Salma Hayek From Childhood To Hollywood

Salma Hayek had quite the interesting and well-traveled life as a kid before becoming the Hollywood A-lister she is today. According to Biography, Hayek was born in Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz, Mexico, the daughter of well-off Catholic parents. By the age of 12, she eventually moved to America, where she attended a convent school in Louisiana. During this time, she actually got kicked out for pulling pranks on her classmates. "They were not bad. They were funny little things," she later insisted to "Power Women Breakfast," explaining that she messed with the American girls who woke up early to do their hair and make-up. "So one day I decided to go in there and change all the alarm clocks an hour earlier. And they all were [up] at four in the morning, [when it's] dark outside, taking a shower."

While the "Frida" star was once very religious herself, she's shared that she's no longer Catholic because of the church's views on AIDS and sexuality. "The minute I started thinking it through, I realized all religions are a form of manipulation," Hayek told Marie Claire in 2007. "So I don't believe in the institution. I still believe in Jesus Christ. I believe in God."

Eventually, after returning to her native Mexico to briefly attend university, Hayek ditched her education to pursue an acting career. Keep reading to find out more about how Salma Hayek went from an expelled schoolgirl to a Tinseltown star.

She wanted to be a gymnast

Before she discovered acting, Salma Hayek had her heart set on becoming Mexico's first gold medal gymnast.

"That was my dream," she said on "Live Kelly and Ryan," describing how she first discovered gymnastics. "My town was super small so I didn't know this sport existed. And then Nadia Comăneci went to the Olympics." After seeing the Romanian star on her television, Hayek decided to teach herself. "I fell in love with this sport but there were no classes," she added, recalling that her parents eventually let her go to a Mexico City gym for the summer.

Hayek claims that she was even picked for an Olympics team in Mexico City, but her father said no. "There was a road I didn't take, which haunted me for many years," Hayek revealed in an interview with OK! magazine. "When I was very little, I was drafted for the Olympics in gymnastics. And my father refused to allow me to go to a boarding school at nine years old in another city where I was to be exercising six hours a day." Although she bore a grudge against her dad, the actor later realized that he just wanted her to enjoy being a kid rather than commit to the intense life of an athlete. "Now, I'm so glad I didn't take that road because I really like my life."

She got her start in telenovelas

Salma Hayek was in her early 20s when the TV soap "Teresa" made her a star in Mexico. As she later explained on "The Late Late Show with James Corden," it was tough to adjust to the fast-paced world of telenovelas. "When we do the soaps in Mexico, we have something in our ear called a "puntador," feeding you all the lines," Hayek recalled. "Sometimes they write them five minutes before you say them." The actors were also given their stage directions through the earpiece, which meant that they had to concentrate so they didn't end up delivering heartfelt lines like: "I love you, please never leave me, exit to the right."

Hayek was insecure about her talent at this stage of her career, as she admitted to The Oprah Magazine. "I was afraid I was a very bad actress, because I'd become famous very fast and was making money for people," she confessed. "When you're making money, they're never going to tell you whether you're good or bad. They don't care." The actor worried that she was letting down her fans by not delivering a solid performance, especially since she wasn't familiar with the world of telenovelas. "I didn't know how good it was that everybody was watching soap operas in Mexico," Hayek added. "My mother didn't even let me watch them, and I'm making one!"

Salma Hayek didn't have a green card

When Salma Hayek moved to America to pursue acting, she had trouble with her visa at first. "I was an illegal immigrant in the United States," she revealed to V Magazine Spain (via E! News). "It was for a small period of time but I still did it." Her representative insisted that her status was "cleaned up immediately as Salma went to Mexico and renewed it."

That wasn't the only hurdle she faced in the United States. "They thought I was crazy in Mexico when I said, 'I'm going to Hollywood.' Nobody thought I could make it," Hayek told The Oprah Magazine, explaining that she felt it was necessary to move since there was no film industry in Mexico at the time. "But I came here and I didn't speak English, I didn't have a green card, I didn't know I had to have an agent, I couldn't drive, I was dyslexic. And since I hadn't had to do anything on my own in Mexico, I was a spoiled brat!"

She was particularly surprised by the severity of the language barrier she faced. "I came here and realized how truly limited my English was, and it was very scary," Hayek recalled, adding that her accent had never been criticized when she spoke English in Mexico. "But the word accent became such a big word in my life."

