Salma Hayek had a busy International Women’s Day weekend, as she should. As one of the most recognized actresses in the world, Hayek is a woman who leads the conversation on a multitude of issues including women’s rights and diversity in Hollywood. So, when British Vogue asked her to speak on a “Forces for Change” panel, Hayek spoke her mind.
Hayek opened up about a racist ordeal that she encountered as an actress when she first started in the Hollywood industry in which she was denied a role because she is Mexican.
“I once got offered a role opposite a big star,” Hayek said on Saturday at the Women of the World Festival at Southbank Centre in London, according to Hello! magazine. “I soon learned that I had misunderstood – it wasn’t a lead role. I wasn’t considered for the lead role because I was told that the role could never be played by a Mexican.”
While Hayek hadn’t acquired the Oscar nomination just yet, she said she wasn’t afraid to go toe-to-toe with these film executives and let them know her worth.
“I refused to take the other role. I then told them that if they didn’t see me for the other role that I would say that they’re racist,” Hayek continued. “I was told that if I did so, I would never work again. But I was willing to take the risk.”
Hayek then added that she confronted the all-male group and told them what they did to her was not right, and she would not allow them to get away with it.
“I went and walked into a room with six men. The director asked me why I would want to humiliate myself in this way. I explained to him that I had to come and do this, not for me, but for the generations after me.” She also told them that she was “just as capable of playing the role as anyone who is a different color to me.”
Hayek finished the anecdote by saying that the man who had been so racist against her later said sorry to her.
“Years later, he apologized to me,” she added. “He admitted that the movie would have done well if I had played the lead. He told me I’d taught him a lesson.”
This story serves as a reminder that regardless of where you are in your career, never be afraid to stand up for yourself and others.