Watch CBS News

Salma Hayek Pinault on charity and activism

Salma Hayek Pinault on charity, activism and #MeToo
Salma Hayek Pinault on charity, activism and #MeToo 06:08

Salma Hayek was nominated for an Oscar for her performance as the artist Frida Kahlo in the 2002 movie "Frida." These days she's winning notice for her roles on behalf of charity, as John Blackstone tells us (This story was originally aired on April 15, 2018):

Salma Hayek
Salma Hayek, honored for her humanitarian work, at the 7th Biennial UNICEF Ball at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel on Saturday, April 14,2018, in Beverly Hills, Calif. Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP

Last April in Los Angeles, UNICEF – the United Nation's Children's Fund – honored Salma Hayek Pinault with the Danny Kaye Humanitarian Award.

"It takes so little to make big, big changes," she said. 

It's recognition for all that she has done for more than a decade on behalf of women and children around the world.

"It's hard to decide who should get money, and how it should be spent," Blackstone said.

"Yeah, because so many people need it," said Hayek Pinault. "How should we spend? It's the best question. It is finding who can you help the most, how can you help the best, and through who can you be the most effective?"

"How did you become an activist?"

"It's a very strange question. My head thinks: Why don't you?"

She helped raise more than $700,000 for relief efforts after the earthquake in Mexico last September.

Salma Hayek during a 2015 trip to Lebanon, where she visited with Syrian refugee children. Sebastian Rich/UNICEF

In 2015, she visited Syrian refugees in Lebanon.

And in 2008, she visited Sierra Leone, where tetanus was a leading cause of death among mothers and babies.

During the trip, a 15-year-old mother approached her with a hungry baby, just a few days old:

"'And I have no milk, I have no money, I have no food to give him. I have nothing.' And she was sobbing. And I said, 'I've got milk,' 'cause I had milked my child for the first time, and I was weaning her from breastfeeding. And I had milk.

"And there was a lot of people that were upset I did that."

"But there were many as well who said you may have saved a life, right?" Blackstone said.

"Thank God!" she laughed.

Salma Hayek Pinault on activism 04:46

Salma Hayek was born in Mexico in 1966. Her father (of Lebanese descent) was an oil company executive; her mother (Mexican and Spanish) was an opera singer.

At the age of five, Salma would sit in front of the pink window in her home: "Sometimes I would just look out this window and come up with stories and come up with scenarios of what my life would be. I'd make myself cry on my own. It was my place where I would play with my imagination."

When did she decide upon acting? "Acting entered my mind, and then I was embarrassed to say 'I want to be an actor,'" she said. 

Salma Hayek Pinault on making "Frida" 04:17

But she says she somehow found the courage, and after appearing in popular Mexican soap operas – telenovelas – she came to Los Angeles at the age of 24 and studied acting. But after being a big star at home, she got work only as an extra.

"At the time it seemed like there was no chance to succeed, especially 'cause I was Mexican. It didn't exist this possibility. People would laugh at me. It's a different time. 'Cause you have to understand, really didn't exist this possibility. It didn't exist."

But in more than 50 movies, Hayek Pinault became one of those actresses, as they say, that the camera loves.

It may be her portrayal of the Mexican painter Frida Kahlo that created the most attention. She produced the movie and also earned an Academy Award nomination as Best Actress.

"Something inside of me just knew I had to do that one," she said. "It was an obsession."

Frida (8/12) Movie CLIP - Frida Cuts Her Hair (2002) HD by Movieclips on YouTube

She worked eight years to get the film off the ground.

Hayek Pinault made headlines last December with a New York Times Op-Ed piece about the price she paid to work on "Frida" with producer Harvey Weinstein which, she wrote, involved many inappropriate sexual demands – charges Weinstein has denied.

But that essay helped to propel a movement.

"The most exciting part for me is that when the world saw all these women that are so visible (because it's Hollywood) coming together and say, 'Hey guys, this is not okay,' we take the power in the hands to say, 'This stops now.'"

Salma Hayek Pinault on the success of the #MeToo movement 03:10

In 2009, she married Francois-Henry Pinault, the French billionaire whose company, Kering, includes such luxury brands as Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent and Stella McCartney.

And today, Salma Hayek Pinault is busier than ever. Her production company, Ventanarosa (named for that rose window she sat in front of as a child), is developing four new movies and five new TV shows.

"I like to wake up every day and work," she said. "I think I would die if I didn't have that in my life."

For more info:

Story produced by Jay Kernis.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.