'I would die if I did nothing but manicures and lunches' Salma Hayek on feminism and why she'll never be a society lady

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The next time you're in need of some rousing sisterhood chat, look no further than Salma Hayek. 

The 48-year-old actress - whom Harvey Weinstein once admiringly referred to as "a ball-breaker" - has been talking about her love of women in a new interview in the Guardian this week

"I am a feminist because I love women and I am ready to fight for women," says Hayek, who has an eight-year-old daughter, Valentina, with her billionaire husband François-Henri Pinault. 

"I am a feminist because I am proud to be a woman, and I am passionate about making the world a better place for women. I am a feminist because a lot of amazing women have made me the woman I am today. I am inspired by women every day, as friends and as colleagues.

"The amount of pressure on women now, it’s crazy. You have to be much better than your male colleagues, just so you can maybe try and get the same salary as them. And you still have to be a good wife and mother. And now you also have to be skinny, and you have to look 20 when you’re 40. It’s too much. We need to stop with the crazy expectations, give ourselves a break."

Hayek co-founded the charity Chime for Change in 2013, to raise funds and awareness for projects promoting education, health and justice for girls and women around the world.

"It should be a reflex, if someone else is being hurt, to help," she says. "It shouldn’t have to be because you are being a victim too. I work a lot for domestic violence, and people often ask me if I have experienced it. And I say, no, on the contrary – my father is a great man, my husband is a great man. But we are all human beings, no?"

The Mexican-born actress moved to Hollywood at the age of 25, and fought hard against widespread prejudice to carve out a successful film career for herself. 

"I had studio heads say to me, 'You could have been the biggest star in America, but you were born in the wrong country. You can never be a leading lady, because we can’t take the risk of you opening your mouth and people thinking of their maids,'" she once told Vanity Fair

Hayek scored her breakthrough role in the 2002 biopic Frida, based on the life of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, in a role that won her an Oscar nomination.

She became engaged to Pinault, the French CEO of luxury fashion group Kering, in 2007. The pair welcomed their daughter Valentina into the world the same year and later got married in secret on Valentine's Day in Paris, where they are now based. 

Pinault's company owns labels including Gucci, Saint Laurent, Stella McCartney, Alexander McQueen and Bottega Veneta, and Hayek is a regular sight on the front row at fashion weeks.

But despite her husband's billionaire fortune, she still pays the bills herself and is adamant that she will never be a society 'lady who lunches'. 

"If you took my bills away from me, that would feel strange," she says. "I think it is part of what gives me confidence, to work, to know I can pay them.

"I would die if I did nothing but manicures and lunches. That would be a nightmare to me. It was a condition when I married Francois. I said: ‘Listen, don’t think I am going to be a society lady, OK?’ And he said, 'Of course – I would hate that!'"

Hayek is currently promoting The Prophet, an animated version of  Kahlil Gibran’s prose poetry book that she has both produced and stars in. 

The Prophet is often cited the most read book in the world, after the Bible. The film version features beautiful imagery and a talented cast of voices including Liam Neeson, John Krasinski, Alfred Molina and Quvenzhané Wallis.

Hayek sees the film's message as being particularly important to women because it is "about the courage to speak up, to believe you are worth being listened to".

The actress has her hands full with five films in the running for 2015, including The Tale of Tales, where she plays a queen in a fairytale trilogy by Italian director Matteo Garrone, and Septembers of Shiraz, an Iran-based thriller co-starring Adrien Brody. 

Words: Anna Brech, Photos: Rex Features

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Stylist Team