She faced prejudice in Hollywood

In order to be cast in America, Salma Hayek had to overcome her dyslexia and take English lessons. And even after she became fluent, the actor was still told that her accent would make moviegoers think of their domestic staff. "I had never been discriminated against in my life; I was pretty and I was rich in Mexico," Hayek explained to The Oprah Magazine. "I'd tell the executives, 'Arnold Schwarzenegger has an accent.'" Director Ivan Reitman even stopped her from auditioning for a role, as she told The Guardian, because it wasn't written for a Latina woman. She waited around for five hours out of stubbornness, but the film producers told her agent: "Are you crazy? She's Mexican. We can change [the race of] the bimbo, but not the lead.'" Reitman apologized years later.

But despite these hurdles, Hayek was determined to overcome the misinformed stereotypes that casting directors forced on her. "I had a sense of purpose. Like I was supposed to do something," she later told the Evening Standard. "I couldn't sit back and just complain." The actor insisted that she "could see the reality of the percentage of the Latino popularity versus the percentage of the representation of the Latino population," but added that the situation had improved. "There was nobody when I got here and now there are so many more of us."

She cried throughout her first sex scene

Although it became her breakout role and she went on to work with director Robert Rodriguez again, Hayek had a difficult time on the set of 1995's "Desperado."

As she told Dax Shepard and Monica Padman on their podcast "Armchair Expert," the sex scene really rattled her, especially since it hadn't been in the original script. "So, when we were going to start shooting, I started to sob," Hayek revealed, adding that it had been a closed set with only four people present: the director Rodriguez, his wife and co-producer Elizabeth Avellán, and her co-star Antonio Banderas. "One of the things I was afraid [of] was Antonio because he was an absolute gentleman and super nice, and we're still very close friends — but he was very free," she continued, admitting that she was intimidated by how easy it seemed for him.

Although she clarified that Rodriguez never pressured her into anything, Hayek was still upset. "I was not letting go of the towel," she said. "They would try to make me laugh ... I would take it off for two seconds and start crying again." She was also scared by the idea that her father and brother might see it. "And are they going to get teased?" the actor wondered. When the film was finally released, she did bring her dad and brother to see her on the big screen, but got them to leave the cinema during that crucial scene.

Fashion designers snubbed her

During her early years, Salma Hayek had to get creative with her red-carpet outfits.

As she told Vogue, the actor once appeared at a premiere with temporary butterfly tattoos across her collarbones because she didn't have access to any jewelry at the time and she wanted to spice up a plain black dress. "I was very proud actually to come up with something interesting," she stated. "Actually, at the very beginning of my career, I really struggled getting clothes, and I couldn't afford it on my own." This seemed like a pointed snub, compared to other actors of her generation. "The other girls were getting people to lend them clothes, but really, nobody thought a Mexican was going to stick around," Hayek explained. "So why give me a dress? But things have changed a lot." Describing other iconic looks from those years, she recalled "trying to struggle with the fact that I didn't have a lot of resources."

Hayek certainly hasn't struggled to find designer clothes since marrying Kering CEO François-Henri Pinault, however, and she told the Evening Standard that she now understands the business a lot better too. "I have so much more respect for the people involved in fashion," the actor insisted, praising the superhuman creativity it takes to put out a collection. "They have to be artists and be creative under such stress, expectation, and competition."

Harvey Weinstein ruined her passion project

Although Salma Hayek spent years trying to make "Frida," a film where she got to play her hero Frida Kahlo, Harvey Weinstein cast a shadow over the production.

In an essay for The New York Times, Hayek described how the producer harassed her throughout the process. He reportedly became angrier every time she rejected his sexual advances and told him no. "No to me taking a shower with him," she recalled. "No to letting him give me a massage." At one point he threatened her life, telling her: "I will kill you, don't think I can't."When they started making the film, Weinstein began throwing his weight around as a producer. "The sexual harassment stopped but the rage escalated," Hayek explained. 

