Salma Hayek is not just one of Hollywood’s most accomplished stars and the only Mexican-American to have received an Oscar nomination for Best Actress — she’s a longtime activist. And she is not about to sit still in the wake of rising racial and gender tensions in the US.
“The greatest fights in life are the fights you take not for yourself, but for others,” Hayek told Fusion’s Jorge Ramos in an interview.
When she was a child, Hayek dreamed of coming to Hollywood and after a couple of successful film appearances in Mexico, she moved to Los Angeles in 1991. Hayek told Ramos that from her first Hollywood appearance in 1995, there has been a glaring problem in entertainment: fewer leading roles for women.
“Women are paid less than men, and Latina women are the ones who are the least paid in comparison; they are paid 50% of what a man makes,” she said. “Right now, we are not even at the point where we can prove our value because there aren’t enough movies that have female leads in them.”
Despite this persisting blemish on Hollywood, Hayek sees a difference in the new, younger voices taking over. She said the new generation has a strong voice, and they know what they like. Now, female-lead movies such as The Hunger Games are instant blockbusters.
“In the X generation, so many of us are independent women who work and we don’t really have any content to go see in cinemas,” Hayek said. “So we went to television, and now we made television a very strong force. You can see a lot of female protagonists on television and the cinema business is going down.”
Studies have shown that 100% of Hollywood’s top executives are male, so it’s no wonder there is a dearth of movies that appeal to women without exploiting tropes. Hayek said that the age-old role of a female sidekick/arm candy is safe because it adheres to the fantasy of sexy.
“The fantasy of sexy is not really that smart or strong, with strong opinions — enough that you can drive a story,” Hayek told Fusion.
Hayek also commented on the presence of racism in the US. She found the good in Donald Trump’s anti-Mexican remarks by saying it shone a light to racism’s outdated pervasiveness.
“The minute [Trump] attacked Mexicans, his numbers went up,” Hayek points out. “We have been navigating for a long time with this idea of America being inclusive, where in fact, [discrimination] is a very serious problem.”
Hayek has developed a growing presence on social media — something she was vehemently against before.
“I didn’t want to be enslaved by [social media], I’m a rebel at heart,” Hayek told Fusion. “But I underestimated the capacity to be in touch with your fans and people who care about you.”
The Prophet, her newest film which was in the making for four and a half years, is now in theaters.
More from the interview: Salma Hayek says there’s a ‘good thing’ about Donald Trump’s anti-Mexican comments