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Salma Hayek Detailed Biography

A bona fide celebrity goddess in her native Mexico, Hayek emigrated in 1991 to Los Angeles, where she willingly plunged to the bottom of the heap in order to take a shot at conquering Hollywood. Intensive lessons, both in English and acting, paid handsome dividends in 1995, when the diminutive dynamo lit a fire under Antonio Banderas in wunderkind director Robert Rodriguez's balletic bullet ballad Desperado. Continuing to collect hunky co-stars, Hayek struck sparks with a Baldwin brother in both Fair Game and Fled, and made an undead love slave out of George Clooney in From Dusk 'Til Dawn. Salma Hayek Internet shrines cropped up like weeds, and in 1997 the sultry spitfire landed her first lead role in the States, playing opposite Friends fave Matthew Perry in the cross-cultural romantic comedy Fools Rush In.

The daughter of a Lebanese-descended father and a Spanish-descended mother, Hayek was born and raised in Coatzacoalcos, Mexico. Determined to see that her grandchild develop into a ravishing beauty, her grandmother frequently shaved young Salma's head and clipped her eyebrows, in the belief that such treatments would add body and sheen to her granddaughter's thick dark locks. Equally determined to see that she became well-educated, Hayek's staunchly Catholic parents shipped her off to a boarding school in Louisiana when she was 12. While the beguiling youngster proved both attentively studious and properly religious, she also displayed a bent for mischief that she chiefly directed against the long-suffering nuns who ran the school: among other infamies, she once slipped into the faculty dormitory and set all of the alarm clocks back three hours. The end result of such she-nun-igans was that Hayek ended up suspended and carted back home after just two years. It only took her two more years to finish high school, and her mother, fearful of the effects ''college boys'' might have on her impressionable young daughter, sent Hayek to Houston, where she lived with an aunt until her 17th birthday.

Returning to Mexico once more, Hayek relocated to Mexico City to attend college, where she commenced international relations studies. Though she had harbored acting ambitions since childhood, Hayek had for years been reluctant to seriously pursue such a chancy vocation for fear of alienating her parents. Ultimately, she decided the path of the dutiful daughter and stable career girl was one she could not bear to walk and frankly confronted her parents about her aspiration. As she later told one interviewer, ''One day I took my dad to lunch. I asked him if he believed in destiny and he said, 'Yes.' And I said, 'Well, I believe it's my destiny to become an actress.''' In spite of voluble objections from her family and the derision and disbelief of her friends, Hayek quit college and determinedly embarked on an acting career. She first found work in plays at neighborhood theaters, including one assignment as the heroine of Aladdin and His Marvelous Lamp. Several months of tireless stage work led to jobs making television commercials, which in turn yielded a casting in Nuevo Amanecer, a popular daytime TV serial. With no more experience than that to her credit, Hayek got herself cast as the title character of a second serial, Teresa, the phenomenal popularity of which almost immediately made its fetching young star the most fanatically revered actress in Mexico.

Not content to settle for the comparatively meager rewards of superstardom, Mexican-style, Hayek set her confident sights on Hollywood, and moved north in 1991. What followed thereafter was a taxing period of adjustment, beginning with an 18-month hiatus from acting that was primarily occupied with English lessons. Also during that period, Hayek studied acting under famed dramatician Stella Adler, and taught herself to drive a car: two days of stick-shift driving convinced her to switch to automatic, and she slowly acquainted herself with the tangled maze of L.A.'s freeways by continually requesting directions from her more streetwise friends via her trusty cellular phone. Hayek's first big break came in 1993, when she spent four months auditioning for a headlining role in Allison Anders's girlz-'n'-the-hood drama Mi Vida Loca. Anders eventually cast another actress in the desired-for lead assignment, but Hayek's tenacity so impressed the director that she gave her a smaller part in the film for the express purpose of enabling the promising young actress to qualify for membership in the Screen Actors Guild.

Other small roles followed, mostly on television, but it was an appearance on a Spanish-language cable-access talk show that led to Hayek's big breakthrough. While in the process of planning a sequel to his wildly successful debut film, El Mariachi, Mexican-American director Robert Rodriguez happened to tune in to Hayek's talk show appearance during a fit of late-night channel surfing. Mesmerized by the lovely and engaging actress, Rodriguez wasted no time tracking her down, and soon secured her interest in tackling the female lead in his soon-to-be-produced big-studio debut, Desperado. Rodriguez's financial backers initially resisted his choice of Hayek, but the director won them over by showcasing her in his made-for-cable installment of Showtime's Rebel Highway series, Roadracers. A solid commercial success, Desperado also garnered Hayek rave reviews for her show-stopping, saliva-inducing performance. Despite the fact she was disappointingly underrepresented in her next two outings, in the limp thrillers Fair Game and Fled, Hayek's performances nevertheless provided much-needed zip for both projects, and 1997 found her nicely romantically matched in both Fools Rush In and TNT's adaptation of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, in which she portrayed Esmerelda to Mandy Patinkin's Quasimodo.

Hayek's film agenda continues to offer a steady diet of roles: She followed her turn in the disco redux 54 with an appearance alongside Will Smith and Kevin Kline in Wild Wild West, and co-starred with Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Chris Rock, Linda Fiorentino, and Alan Rickman in Kevin Smith's Dogma. Through her Ventanarosa production company, she co-produced The Velocity of Gary, an offbeat romantic comedy which teamed her with Ethan Hawke and Vincent D'Onofrio, and another of her co-productions, the Mexican feature No One Writes to the Colonel, was recently in competition at Cannes. Hayek is currently filming the biopic Frida, in which she tackles a much-coveted portrayal of painter Frida Kahlo.

On a more personal note, Hayek is romantically attached to actor Ed Norton.


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