LATINO VOICES

Salma Hayek: I Still Struggle As A Latina Actress In Hollywood

The star spoke to BET about the challenges she faced at the start of her career.

08/16/2017 13:45 EDT

Salma Hayek’s decadeslong career in film and television doesn’t seem to be enough for Hollywood.

During a recent BET interview pegged to her new movie “The Hitman’s Bodyguard,” the Mexican-born actress said that she continues to struggle as a Latina in the entertainment industry.

The 50-year-old star portrays Sonia Kincaid, the foulmouthed and fearless wife of the titular hitman (portrayed by Samuel Jackson) in the film. After Hayek explained how much she enjoyed being given the liberty to be creative with the character, BET’s Brandon Claybon asked her about the struggles she faced at the beginning of her career as a Latina actress.  

Hayek quickly responded: “Oh, I still do.” She then recalled what kind of challenges she dealt with at the start of her career.

“At the very beginning, it was like not possible,” Hayek said in the video interview, published Tuesday on BET. “They would laugh at you. They were laughing at me for wanting to act here because I was a soap star in Mexico and I had to start again as an extra because there was really nothing.”

The actress explained that at the time there was no pressure on studios to cast Latinos and roles available were “very limited, especially for women.” 

When Claybon said Hayek had paved the way for up-and-coming Latino stars, the actress excitedly said, “Now there’s a lot of us,” before adding, “Well, not enough. Not enough.” 

Hayek has repeatedly spoken out about the pushback she’s received from Hollywood over the years. In an interview with the Guardian earlier this month, Hayek revealed she once almost sued a director over how she was treated. 

“I was screen-testing for the lead in a film and they said that it was not written Latin, but they wouldn’t mind changing it,” she told the newspaper. “I learned the script but when they sent me the pages [for the audition] there was none of the things I had learned, it was another role. So my agent called them and they said, ‘Are you crazy? She’s Mexican. We can change [the race of] the bimbo, but not the lead.’”

After they wouldn’t let her try out for the role she had learned, Hayek came in for the audition anyway and waited for five hours to be called in. She told The Guardian the director was Ivan Reitman, who produced the original “Ghostbusters.” 

“And I said, ‘Well, I thought that the director that could see Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito as twins [1988’s “Twins”], and Arnold Schwarzenegger giving birth to a child [1994’s “Junior”] maybe could see a Mexican as a fashion editor,’ she said of the incident. “I thought I owed it to the new generation of Mexicans. That if I got this right, maybe something will shift.”

Though Hayek didn’t get the part, she said several years later, she received an apology from Reitman. 

It seems success really is the best revenge. 

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