When Salma Hayek Pinault decided to write about her experience of working with the disgraced film producer Harvey Weinstein, her friends, family and agents hoped it would be quietly cathartic.
They could not have predicted that the resulting essay, Harvey Weinstein Is My Monster Too, published in The New York Times in December 2017, would go on to win the 52-year-old actress a share of a Pulitzer Prize.
Hayek Pinault was as floored as anyone. “I was prepared for a terrible reaction,” she explains, with a shrug that conveys the nerve with which she quit her native Mexico, where she was a famous telenovela star, to seek her fortune in Hollywood in 1991.
But, something even more unexpected happened. “People would call and say, ‘Can we have the name of the writer who wrote that for her?’” she recalls. She is munching her way through a bag of tortillas on set for Vogue’s cover shoot, in New York, and corn chips spray in the air to emphasize her exasperation. “I wrote it myself! Every single word!”
At first, she was angry: “I have just written an article about undermining, and they are all undermining me.” Then, realization dawned. “I was able to say to myself, ‘I can write,’ which is a very big deal because I am highly dyslexic. It gave me so much confidence to write the article. And it made me feel free.”
Hayek Pinault – all gravelly voice, doe eyes, amusing anecdotes, killer one-liners – characterizes herself, somewhat surprisingly, as a late bloomer. “There are so many things that it was difficult to conceive could change. A Mexican-Arab actress working after the age of 35 – it was a laughable concept,” she recalls. “Then also, the positioning of the Latin world in Hollywood; I have seen Mexico not only develop a film industry, but from there, some of the best directors in the world have surfaced.”
As an actress, producer and activist, she is now busier than she has ever been. “I think that the best time of my life is now. You have to understand, I am 52. Even 20 years ago, it was very different for women.” How does she define success? “Success has to do with this question,” she says, pausing thoughtfully. “If they take everything away from you, can you look at yourself in the mirror and be proud of your journey?”
As for her force for change? “I think my force for change is me,” she says, looking endearingly amazed. “We can only find the force inside each other. Every woman [on set] inspires me. I don’t feel comfortable, almost, to be in the company of such great spirits. It is the redefinition of what it means to be a woman that is most inspiring for me at this moment. What are we going to do now that we are being heard? What is our contribution? What is the next shape of hope? I think, in this day and age, it’s going to be very curvy.”
– The September issue of British Vogue, co-edited by HRH The Duchess of Sussex, features 15 women with 15 unique causes. Photographed by Peter Lindbergh, and styled by Editor-in-chief Edward Enninful and contributing fashion editor Grace Coddington, these extraordinary women are on the cover of British Vogue’s Forces For Change issue, available now.