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After seeing Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory as a child, she decided that she wanted to be an actress. She didn't take this ambition very seriously until she graduated from Mexico City's Universidad Iberoamericana, at which point she landed the title role in Teresa, a successful soap opera, which propelled her to fame in Mexico.
She left Mexico in 1991 in order to expand on her potential and launch a career in Hollywood. To her dismay, she, along with many other Latin actresses at the time, was typecast into roles that she felt were belittling. After about a year, she had only had bit parts in some films and televisions shows. "In my twenties I was offered lots of parts where there wasn't much to do but act sexy. I still get offered those roles " but now I take it as a compliment." Frustrated with her career in American films at the time, she vented on comedian Paul Rodriguez's late-night Spanish talk show. As fate would have it, Robert Rodriguez and his producer wife, Elizabeth Avellan, caught her segment and felt compelled to do some kind of work with her. This led to her first big break, starring with Antonio Banderas in the film Desperado (1995).
From there, she went on to work with Rodriguez once again with a small role in From Dusk Till Dawn (1996) alongside George Clooney and Quentin Tarantino. Later that year, Hayek was given the opportunity to star in Fool's Rush In (1997) with Matthew Perry.
From there, Hayek could only go up, taking on roles in Breaking Up (1997), 54 (1998), and Dogma (1999), among others, which led her to starring in the 1999 blockbuster Wild Wild West (1999).
She tried on the producing hat after, both co-producing and starring as the title role in the film, Frida (2002). It was inspired by a Mexican painter, Frida Kahlo, whom Salma had admired her whole life. The film was a hit and nominated for six Oscars, winning the awards for make-up and for its original musical score. From there, she went on to direct The Maldonado Miracle (2003), which screened at the Sundance Film Festival. From 2006-2010, she was the executive producer for the TV series, Ugly Betty. She also starred in it as Sofia Reyes for 7 episodes in 2006.
Hayek is also involved in activist causes, increasing awareness of violence against women and discrimination against immigrants. In July 2005, she testified before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary supporting reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act. She also donated money to different anti-domestic violence groups as well as shelters for battered women.
In March 2007, she announced both her engagement to French billionaire, Francois-Henri Pinault, and her pregnancy. She gave birth to her daughter, Valentina Paloma Pinault in September of that year. In July 2008, the engagement was cancelled, but the two reconciled and were married on Valentine's Day, 2009 in Paris, and then again on April 25, 2009 in Venice.
"What worries me the most is that most men are so weak. Because of that they act like they don't care and like machos " because they are too fragile inside. They're scared of confrontation and afraid of so many things. And because of this they build up their life so they have to deal with their feelings as little as possible. I find feminine men unbelievably sexy. But most men are completely incapable of getting in touch with their feminie side. What am I supposed to talk about with a man who doesn't know what it's like to be a woman?"
Her career continued to push forward with roles in After the Sunset (2004), Bandidas (2006), 30 Rock (guest starring in 6 episodes), and Grown Ups (2010) among others. She is starring in the movie, Here Comes the Boom, which released in 2012.