Salma Hayek is one of the most respected and in-demand actresses in Hollywood, but early in her career, she dealt with the same misogyny and racism that has troubled the industry since its inception. And she’s been incredibly frank when discussing the various abuses and harassment she endured — particularly as a woman of color — including losing roles simply because she is Mexican.
In her new cover interview with Variety, Hayek describes how American film companies refused to acknowledge Latinx audiences, and how that manifested in the jobs she was offered. “I was already a very big star in my country,” said Hayek — she was a telenovela star in Mexico — “and I was bringing the Latino market into the theaters. I know some of the studios knew that. But they didn’t want to accept the value of the Latino market at the time.”
Even her critically adored performance in Frida, which earned her an Oscar nomination — and for which she suffered agonizing sexual harassment and a death threat from producer Harvey Weinstein — didn’t help. “They ignored it,” she said. “I still didn’t get the leads.”
Specifically, Hayek reveals two keys roles that she didn’t get, although she aced her auditions. “I remember there were two big comedies I auditioned for the lead,” she recalls. “Afterwards, the directors told me that I was the best audition and that I was better than who they cast and that they regretted it. But at the time, they knew the studios wouldn’t have gone for a Mexican as the lead.” Hayek doesn’t reveal the titles of the comedic films in question, but she did obtain something greater than revenge: success.
“I got a lot of satisfaction with them coming to me and telling me because I thought it was very courageous of them,” she said, when asked if her accomplishments feel bittersweet. “And I thought it changed something. It changed something in them. It made [me think that] maybe the next generation or the next girl that comes in was going to get a better shot because of it.”
Still, Hayek’s visibility has helped pave the way for a new generation of Latinx actors and actresses. Jennifer Lopez, Zoe Saldana, America Ferrara, names that are now household figures, are regarded as the serious talents that they are because Hayek was at the forefront of Latinx representation. There is still much work to be done in that regard, and Hayek’s bravery in speaking out candidly about these issues should remind us that, no matter who you are, the intersections of your identity will always come at a cost. Cheers to her for not letting Hollywood get a pass.