Despite so many people begging for people of colour to be properly represented in media, discrimination runs deep in the movie industry. While there is evidence that things are on the way up, it’s been a long journey to get where we are today, and it’s still not good enough. Some decide to turn a cheek to the facts of reality, while actresses like Salma Hayek are struggling to fight prejudiced studios.
Salma Hayek lost two roles because she’s Mexican
In an interview with Variety, Hayek explained that the racial biases of studio executives has lost her leading roles. The actress revealed that the directors for both projects said she was the best choice, but the studio refused to have a Mexican lead.
“I remember there were two big comedies I auditioned for the lead. Afterwards, the directors told me that I was the best audition and that I was better than who they cast and that they regretted it. But at the time, they knew the studios wouldn’t have gone for a Mexican as the lead.”
Hayek explained that despite her popularity in her home country and her phenomenal acting talent, she was still sidelined. Even though the actress starred in financially successful movies as beloved characters, she would never get the credit from the studio.
“Nobody really looked into my value. If you are a woman and you are in a movie that is very successful and they say you are their favorite character, they will still give all credits of the box office to the guy. They don’t count who you’re bringing into the theaters. In my case, I was already a very big star in my country. I was bringing the Latino market into the theaters. I know some of the studios knew that. But they didn’t want to accept the value of the Latino market at the time.”
Studios wanted Cameron Diaz to play a Mexican character
Of course, movies can’t always be about white people in white countries. At the very least, it would be extremely lacking in creativity. With this in mind, studios are constantly trying to cut corners to keep their discrimination satisfied. After all, it wasn’t that long ago that blackface was frequent in the movie industry.
Salma Hayek explained that studios were constantly looking to cast successful white actresses in Latino roles. For the 1995 movie Desperado, the studio wanted to cast Cameron Diaz as a Latino because her last name sounded Mexican.
“I remember Cameron Diaz was huge at the time and her last name was Diaz, so they said she can be Mexican. She was part of the list, and I had to audition again…I’m telling you, the studio wanted Cameron Diaz as a Mexican.”
“I begged for an audition. They wouldn’t even give me an audition. I was like, ‘Just hear me read.’ And this is for a Latino role. They were not hiring Latinos for Latino roles. They were not hiring Latinos period — unless it was the maid or the prostitute. And that part was not a maid or a prostitute.”
Hayek's next mainstream role is Ajak in Marvel Studio's Eternals'. The movie will release on November 5th, 2020.