Salma Hayek: 'I'm glad I didn't have my daughter earlier'

The Mexican-born, London-based star on pets, home-schooling and why she never shops to boost her mood

Salma Hayek
'Mexico still lives in my heart... But I don’t feel as if I miss it because it’s inside me' Credit: Getty Images

The Academy Award-nominated actor and activist, 54, lives in London with her husband François-Henri Pinault, 58, and their daughter Valentina, 12. She talks to Anna Clarke

I don't know how I manage it all – it’s a challenge every day. But I do know how I keep the energy levels up: meditation. I do it in the morning or in the car, but I have to do it. It keeps me fluid and present and when you’re fluid and present, you’re objective. It’s like a magical power. But generally I’m not a woman of routines. I do yoga and sudoku, but not every day. I wish I had more routines – I crave feeling organised.

During lockdown, my biggest challenge was the fear and uncertainty: it was a very strange sensation not having structure or a set schedule, knowing there were many things up in the air, and not knowing what awaited us in the future. But there were also some perks. I really enjoyed having my husband, François, work from home and we got to use the time he previously spent commuting having breakfast in our garden. I also really enjoyed spring – I would wake up every morning excited to discover the evolution of the plants. And I’ve never heard so many birds sing in London.

I have 30 animals, including dogs, parrots and alpacas. My dogs and my owl were in heaven during quarantine because I was able to really dedicate time to them, but it also was a kind of therapy for me. They kept my spirits up. Lockdown was very difficult for teenagers. My daughter Valentina was very independent and did her online schoolwork on her own, but she didn’t enjoy it. She also really missed her friends.

I’m glad I didn’t have her earlier [Salma was 41 years old when Valentina was born]. I’m a better person because I got to do a lot of things that were important to me first. Most crucially, I had her with the right person at a time when I could really focus on [motherhood]. These days I live in London, although Mexico still lives in my heart and I integrate my heritage [into Valentina’s upbringing]. But I don’t feel as if I miss it because it’s inside me. My biggest nostalgia is not for the place, but the essence of what it once was because there’s a lot of violence now.

When I’m not working, my favourite thing is to go diving. I’ve been diving since I was 10. If you really want to see the deterioration of planet Earth, become a diver. If you visit the same places you were diving years ago, you see dead coral and half the [number of ] fish. It’s really scary.

Hayek with America Ferrera in Ugly Betty Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

I’ve never been interested in fashion. Through François [who’s chairman and CEO of luxury group Kering] I have a better appreciation of the entire world around it. I have a good closet, but I do suffer the, ‘Oh my God, what am I going to wear?’ moments, and ask myself, ‘Does it still fit? I used to love this, how am I not excited about it any more?’ But I’m not the kind of woman who thinks, ‘I’m depressed, therefore I need to go and get a dress.’ It doesn’t do it for me.

I’m a feminist, but above all I’m a humanist, and I think that women are the most oppressed. [Breaking into the US film industry] taught me that a place I really looked up to was very ignorant and it also taught me not to take their ignorance personally, but to take it as an education of misconceptions and missed opportunities.

For example, when I did Ugly Betty the networks didn’t want the show, so I went to the advertisers and showed them a study I had done on the Hispanic consumer. I said, ‘Would you be interested in this show?’ Not only were they interested in buying advertising time, they actually wanted to pay for the entire thing! Then I brought that business plan to the network and they said, ‘OK, we’re going to do it on our own.’ You have to look for those opportunities.

My favourite...

... activity 

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#sundayvibes #alpaca #farmlife

A post shared by Salma Hayek Pinault (@salmahayek) on

I have developed a new relationship with my garden. Although I’ve always been grateful, this lockdown made me appreciate life on a whole new level.

... app

In her free time, Valentina kept herself occupied [in lockdown] with the Houseparty and TikTok apps.

... book

Sudoku and I’m damn good at it, too. [Try Sudoku and Variants 2020, £6.99, amazon.co.uk]

... TV Show

Credit: Nigel Parry 

As a family, we decided to binge watch Criminal Minds [in lockdown] because we didn’t know how long this was going to take and they have many seasons. Criminal Minds, Amazon Prime.

... product 

I discovered laurel oil in Greece – it’s fantastic for the hair. [Stella loves Bay Laurel Organic Essential Oil, £10.50, Neal’s Yard Remedies, nealsyardremedies.com]

... outfit

My pyjamas or loungewear – that’s when I am the most me.

Salma stars in new film ‘Eternals’, in UK cinemas from February 2021