Salma Hayek discusses her Lebanese heritage, political correctness (2024)

DUBAI:Ever since she was a little girl, Salma Hayek — actress, producer, philanthropist, and all-around global superstar — has felt a strong connection to her Arab roots. Though she grew up in Mexico, far from the small village of Baabdat, Lebanon, which her family left years earlier, her father and grandparents never let her forget where they came from, and the values that entails.

“I was raised and I was educated, like all Lebanese people are educated, to give back to Lebanon, to be a brotherhood. We are raised so that when we encounter a Lebanese person in life, we immediately come together,” says Hayek.

In her house growing up, she was raised on Arabic food, handed the writings of Khalil Gibran by her grandfather, and taught about what her Arab identity meant.

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“I probably had Kibbeh before I had tacos,” she jokes.

Her background was diverse, and she embraced the richness of what that meant, both in her Latin roots and her Middle Eastern ones, even as she moved to the US from Mexico to pursue a career in entertainment, eventually becoming a naturalized citizen. As much as the richness of her heritage made her who she was, that identity led her down a hard road in a town such as Hollywood, a town in which the faces that were most easily embraced were the ones that conformed to a different standard.

“You have to understand, I am Mexican-Arab in America. It’s a tough one. I’m not British. I’m not Spanish. I’m Mexican-Arab,” she tells Arab News.

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She has persevered, however, and made a significant contribution to a wider acceptance not only of ethnic diversity, but of women in roles traditionally held by men in the industry. Take her 2015 passion project “The Prophet,” an animation based on the famous work by Gibran that Hayek produced (as well as voicing one of the characters).

“It’s not a religious book, it’s poetic and philosophical. It’s a book written by an Arabic man, which unites all religions,” Hayek told the Guardian of the film. “That itself I think is important.”

“Through this book I got to know my grandfather, through this book I got to have my grandfather teaching me about life,” she told Reuters at the film’s premiere in Beirut. “For me, this is a love letter to my heritage. Between all the connections of our ancestors and the memories of the ones that are no longer with us, I hope they are proud of this film, because I did it also for them.” Hayek’s father went to Beirut with her for the premiere, and together they went on an “emotional journey” to Baabdat — their ancestral village.

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As much as ‘diversity’ has become the buzzword in the new Hollywood, and as much as every studio pushes for diverse hires both in front of and behind the camera, this is something that Hayek remains skeptical of. Why? Because often, she feels, these sorts of moves are made to fill quotas without substance, which don’t represent real change.

“When diversity is done out of political correctness, you feel an interrogation and you don’t feel welcome the same way [as you do when it’s done right]. They’re nervous and speak carefully just so that they don’t make a mistake in anything they say. They’re not seeing you as a human being and celebrating just who you are,” says Hayek.

Her latest film does not fall into that category, she stresses. It is her first venture into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and she has become the MCU’s first Arab lead.

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Hayek was particularly excited about the fact that director Chloe Zhao, who won Oscars earlier this year for Best Director and Best Picture for her film “Nomadland,” approached her not to fill a quota, but out of something deeper.

“It’s diversity, but it’s not done out of political correctness, but out of conviction. It didn’t feel contrived and forced. It’s not like, ‘I need one from this country, one from that,’” says Hayek.

Hayek had never been in a superhero movie before — and she’s happy about that. If she had, she says, she probably would have never been cast in this one, as the leader of a group of ancient heroes from another galaxy. For her, having a cast that represents people of so many different backgrounds in such a film is a big moment not only for her, but for Hollywood at large. The message of the film, she says, is that “we can all be superheroes.”

“Before, I was one of those people who, every time something appeared on screen, larger than life, were never included. I’m so happy that they didn’t call me before. Thank you very much. There’s some really bad ones, by the way; this was worth waiting for,” says Hayek. “It’s like my husband (French business mogul Francois-Henri Pinault). I waited a long time, and I got a good one.”

When she first spoke about the film with Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige and Zhao, she was surprised to hear that the reason that they wanted to cast her as the leader of the group was for the personal qualities she embodied, above all else.

“I thought I was going to play someone’s mother, frankly. But Chloe said, ‘You’re actually going to be the leader. In the comic books, it’s a man, but we wanted you, so we changed it to a woman.’ You can imagine my shock, right? I thought it was a prank. I asked, ‘Why did you want me?’ She said, ‘The quality I see for this leader is in you. You have a type of strength that I want for this character. You are extremely strong, but there’s a warmth to your strength.’ (The character has a) motherly instinct. And I really liked that. She’s a healer, and if you think about it, the best leaders in the world should be healers. They are followed by the people, and they should heal their pains and their problems, and they should fix what’s broken,” says Hayek.

Because they understood each other so well, Hayek and Zhao’s immediate bond from that first meeting continued throughout filming, lasting until today.

“She’s such a good director. Because of that, there was no preparation required from me, there was just, like, presence, and trust in the director,” says Hayek.

That welcoming spirit continued throughout filming, and as a result, the cast bonded in a way that Hayek hadn’t seen in years.

“We all interacted a lot in the moments when you’re waiting in between takes. That doesn’t really happen anymore. Before it did; actors used to talk about the characters all the time and read lines together and have fights about the meaning of the scene, but now everybody’s on their phone. They’ll come out of the trailers when it’s time to roll. Here, that didn’t happen,” says Hayek.

What was important to Hayek as well is that it wasn’t just her Arab and Mexican identity, or her identity as a strong woman, that was embraced on set. She felt she could wear all aspects of herself proudly.

