Oprah: Not even for a moment had you thought, "Oh, I'm a bombshell"?
Salma: It's good to be sexy, but when that's all they can see—no.
Oprah: Because then you're right back where you were in Mexico.
Salma: In Mexico I was not sexy.
Oprah: You weren't sexy?
Salma: Nobody saw me as sexy. I was just famous. I was Teresa, the soap star. I wasn't even me. I was a character. But in some ways, it's the same deal. The perception of you is one thing. You're this famous person, and now you're this famous person who's a bombshell. So all of a sudden, that's the only way I get jobs. So I have to become the part. And they're telling you this is the way to do it. One director actually said to me, "I want to hear you talk dumber and faster."
Salma: He thought it was funny for the girl to be dumb. I finally said, "That's it, man—I can't do this anymore." I'd go to meetings during the filming of a movie, and the directors would ask, "What do you think of the script?" I'd say, "It has a lot of problems." They were confused. That's not what they wanted from me.
Oprah: Because they didn't expect you to have an opinion?
Salma: And certainly not an opinion that made sense. So I was not very popular. At one point I said, "I don't want to do this—it's not my dream." And so I said, "I'm going to start a company. I am going to create projects for me. I'm going to create projects for other Latin women." Because I got to a point where I was whining all the time. I was miserable. I was desperate. I was going for movies in which I hated the script, I had no respect for the director. And of course I wouldn't get them. Of course not, because I didn't even want to go to the meeting, and I would force myself to go to the meeting and then hate myself every second of it. Because why am I kissing the ass of this guy? He's so dumb. I don't know what to talk about.... I was altogether very miserable.
I had an acting teacher who once told me that you could never really create from comfort. To do well as an actress, you have to push yourself to the edge. When you're comfortable, you're still on your ass. Sometimes we sit on our ass even with things we don't like. The whining, the crying, the becoming the victim, the this-town-doesn't-like-me-because-I'm-Mexican—it could've all made me say, "That's it—racism takes care of all my problems."
Oprah: You can use that one forever.
Salma: I think that's why it's harder for us to succeed, because we have a beautiful, comfortable crutch. It's right there, available.
We Hear You!