Weinstein also criticized Hayek for making herself look less attractive as Kahlo, urging her not to wear a monobrow. His final demand was a sex scene between Hayek and another woman with full nudity. "It was clear to me he would never let me finish this movie without him having his fantasy one way or another," she explained, adding that she felt unable to let down everyone else working on the project. "By now so many years of my life had gone into this film." Although Weinstein wanted the film to go straight to VHS, it was a critical success and Hayek became the first Mexican actor to be nominated for Best Actress by the Oscars, as she proudly stated on her Instagram.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

She married a billionaire

Salma Hayek first met Kering CEO François-Henri Pinault at an Italian gala in 2006, according to People, and she gave birth to their daughter Valentina in 2007 at age 41. 'Sometimes you find the love of your life at 16 and sometimes... you don't. Both have pros and cons," Hayek told the Evening Standard. "For me, I'm a better mother because I had my child later, but I think your child comes at the right time — when it's supposed to come for you."

Hayek later married Pinault in a small civil ceremony in 2009, as People reported, before later arranging a lavish star-studded wedding in Venice. "He's like no one I ever met before," Hayek gushed in an interview with The Guardian, observing that he hadn't lost any of his charm throughout their years as a married couple. "I'd met amazing men, but I don't know if anybody saw me as clearly as him. And I know who he is. Something about his soul, I don't know how to explain it, but it's pure."

Hayek has also insisted that she doesn't use her billionaire husband's money but pays for all of her own expenses. "Sometimes I struggle because I have a lot of expenses, but I like that sensation," she added. "It keeps me real."

She brought Ugly Betty to America

Salma Hayek isn't just a movie star: she also has a successful second career as a producer. And one of her most successful producing credits is "Ugly Betty," the American adaptation of a Colombian telenovela called "Yo Soy Betty La Fea." "The original was a phenomenon in Columbia," Hayek announced at the time, per ABC News. "And then it became an incredible success in all of the Latin countries, and then in many places around the world." She also spoke about her love for the main actor, America Ferrera, and defended her looks. "I don't think Betty is really ugly," Hayek commented.

The actor also explained to The Oprah Magazine that becoming a producer was a way to avoid ageism in the industry and keep her career going as an older woman. "I was naive enough to believe that there'd always be a lot of work for me," Hayek recalled, recalling how difficult she found dealing with male executives in Hollywood and why she decided to create her own films. "Now I can teach what I've learned to the next generation. I'm not just going to be the pretty face that disappears," she insisted. "I'm not disposable so easily anymore. When I am 60, I can keep directing. I have the potential to really, truly have a voice that makes a difference."

She's an animal lover

Salma Hayek has a lot of rescue animals, including a pet owl named Kering after her billionaire husband François-Henri Pinault's brand. "I gave it to my husband as a Valentine's present," she told People. "And he was like, 'Well, thank you, but I know this is your own present for yourself.'"

In one appearance on "The Graham Norton Show," the actor recalled that she even pretended to have an affair just so her husband wouldn't get angry with her for taking in another desperate animal during a film shoot in Bulgaria. "I had promised my husband I was going to stop because at the time I had ten dogs, five parrots, I had alpacas, horses, cats," she explained, adding that they were often missing limbs and tails. Although they already had thirty rescued pets at that point, Hayek was won over when she met a "little puppy, who was abandoned and going to die." But she had one problem: how was she going to break the news to Pinault? 

The actor left him an ominous voicemail, planning to make him believe that she had cheated so that the dog didn't seem so bad in comparison. When they met, she begged him for mercy, insisting: "I feel so terrible ... I was so lonely here for so many days and you know, you do crazy things when you're in this state." He interrupted her and cut straight to the chase: "Please don't tell me you picked up another dog."

She hired a ghost expert for her haunted house

Although she's no longer a Catholic, Salma Hayek still considers herself a spiritual person, as she told The Guardian. "Spirituality is about creation and the exploration of the unknown," the actor explained. And the actor found herself coming up against the unknown when she had to call a medium to deal with the ghosts in her London house.

In an interview on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show," she revealed that the men working on the property had told her that it was haunted. "I didn't see these, but somebody didn't want to work there anymore because the piano played by itself and you wouldn't go to the third floor," she said, joking that the worker might not have been sober at the time. "Lights go on and off, or the doors and the windows opened and closed."

Although her husband was skeptical, their daughter was terrified by her own experiences with the spirits. "I said, 'Look, I'm going to bring somebody, even if it's not true, at least they might psychologically think it's over," Hayek said, adding that she told the ghost expert not to bring any rituals that involve body parts: "No chicken legs, no chicken heads." The spooky problem was worse than they thought, however, as the expert told them that there were at least twenty spirits in the house including a dead nun. Hayek added that there are still at least two entities in their home.