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April 11, 2012

Salma Inc.

Though she's best known as a spitfire actress with va-va-voom curves, Salma Hayek also oversees a growing entertainment, beauty, and wellness empire that's made her one of Hollywood's unlikeliest moguls.

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Salma Hayek has seen it before, the eye roll that transpires when people hear of yet another celebrity slapping her name on some pretty pastel goody—fragrance, shoe, duvet cover, whatever. She knows the marketplace is glutted with these products, many of them designed just to make a quick buck. Not mine, she thought, no way. On her own, Hayek, the granddaughter of a Paris-trained cosmetologist, researched exotic ingredients like blue agave, prickly pear, and lime enzyme, and stood alongside chemists in the lab, testing combinations and mixing scents. What was planned as a brief break from the entertainment business turned into a passion project of sorts. "I don't know that many people in my position who would actually put that much time into it," says Hayek, 45. "It's a lot easier to get a contract or say that you are doing the work when it's really someone else. I don't think my own agency—or even I—knew how stubborn I was going to be."

The result of her efforts: Nuance Salma Hayek, a line of 100 products, including moisturizers, cleansers, and cosmetics, available online and carried by more than 6,000 CVS drugstores nationwide. Hayek, an unabashed devotee, uses them all. "We have a pimple medication that treats the spot and the discoloration on your face at the same time," she says with obvious pride. "It's one of the best products we have."

Whether they like it or not, most actresses find themselves at the mercy of age and the fickle tastes of moviegoers. Not Salma Hayek, who presides over an impressive business empire that has her securely calling the shots. In addition to Nuance, she cofounded Cooler Cleanse, a popular juice-cleanse outfit vying for a lucrative piece of the $77 million detox industry—Hayek even helped formulate the recipes. She also owns Ventanarosa Productions (Spanish for "pink window"), whose impressive list of credits includes The Maldanado Miracle, a made-for-TV movie that earned Hayek an Emmy for Best Director; Ugly Betty, which by the end of its four-season run had amassed 18 Emmy nods; and Frida, the biopic of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, for which Hayek scored a Best Actress Oscar nomination in the title role. Even more ambitious projects are in the works: a miniseries based on Broadway's Wicked, as well as an animated feature inspired by the Khalil Gibran classic The Prophet.

Hayek isn't one of those high-minded, Inside the Actors Studio types who insists she was born to be on-screen. Nestled in the back of an SUV following a long day of meetings, Hayek, clad in a horizontally striped Gucci sweater and tight jeans, ruminates on what brought her here. "Imagine if I'd said, 'I have to be the best actress—I want that and nothing else,'" she tells me as we head to her Bel Air home. "I never would have directed. I never would have produced. I never would have done a beauty line. I would have just worried about getting a job or been frustrated that I wasn't getting the job that I wanted. I was ready to be a businesswoman."

But not everyone else was ready to accept that. "Because I have a background in a different field, it can be hard to negotiate and make a good deal for myself. People always underestimate me," Hayek says of her initiation into the business world. "But if you stick around long enough, act out of conviction, and try to be honorable in everything you do, good things will come to you. I have seen karma work in this business."

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