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Image / Living / Culture

‘I saw my brown face in a superhero suit’: Salma Hayek tears up remembering the first time she put on her ‘Eternals’ suit


By Sarah Finnan
09th Nov 2021
‘I saw my brown face in a superhero suit’: Salma Hayek tears up remembering the first time she put on her ‘Eternals’ suit

Salma Hayak got emotional the first time she put on her ‘Eternals’ costume, and it goes to show just how important representation and diversity really is. 

Anything Marvels related usually gets a big reaction and the new Eternals movie is no different. One of the most talked-about films in Hollywood at the moment, it premiered over in Los Angeles earlier this year on October 18, with a worldwide theatrical release following shortly after on November 5th. 

Public reaction to the movie has been mixed at best so far – it only has a 47% rating on Rotten Tomatoes – but what it lacks in positive reviews, it more than makes up for with its cast and many have commended the production for its commitment to diversity. Recently speaking about how much the movie meant to her personally, Salma Hayek (who plays superhero Ajak) admitted that she had quite an intense reaction to putting her costume on for the first time. 

Representation

“When I put it on, I burst into tears. Not like in telenovelas, but the tears came out and I said, ‘What happened here?’ The image of it did something to me.” Getting emotional again as she realised why the moment meant so much to her, the Frida actress said that it really just boiled down to the importance of representation.

“I saw my brown face… I saw my brown face in a superhero suit. And in seeing my face, I saw your face. I saw my face as a little girl, who had to have a lot of courage to dream big. I saw the face of all the little girls… and I realised that a door had opened where I didn’t enter alone – but inside that suit were all the Latinos who waited so long for this moment,” she admitted. 

Not only that, but as a 50-year-old woman, Salma also represents a part of the global population that very rarely gets a voice in such films. She’s not portrayed as a decrepit old person who can no longer do anything. No, she’s strong and courageous and just as bad-ass as the rest of them.  

A long time coming

Echoing what Hayek said, Victoria Alonso – the president of physical, post production, VFX, and animation at Marvel Studios and a fellow Latina – added that it was equally momentous for the rest of the team too. “This moment is so important because – don’t forget, I’ve been at Marvel for 16 years trying – and I told her this the first time I met her… that she had no idea how long I waited for this moment.

“And not just for the moment that it was Salma – there was no other person for me that could do this character. But for feeling what she felt, for feeling what you are feeling in this moment, and for what all the girls and some boys feel in feeling represented – to be represented… in looking in a mirror and knowing that one can be a superhero.

“The moment I saw her in that suit was a moment that changed everything in my head, because if that’s possible, many other things are possible,” she explained. 

Subsequently finding its way over to TikTok, the interview clearly left an impression on those who watched it with many others admitting that the clip also made them tear up too. “This is so beautiful and means a lot,” one commenter noted. “As a Latina from Mexico just like her, seeing that it’s possible to dream big… the things Latinos go through.” 

Come as you are

Not the only cast member to speak about what being involved in the production meant to them, Brian Tyree Henry also had nothing but good things to say. One of the film’s titular heroes, he was first approached about the role by director Chloé Zhao and producer Nate Moore. Thrilled as he was at the prospect of joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe though, he also had some reservations. “I remember the first time that they were like, ‘So, we want you to be a superhero.’ I was like, ‘Cool. How much weight do I have to lose?’” To which Zhao responded by telling him that they wanted him exactly as he was. 

Clearly very moved by that exchange, the actor went on to say, “To be a Black man, to have someone look at you and say, ‘We want you exactly the way you are’, is unlike anything I’ve ever felt.” An avid superhero fan from the age of 11, he used to hang posters of his favourite figures in his school locker – all the while hoping that “one day there would be somebody representing me and the way that I am”. 

Cast in the part of Phastos, who is also Marvel’s first openly gay hero, Brian credits his meeting with Zhao as being the start point of everything. “I truly believe that that moment started when I sat down with Chloé. It’s unlike any feeling I’ve ever experienced.”

Eternals is in cinemas now.