Following my previous post on the Pampers/UNICEF press conference, here is a transcript of the small group interview, during which I had the pleasure and honor of chatting with Salma Hayek along with Isabel Kallman (Alpha Mom), Nicole Feliciano (Momtrends), and Lauren Passell (Parenting). We talked about everything from the “1 Pack = 1 Vaccine” campaign, to the loneliness that motherhood can bring, to daughter Valentina’s favorite books and lovey. We also were privileged to have Caryl Stern (President and CEO of UNICEF) in on the conversation.
Nicole (Momtrends): Did you get involved with this campaign when you were pregnant, or after Valentina arrived?
Salma Hayek: Right after she was born. But I would have gotten involved if I was not pregnant…Actually, the fact that she was born in a way it makes me think, I just want to give more time to her…It takes courage [to be a part of this campaign] because you have a child, you don’t want to be associated with children in pain…you don’t want to think about it, you don’t want to see it, you don’t want to be heartbroken about it because it’s just too much to bear. So if anything, in a way it makes you not want to get involved, and of course in another you’re a lot more sensitive and you feel more vulnerable...it gets to you deeper.
Lauren (Parenting): How has motherhood changed for you? Now that your daughter is 16 months is it different?
Salma Hayek: You know, they keep you so busy you don’t have time to think about it. You’re just in it…What I can tell you is what has not changed. That even though you are in awe every day, you are mesmerized by them… the little gestures they make, the way they say something, the way they kiss something, and what doesn’t change is the fascination for me in looking at her. And the gratitude that she’s in my life every day. I hope it stays with me until I die.
Christine (Boston Mamas): When I saw the video clips of you in Sierra Leone, it was incredibly moving and clearly there was so much pain that you were seeing there. What touched you most positively; meaning, how were you able to think forward and think positively amidst the pain?
Salma Hayek: The work of the staff of UNICEF. It was very inspiring. I had no idea how truly difficult it was to accomplish, to bring vaccinations [to remote locations]. Everything that could be chaotic and could go wrong every day - they went through it a 100 times more than you could believe. From logistics, to educating people, to corruption, to the nature of the country, the climate of the country, the poverty of the country…everything, it’s an uphill battle. And for them it’s nothing, it’s normal. They just go to work. It’s just amazing.
Isabel (Alpha Mom): I’m sure everyone wants a piece of you Salma, and there are so many causes; there are too many causes out there. Why this one cause?
Salma Hayek: Because in 5 years…I expect to be alive but even if I’m not, wherever I am, I am hoping that if things stay on program…I could have been part of something that eradicated most of the disease from the country. They already [eradicated it] in Bangladesh! It is amazing…I need this right now. I need the tangibility. The fact that it’s something tangible that I can really see and that it’s doable.
Caryl Stern: And it’s not writing a check. You’re going to buy diapers. So why not buy this one?
Salma Hayek: Now, I mean, still if someone can write the check, write the check! It’s extremely important, immensely important. But it’s not the only thing, we need to do other things. And their [Pampers/UNICEF] commitment is really remarkable; they’ve stayed committed and will continue to stay committed through good times and bad times. But it’s not enough.
Nicole (Momtrends): Do you think there’s something about being a woman, and maybe solving problems better than men might have?
Salma Hayek: I think so. However, there are two men that I truly was impressed and moved by. One is Dr. Francois Gasse [Senior Immunization Specialist, UNICEF] – he is fantastic and so funny and he is the one that realized that there was this problem…and started figuring out how to do it…because nobody knew that this problem was so big. And the other one - Dr. Geert Cappelaere - he is in charge of Sierra Leone. So funny, so smart, so level headed, absolutely knew how to deal with everybody. And there he is in Sierra Leone…he’s so passionate. 100 percent.
Caryl Stern: I think the thing that makes it a mom kind of thing though is…by vaccinating a mom you can save a child. And that’s the thing we can all relate to. I mean, what wouldn’t you do to save your child? And if you knew that there was a way to do it, you’d get yourself there. And I think as moms in developing nations you spend a lot of time when you’re pregnant thinking about all of this. What do I have to eat? What should I drink? Think about the extremes we go to...I think that when moms hear about this campaign, it’s an action they can take. It resonates with them.
