inside and outside the chicken. I take the juice of the olives, mix it with coriander, pour it on top, and slow cook it in the oven. It is a big hit. I made up that recipe; I like to improvise.
Salma with Kevin James in Here Comes The Boom
I love being a wife and homemaker – because it’s my choice. My husband doesn’t expect me to do it. I don’t mind doing things for him because he does so much for me; we both feel that way so there is no power struggle. Being a mother is more exhausting than working, though, and sometimes I push myself too hard and burn myself out. I can appreciate how exhausting it must be for women who have to do everything themselves all the time. I don’t have lots of people [staff] working for me inside the house. One thing I do is to get everybody to help out. I say, ‘OK, I will cook but everybody please help me with the dishes. Bring your plates to the sink.’ I think it’s really important for children to help with the housework.
It is also important to have intimacy, and it is nice when my husband takes me out on dates. Sometimes he takes me out to dinner when I don’t feel like cooking. He’s very romantic, and so am I. We’ll walk to a little restaurant that we like that is near our house – it has fabulous food. It’s just him and me together and we can have lovely conversations.
I’m Mexican and any Mexican knows that you’re never sure how many people you will have for lunch or dinner, so you have to be prepared. Sometimes we have my husband’s two kids who also live in Paris and sometimes we have the one who lives in New York, so it’s complicated. Every other weekend we get three of them, plus cousins sometimes and the kids’ friends; it’s never the same number. It’s the same when we are in Los Angeles, because we are always with my brother and my mother and my sister-in-law. You do your best and sometimes you complain, but it’s lots
of fun. I really like a sense of community.
I must be doing a really good job as a mother because Valentina doesn’t act like a spoilt girl. She’s actually quite thoughtful and conscientious. Maybe it’s not that I am doing a good job, maybe that’s just who she is. But we don’t spoil her. Her father gave her a hamster for her birthday. He does not like rats and rodents, so the fact that he got her the one thing she wanted was great. She loves her hamster, Mr Max. She plays with him and does the cleaning and feeding and is so responsible and gentle.
With her husband Franois and daughter Valentina in Venice last month
I am crazy about animals and I have too many. How many I can’t even tell you. Before I was married, I used to rescue animals. Now I have a farm full of those animals in the States. It is crazy. Every unwanted animal ends up on my farm: alpacas and horses and dogs and cats and chickens and ducks and parrots and fish and guinea pigs. I have such a variety, you don’t want to know.
I was privileged to grow up in Mexico at a time when you could play in the streets. We lived not too far from the ocean and we would be outside all the time with the neighbours’ kids, running free. What better place could there be for a child The food is extraordinary and the markets are full of characters and colours and all sorts of folk. I used to go to the market with my mum, who is an amazing cook.
I was inspired by mother and grandmother, both amazing talented women. My mother was a wonderful opera singer but as she was married with kids she couldn’t fulfil her dreams.
My grandmother was a scientist and a chemist and she was ahead of her time. She learned about herbology and used to make her own beauty creams. Her lab was the kitchen and she would do all sorts of experiments. She could actually make hair grow on bald men! I don’t know what her secret formula was but it had pepper in it. Please mention her. She will be smiling from the skies if you do! I still have her inside me and I always will. I didn’t get all her secret recipes, but she taught me a lot about skincare and I was inspired to make my own skin products with my beauty line [Nuance].
I received so many hate letters when I breast-fed a starving baby in Africa. I was in Sierra Leone in 2009 and I was weaning my child at that time – she was not there with me. There was a hungry baby who was crying because his mother had no milk and I thought, ‘Why throw away my milk if I can give it to a baby who needs it’ We were in a remote place, the mother was desperate, her baby was starving and I had milk. It was such a practical, normal thing for me to do. I have never been a controversial figure and I don’t want to be. So it was such a shock to receive hate mail. I found it really disturbing because some people were offended that it was a black baby I had fed. My husband thought I did the right thing. My daughter thought it was a good thing too when I told her.
I was thinking about giving up acting. I had too many other things to do and it was not that exciting for me any more. I don’t get a lot of great parts. Then Oliver Stone offered me Savages,
which was a simple role that I could sink my teeth into. Oliver is a director I respect and I was excited
to be given the opportunity to work with him. I play a monstrous woman, the queen of a Mexican drug cartel; it was a challenge to find different colours within this woman.
The thought of somebody pulling and cutting around my face gives me stomach ache. Plastic surgery would be so painful. What if it doesn’t look good What if they made a mistake I couldn’t do it. I don’t believe in Botox either. Well…I might do it one day, but I think it’s important to move your skin, so that your muscles stay toned. I believe if you have Botox you are going to age faster because your face is not getting any exercise. You’re not oxygenating your face by moving it. I don’t like the way women look with fillers, they are not wrinkled-looking, but it’s not a beautiful look, they don’t look younger.
I persuaded Jada Pinkett Smith to appear nude in a music video for the global campaign Don’t Sell Bodies aimed at stopping human trafficking and slavery. I have known her since I did Wild Wild West with Will Smith [Jada’s husband], and we became friends. She asked me to direct her in the video and I said, ‘I’ll do it but I want you to do it nude. /10/24/article-0-155CF0E1000005DC-817_87x199.jpg” width=”87″ height=”199″ alt=”Sarah Burton” class=”blkBorder” />
Designer Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen [right]. She takes curves into consideration. Women look powerful but feminine in her clothes; they are wearable and original but you never look crazy in them.
Make-up I wear my own make-up line, Nuance, but I love Yves Saint Laurent Touche Eclat – it is a great under-eye concealer.
Fashion icon The Duchess of Cambridge [left] – she is beautiful and effortlessly stylish. Of course, if you have a body like that everything is going to look effortless.
MOST LIKE TO BE STUCK IN AN ELEVATOR WITH My husband, definitely, that would be kind of fun.
Saving up for I have been thinking about getting myself a cosy little house somewhere in Italy and redoing it.