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Salma Hayek: 1968(?)—: Actress

Earned Novela Award In Mexico

Hayek was born in 1968 in Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz, Mexico. Her mother was an opera singer, and her father an oil executive; her heritage was part Latino and part Lebanese. Raised in a comfortable middle-class household, Hayek dreamed of a career on stage even as a child. She also yearned to see more of the United States, and asked her parents to send her to a Roman Catholic convent school in Louisiana at the age of 12. She was eventually expelled for being a chronic practical joker, but finished high school at the age of 16 and went on to study international relations at the Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City. Yet Hayek was still drawn to the performing arts, and began auditioning and winning stage roles. Her talent brought her to the attention of Mexican television producers, and after a stint on the telenovela Nuevo Amenecer, she began appearing in the prime-time drama Teresa in 1989. Hayek became an instant celebrity in Mexico, earning a Novela award, Mexico's Emmy equivalent, for her first season.

Still, Hayek knew there was little opportunity for her beyond television in Mexico. Very few homegrown feature films were produced in the country at the time. "Mexicans mostly go see big American movies," she explained to Entertainment Weekly's Steve Daly. In 1991 Hayek moved to Los Angeles with two suitcases, and enrolled in a drama class. It was a struggle. "When I went to acting school, it was so depressing. Nobody could understand a word I said," she told the Houston Chronicle. Her funds dwindled, and she thought about returning to Mexico. But as she told the Chronicle, it would have been "selling out, giving up on your dream. I'm terribly prideful. I wasn't going to let them know that I made a mistake, that I wasted two years of my life coming back saying, 'You were right, I shouldn't have gone.'"

At a Glance . . .

Born Salma Hayek-Jiminez on September 2, 1968 (one source cites 1966), in Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz, Mexico; daughter of Sami Hayek Domingues (an oil company executive) and Diana Hayek (an opera singer). Education: Attended the Universidad Iberoamericana, mid-1980s.

Career: Began career in Mexico on the stage and in television; appeared in television commercials for Revlon; first feature film appearance as Gata in Mi Vida Loca (My Crazy Life), 1993; also appeared in Desperado, 1995; From Dusk till Dawn, 1996; Fools Rush In, 1997; 54, 1998; The Faculty, 1998; Dogma, 1999; Wild Wild West, 1999; Timecode, 2000, and Frida, 2002.

Awards: TV Novela Award, best actress, for Teresa, 1998; Silver Ariel Award nomination, best actress, Mexican Academy Awards, and four international awards, all all for El Callejon de los milagros, 1995; chosen one of the fifty most beautiful people in the world, People Magazine, 1996; Nosotros Golden Eagle Award, for best actress in film, 1998; Blockbuster Entertainment Award, best supporting actress in an action film, for Wild Wild West, 1999.

After a brief part in Mi Vida Loca (My Crazy Life)—a well-received independent film from 1993 by director Alison Anders—Hayek turned down a biopic role as slain Tejano music star Selena. Her first genuine film experience came in an acclaimed Mexican work by Jorge Fons, El callejon de los milagros (Midaq Alley). Her English improved, and in Los Angeles she began winning small television roles. Director Robert Rodriguez saw Hayek on a talk show and contacted her. Having scored a hit with the low-budget El Mariachi, Rodriguez was casting his second feature film, Desperado. Hayek auditioned, but studio executives were wary. So Rodriguez put Hayek in a cable movie called Roadracers, which helped convince the studio that Hayek would shine on-screen.

In Desperado, Hayek appeared with Antonio Banderas, and earned effusive critical accolades. Entertainment Weekly writer Chris Nashawaty termed it a career-making role for Hayek, and noted that she "pulled off the impossible—namely, outsmoldering costar Antonio Banderas." She went on to appear in Rodriguez's next film, From Dusk Till Dawn, as a vampire who performs an infamous dance with a eleven-foot albino python. Hayek went on to appear in two little-seen and poorly reviewed films: 1997's Breaking Up, alongside a relatively unknown Russell Crowe, and Fools Rush In, a romantic comedy that cast her with Friends' star Matthew Perry.

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Brief BiographiesBiographies: Bob Graham (1942-) Biography - Awards to Francis Hendy Biography - Born to SewSalma Hayek: 1968(?)—: Actress Biography - Earned Novela Award In Mexico, Fought To End Typecasting, Fully Committed To Frida