Salma Hayek: Hispanic Heritage Month Actor Highlights

She's an Academy Award-nominated actress, producer, and activist. She's also the co-star of four 2021 movies. Ladies and gentlemen: the incomparable Salma Hayek.

Chuck Walton

By Chuck Walton

Salma Hayek Frida

(c) Miramax/courtesy Everett Collection

Salma Hayek is a celebrated Mexican American actress and filmmaker who's been making waves in the industry for 3+ decades. For Hispanic Heritage Month, we're proud to highlight her singular talent and accomplishments.

How You Know Her

Early on in her career, Salma Hayek made some bold impressions. You might recognize her as director Robert Rodriguez' not so distressed damsel in 1995's "Desperado." Or she may have come to your attention as the scandalous vampire queen Santanico Pandemonium in Quentin Tarantino's 1996 horror-thriller "From Dusk till Dawn."

Serious Hayek fans will most certainly recall her as the famed artist Frida Kahlo in 2002's "Frida," a role for which she was nominated for the Golden Globe and Oscar for Best Actress.

Modern movie buffs are probably just itching to see her in two highly anticipated November 2021 releases: Chloe Zhao's entry into the MCU, "Eternals"; and Ridley Scott's all-star murder drama "House of Gucci."

Her Life to Date

Salma Hayek was born in 1966 in Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz, Mexico. Her father is Lebanese, and her mother is of Spanish descent. The actress grew up wealthy, and partially in the US, with early schooling in Louisiana. For college, though, she attended the prestigious Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico, and studied international relations.

By her early '20s, Hayek had transitioned into acting, and was the title star in "Teresa," a popular Mexican telenovela. In 1991, she made the move to Hollywood, and begun studying at the famed Stella Adler Studio.

Before her memorable roles in "Desperado" and "From Dusk till Dawn," Hayek also starred in the acclaimed Mexican production "Midaq Alley." Hayek played the neighborhood beauty in an impoverished Mexican community. The film went on to earn 11 Ariel Awards (Mexico's top movie awards), including Best Picture. Salma Hayek was nominated for the Ariel for Best Actress.

© Columbia/courtesy Everett Collection

© Columbia/courtesy Everett Collection

She's continued to garner critical and commercial acclaim ever since. Mainstream films in the '90s include the rom-com "Fools Rush In" with Matthew Perry, and the 1998 ode to '70s excess, "54." While 1999's "Wild Wild West," starring Will Smith, Kevin Kline and Salma Hayek, left much to be desired, the actress quickly followed up with an unbilled role in Steven Soderbergh's amazing drug epic "Traffic."

The year 2002 was a special highlight for the actress, as she starred in and co-produced director Julie Taymor's acclaimed "Frida." An amazing biopic of surrealist painter Frida Kahlo, the production was shepherded by Hayek's new production company, Ventanarosa. The company would later produce the ABC series "Ugly Betty," which earned Hayek a Primetime Emmy nomination for Outstanding Guest Actress.

By the 2010s, Hayek continued on with a successful formula, alternating mainstream fare like Adam Sandler's "Grown Ups" and "Grown Ups 2" along with winning animation like "Puss in Boots" and the indie hit "Beatriz at Dinner." The latter, about a massage therapist (Hayek) who engages in a tense dialogue with a smarmy real estate agent (John Lithgow)," earned the actress a nomination for an Indie Spirit Award.

Beyond the big screen, Hayek's been involved with lots of philanthropy. She worked with UNICEF on an advocacy campaign for breastfeeding, and funding for vaccines against maternal and neonatal tetanus. She traveled to Lebanon in 2015, and in 2014 she signed on to Amnesty International's letter to support women's rights in Afghanistan and the Middle East.

The Movie to Watch

Frida Poster

Frida

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"Frida" one of Hayek's most enduring movies. It's a colorful and in-depth account of painter Frida Kahlo that allows the actress to fully inhabit the character. Kahlo herself is a larger-than-life personality who led a larger-than-life existence alongside her husband, painter Diego Rivera. Filmmaker Julie Taymor captures it all in distinctive style, and Hayek gives a fiery, flesh-and-blood performance that must be seen. It's a great watch for Hispanic Heritage Month, or any time.

What's Up Next

Besides the upcoming "Eternals" and "House of Gucci," fans should check out Hayek's other 2021 releases. Now available to watch on streaming, they comprise: Hayek's fun-filled roller coaster ride opposite Samuel L. Jackson and Ryan Reynolds, "Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard"; and her sci-fi/psychological thriller co-starring Owen Wilson, the reality-bending "Bliss."

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Chuck Walton

Chuck is an editor/writer who's worked for NCM, Fandango, Movies.com, MediaTrip, Hollywood.com and Newsweek. His favorite movie is "Jaws." He's definitely a dog guy.

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