Salma Hayek Recalls Breastfeeding Another Woman’s Baby During UNICEF Trip to Sierra Leone

Salma Hayek UNICEF Ball - H Getty 2018
Tommaso Boddi/gettyimages

The 'Frida' star was honored Saturday night in Beverly Hills at the UNICEF Ball along with Nicole Avant and Netflix Content Chief Ted Sarandos.

Keegan-Michael Key started his hosting gig of Saturday night’s seventh annual UNICEF Ball at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel with a simple prediction.

“We’re going to have an exciting and inspiring night,” the actor said.

And that it was.

Salma Hayek Pinault was honored with the Danny Kaye Leadership Award.

The Oscar winner recalled a trip with UNICEF about a decade ago to Sierra Leone where she breastfed another woman’s newborn son.

“This 15-year-old girl is sobbing and shaking with a newborn baby and she said, ‘Please help me. I need milk,’” Hayek Pinault said. “We had so many things but we didn’t have milk, except I remembered that I had milk because I was weening my daughter. I just weened my daughter from breastfeeding not long ago and I said, ‘I got milk.…' I sat down and I breastfed this baby.’”

However, Hayek Pinault’s actions wouldn’t be known right away because her publicist insisted UNICEF not release the photo that had been taken of her and the baby. “You know what? They could have milked that milking moment,” Hayek Pinault said.

Fortunately, three years later, Hayek Pinault signed off on the photo being used in a story about breastfeeding in Africa.

Hayek Pinault also recalled administering tetanus shots to children in Sierra Leone during that same trip after a newborn died in her arms from maternal/neonatal tetanus. “Every time I would look at these vaccinations, I would look at the sample and the syringe,” she said. “It’s nothing for anyone in this room. It’s one little piece of medication. How many medications we don’t need that we spend so much money on our neurosis? These are actually cheap, guys. Every time…I think this could have saved that baby.”

At the time, the shots cost just 70 cents each.

“We came back and there were many people who would have just turned it off at that point, but Salma didn’t,” UNICEF CEO and President Caryl M. Stern told The Hollywood Reporter. “In the ensuing years, UNICEF, Salma and other partners have eliminated [maternal/neonatal tetanus] in 44 countries. That’s what this all about. And she didn’t stop there. She’s done education programming in Lebanon with us. She helped us respond to the Mexico earthquake this past year and brought the celebrity world out to do that with us. She’s a remarkable woman.”

Jane Fonda was on hand to present the Spirit of Compassion Award to Netflix content chief Ted Sarandos and his wife, former U.S. Ambassador to the Bahamas Nicole Avant. “Receiving this award tonight is a true full circle moment for me,” Avant said. “Forty years ago, I remember my fourth-grade teacher asking me what I wanted to be when I grew up and I proudly stated that I wanted to be a UNICEF goodwill ambassador. I had seen in the many commercials what love and action look like and I knew in my soul that’s what I wanted to be and that’s what I wanted to do.”

Fonda praised Sarandos for not only his philanthropic efforts, but also his business sense to greenlight her and Lily Tomlin’s Netflix hit Grace & Frankie. “Ted and Netflix have shown that strong women at any age can topline a show and talk freely about anything, especially about sex and sex and more sex,” Fonda said to applause and cheers.

Bana al-Abed, an eight-year-old Syrian girl who wrote a book about her experiences in her war-torn country after attracting international attention in 2016 for her tweets about the siege of Aleppo, was introduced by UNICEF’s Southern California Managing Director Amber Hill.

“In Syria, you can’t go to school,” said Bana, who now lives in Turkey with her family. “You can’t play. You can’t feel safe. There was always bombs. I was all I had. My best friend Yasmine, she died. I miss her a lot. My school was destroyed. Even my house. Everything was destroyed in my city. But I didn’t lose hope. I am lucky I am here today. Many children like me are suffering now. I should speak for them. I need peace for them. Seven years of war and children are still dying. We must help them because they are just like your children. Every child should have the right to live and grow up in peace.”

The evening also included performances by Pharrell Williams, The Broadway Boys and the Dream Dancers. Attendees included Alyssa Milano, Lilly Singh, Don Johnson, Molly Sims, Betty Who, Verdine White of Earth Wind and Fire, Jim and Ann Gianopulos, Norman and Lyn Lear, Mike and Irena Medavoy, Rick and Kathy Hilton and Barbara Davis.