Fans and celebrities alike came out to the TCL Chinese Theatre on Friday night but it wasn’t for the typical film premiere inside the hallowed halls — instead, crowds gathered outside the building on the sidewalk to see actor Salma Hayek be awarded the 2,709th star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Oscar-winning director Chloé Zhao and comedian Adam Sandler all gave warm introductions for the “Eternals” actor, celebrating her work on camera and off.
“Selma is a person of incredible talent and compassion,” Zhao said. “She is a woman who is brave enough to walk ... her own way. And never allow anyone to put her in the box.”
When Hayek took the stage, she explained that the Friday night ceremony was very “healing” for her. She told a story about how she was attacked, two years after moving from her native Mexico to the United States in the early 1990s.
Hayek said her friends had visited Los Angeles and asked to see Hollywood. While they were there, Hayek said, she ignored a “poor man who was on the floor and was very messed up” who catcalled her.
“And I kept walking and he took offense. (He) got up, took a knife out and started coming after us. Especially after me, trying to stab me,” she said.
"Nobody helped us," she added, as they ran away and into a store.
Hayek said they jumped over the counter in the store and grabbed a “stick” for protection, before being forced to wrestle the man.
Hayek explained two kind “gentlemen" from the Hells Angels walked in were able to quickly disarm her attacker. The bikers walked them back to their car and they got away from the scene.
“Every time I thought about Hollywood Boulevard, this is what I remember,” Hayek said on Friday night. “The truth is that when I went home that night, I said ‘What am I doing here? Nobody wants me. I mean, I almost got killed today.’”
She recounted several instances of racism she experienced at the time in the United States, including someone kicking her movie theater seat and telling her to “go back to your country.”
“I remember the studio saying to me many times, ‘Why don’t you go back to the (Mexican) telenovelas? You’ll never find a job here.’ And of course this night, I almost got killed,” Hayek said. “So I said, 'Nobody wants me here. They want me in my country.'”
“But I stayed. I stayed. And I want to say to everybody that’s here, all my lovely fans: If you ask yourself what gave me the courage to stay, I say it was you because although they didn’t know me, here in Hollywood, the studios, all the Latins that are in the United States knew who I was. They understood that I came here with dreams like they did.”
Originally from Coatzacoalcos, Mexico, Hayek got her start as an actor in Mexican telenovelas. She has starred in both films and TV series, like “Wild Wild West, “Grown Ups” and the upcoming “House of Gucci.” Hayek also starred and produced in the critically acclaimed “Frida,” a biopic about iconic Mexican artist, Frida Kahlo.
Hayek also runs a production company, Ventanarosa, which aims to tell the stories of Latino people, with a focus specifically on the lives of women. She also founded the Kering Foundation with her husband, Francois-Henri Pinault, which leads initiatives aimed at liberating women around the world from sexual, physical and emotional abuse.
She thanked her fans for following her journey for the past 37 years, adding that she never took “one line of encouragement for granted.”
“Find something to love, because the one thing that I stayed for was for the love of cinema,” she said. “If you think you’re not good at it like I did, make yourself good at it. It doesn’t have to be the movies — be your best at everything you do. Try to be better. Try to find the joy in what you do.”