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Salma Hayek: Mom on a Mission

Motherhood inspired Salma Hayek to take on one more high-profile role: saving women and children in Africa.

Salma Hayek’s life changes

Since the birth of Valentina, Hayek personally understands that mindset. She’s still an ambitious force to be reckoned with in the entertainment industry -- Entertainment Weekly praised her as one of the “25 Smartest People in TV” in December 2008 -- but because of her daughter, she’s made some changes in how she looks at her career.

“I haven’t had the guts to do something violent or dark. I’m not there,” she says. “I actually canceled a movie. They said, ‘You can really move yourself as an actress with this role and go to a really dark place.’ I said, I don’t want to go there! Maybe I’ll change my mind later, but right now, I want easy movies that I can take my child along to. I want uplifting movies for the world.”

Even in the movies she watches, Hayek finds herself turning away from violence -- a challenge since, as a voting member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, she has to vote for Best Picture nominees for the Academy Award.

“I have to watch them all, and I take it very seriously and have to be objective,” she says. She cites Vicky Cristina Barcelona, starring her great friend and Bandidas co-star Penelope Cruz, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button as two of her favorites this year. “And Milk -- I loved Sean [Penn] in it! But I’m watching the rest, too, even the violent ones. I still appreciate the craft and the films and the acting in them.”

Salma Hayek’s childhood

She’s raising Valentina to be trilingual (French, Spanish, and English), but Hayek herself didn’t learn English well until she abandoned her lucrative career in Mexican soap operas and moved to Hollywood in 1991. Even though she was diagnosed with dyslexia in her teens, she didn’t find mastering a second language difficult.

“I’m really a fast learner. I always was, which is maybe why in high school they didn’t realize I had dyslexia. I skipped years without studying too much,” she says. “[The dyslexia] doesn’t bother me now. Some people read really fast, but you’ll ask them questions about the script and they’ll forget. I take a long time to read a script, but I read it only once. I directed a movie [The Maldonado  Miracle, for which she won a Daytime Emmy], and I never brought the script to the set.”

Hayek was a gymnast in her teen years, and was even approached to join the Mexican national team -- something her oil-company executive father forbade. Today, she prefers Pilates to keep in shape. “It appeals to me because I’m lying down!” she jokes. “It’s like you do the effort, but you don’t feel it as much.” Her fitness routine must be working -- a national poll ranked Hayek as the sexiest celebrity in the country in 2007.

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