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Salma Hayek recounted several racist incidents she experienced early on in her career, including being told she was “born on the wrong side of the border” and that her accent would remind viewers of “their maids,” during a recent appearance on The Drew Barrymore Show.
“I have been told over and over and over in this town, ‘You’ll never make it in this town, you will only play a prostitute, drug dealer, wife or girlfriend, and housekeeper,’ you know, because there’s no other roles for you,” Hayek told the talk show host and fellow actress during Tuesday’s episode.
That was one among several experiences the Oscar- and Emmy-nominated actress shared with Barrymore while doing promotion for her new film, The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard.
The two were initially discussing Hayek and Desperado co-star Antonio Banderas’ return to the screen together for the Hitman’s Bodyguard sequel, as well as how the film’s director Robert Rodriguez jumpstarted Hayek’s career, when the Mexican-born star and producer began to detail some of her personal obstacles.
During another racist interaction, Hayek recalled, one studio executive “said to me in these words” that she had been “born on the wrong side of the border.”
“Had you been born, you know, on the right side of the border, probably you would be the biggest star in the world,” Hayek continued to recount. “But no matter how beautiful anybody thinks you are, no matter how good of an actress you are, the minute you open your mouth, the audience are just going to be reminded of their maids.”
Those executives have since “smartened up,” according to the actress.
“It’s really surprising that people that are in such high positions are so stupid,” Hayek said. “I was thinking, there’s 40 million Latinos in this country. They really care about the money? Well, there’s an untapped huge potential market here, and they were not seeing it.”
During the exchange, Barrymore told Hayek that she was “so right on a business level” and called the executive’s statement about her accent “ignorant.” She then went on to detail a personal experience with a casting director that happened when she was just a teen.
“One time I was told by a casting director — I was like 14 or 15, a child star ‘has been’ at 14 — and I walked into an office and the casting director said, ‘Do you even know how lucky you are to be in this room right now? Nobody wants you. So just act very grateful,’” Barrymore shared.
After talking about her own experience, Barrymore thanked Hayek for opening up and for continuing to “keep going” in the face of those experiences.
“What I love hearing about your story is you come off as the most empowered, loving, open, vivacious, effervescent woman,” the host said. “If we can only take those kinds of experiences and try to change minds without becoming bitter or being angry about it, that to me is rocket fuel.”
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