“I’m a 55-year-old, so that’s a different kind of diversity,” says Hayek, alluding to the fact that older woman rarely get cast as anything other than mothers and grandmothers after their 30s.

She was also able to be comfortable with her dyslexia, she explains. “During our first table read, I had to read it off the paper. I thought I was going to stink, but I knew I could do it alright by the end. And Barry Keoghan (who plays Druig) is dyslexic too. It was nice that we could all sit there and hold hands and be heroes, even then. We all just got to be a family — a proper family — and embrace everything about each other,” says Hayek.

More than anyone else, Hayek has Zhao to thank for that.

“It was very clear from day one, 10 seconds in, that this was different. She’s a brave, strong woman with a lot of clarity and she kept that consistently throughout the film. The way she moved the camera, the smoothness, the curvature, the epic moments that found intimacy at the same time. It was a very clear, specific vision,” says Hayek. “It was a beautiful experience.”

Salma Hayek discusses her Lebanese heritage, political correctness (2024)


Does Salma Hayek have Arab heritage? ›

Salma Hayek was born in Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz, Mexico. Her father, Sami Hayek Domínguez, is of Lebanese descent. His ancestors hail from the city of Baabdat, Lebanon, a city Salma and her father visited in 2015 to promote her movie Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet.

How much does Salma Hayek make? ›

How much does Salma Hayek make per movie? The amount of money that Salma Hayek makes per movie depends on the film's budget and her role in it. However, she reportedly typically makes around $7 million to $8 million per project.

How many biological kids does Salma Hayek have? ›

Salma Hayek's daughter Valentina Pinault has three siblings, and one is almost uncomfortably close in age to her. Valentina Paloma Pinault has been in the public eye since her birth due to her famous parents.

What is one fact about Salma Hayek? ›

Hayek was one of the first Latinas to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress. Her portrayal of Frida Kahlo in “Frida” earned Salma Hayek the distinction of being one of the first Latinas to receive a nomination for Best Actress at the Academy Awards.

Who is half Arab half Latina actress? ›

Salma Hayek, actress; she is half Lebanese via her father. Emeraude Toubia, actress and model raised in Brownsville, Texas, half Lebanese via her father and half Mexican via her mother.

What does the name Salma mean in Arabic? ›

Salma is an Arabic feminine name that means "peace". It comes from the Arabic word Salam. People so named include: Salma bint Amr, great-grandmother of the Islamic prophet Muhammad.

Who makes more money Salma Hayek or Angelina Jolie? ›

Salma Hayek has a net worth of $200 million, $80 million more than Angelina Jolie.

Is Salma Hayek the owner of Gucci? ›

Salma Hayek's husband François-Henri is the proud chairman and CEO of the French luxury goods company Kering. This multinational corporation owns an impressive array of exclusive brands including Gucci, Balenciaga and Yves Saint Laurent.

Can Salma Hayek speak French? ›

Salma Hayek

Her father is of Lebanese descent and her daughter's father is French, so she can speak some of both of the languages.

How much weight did Salma Hayek gain during pregnancy? ›

Salma Hayek has described her heavily pregnant body as 'completely disfigured. ' The 46-year-old gained 50lbs before giving birth to her daughter Valentina in 2007 and tells Glamour magazine's.

Did Salma Hayek breastfeed another baby? ›

Hayek said her decision to breastfeed another woman's child was an attempt to diminish the stigma placed on women for breast feeding. At the time she was still breastfeeding her 1-year-old daughter. She told "Nightline" co-anchor Cynthia McFadden that she thought her daughter wouldn't mind sharing her milk.

What languages does Salma Hayek daughter speak? ›

She is trilingual

Growing up in a trilingual household — Hayek was born in Mexico and Pinault in France — Valentina spoke French, Spanish and English with her family. Back in 2010, Pinault teased that Valentina's French-speaking skills were rubbing off on Hayek, too.

How is Salma Hayek Hispanic? ›

Salma Hayek was born on September 2, 1966 in Coatzacoalcos, Mexico. Her father is of Lebanese descent and her mother is of Mexican/Spanish ancestry.

Why did Salma Hayek cry? ›

Talking more about the s*x scene in Desperado Salma Hayek said, “It was scary because for him it was nothing and that scared me because I've never been in front of someone like that. In that situation, I started crying. 'Oh my God, you're making me feel terrible. ' I was so embarrassed I was crying.

What are 3 interesting facts about Salma Hayek? ›

Salma Hayek was born in 1966 in Mexico. Her family was wealthy. At age 12 she was enrolled in a Catholic school in New Orleans. Four years later she began studying at the Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City but dropped out to become an actress.

Is Hayek an Arabic name? ›

The family name Hayek, Hayeck or Haiek, Arabic: حايك ‎‎, variants of Howayek, is also found in Lebanon. The name means 'weaver' in Arabic.

What is Salma Hayek mixed with? ›

A Mexican actress of Lebanese and Spanish descent, Salma has faced racism and stereotypes throughout her life. But she is proud of her multi-cultural heritage, and has worked hard to become a respected actress, producer, and director.

Is Zoe Saldana Middle Eastern? ›

Saldana was born in Passaic, New Jersey. Her father, Aridio Saldaña, was Afro-Dominican, while her mother, Asalia Nazario, is Puerto Rican. Saldana also has Lebanese and Haitian roots. She spent the majority of her early childhood growing up in Jackson Heights, New York.

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