Salma Hayek: The problem is with us, and the solution is also within us. The problem is with the umbilical cord, but the solution is also in the immunization of the mother.
Christine (Boston Mamas): Isabel and I were talking just a few minutes ago about how you made a lovely statement, something like, “this is about moms coming together to protect the children.” I know that when I get on a mission to raise money or awareness I just annoy my friends …you know, I canvas them endlessly. Have you used your influence and reached out to your network for the Pampers campaign?
Salma Hayek: Oh absolutely. You know, I am so inspired [I ask people] to go in and fight.
Christine (Boston Mamas): Yes, that’s what I’m talking about!
Isabel (Alpha Mom): Right, at the mommy play date you can get everyone riled up to action!
Salma Hayek: Yes! For example, somebody said to me, “Why are you doing this with Pampers? They’re not biodegradable. You should be using the brand that is ecologically friendly.” And little did they know...I said, “You know what, I’m glad you mentioned this because this was one of my concerns when we talked about this campaign.” So I did extensive research on it. Turns out…from all the brands, there are a few disposable diapers…[the issue is] not that they’re biodegradable but that instead of 120 years it takes 110 or 115 years to disintegrate. So it’s a matter of a couple of years. And I went to [Pampers] and I said, “Well you should at least make an effort to not use bleach in your diapers.” And there is no bleach! … I wouldn’t be promoting something I didn’t have respect for. I wouldn’t. And so my friends who would try to attack me on this I would say, “Listen. Let’s talk about this. It’s going to disintegrate maybe a few years later than the other brands but it’s going to save hundreds of thousands of children from dying.”
Nicole (Momtrends): It may save the scientist who figures it out.
Salma Hayek: Yes, it may save the scientist. I say, “Are you kidding me, get on the program!” And this person said, “Oh I can’t believe Valentina is wearing Pampers. I thought you would just talk about it but you wouldn’t dare to put them on your child." I said, “Are you crazy?” [laughter]
Caryl Stern: The mommy bloggers have been really supportive…I had the privilege to connect with some of them [in Cincinnati]. I just want you to know...how supportive they are of the campaign.
Salma Hayek: Thank you so much, thank you so much…I’m not a super mommy. I don’t have a lot of information like you guys. I don’t use the computer and if I did I probably would be a super nanny because then I could ask a lot of questions. So I didn’t know a lot of things but I do know it’s so important to have a network out there that you can reach out to and talk to and connect with because I’ve been really lonely in my experience as a mother because...I didn’t have any friends that were pregnant at the same time and I felt lonely and I wish I had that interaction with other mothers. And just now that I’m socializing [Valentina] more I’m beginning to have that and I wish I had known where to reach out from the beginning…I had support from my family but nobody else had children…my mom had me so many thousands of years ago. And just now I’m beginning to connect with other moms and it’s such a beautiful thing.
Nicole (Momtrends): Do you change your diapers…with Valentina?
Salma Hayek: Do I change her diapers?
Nicole (Momtrends): Are you pretty hands on?
Salma Hayek: Of course I change her diapers! I didn’t understand the question! I mean, can you get around that? You know what, she likes that I change her diapers!
Christine (Boston Mamas): They always want mom.
Salma Hayek: Yes, they want mom to do it! Do I change every single diaper? No, but I change a lot of them.
Lauren (Parenting): So being lonely has been a struggle. What’s been the best?
Salma Hayek: Everything is beautiful but you know now I realize it’s my first one and…everything about it has been so beautiful.
Isabel (Alpha Mom): Motherhood can be very isolating; it’s not natural for everybody.
Salma Hayek: I wish I had more information. I didn’t read all the books. I spent the time with her instead. And I worked while I was pregnant. You can read the books but if you read the books once you have the baby then it’s too late. If I’m reading the book I’m not with her. So let me read the book of her. And she’s taught me. She’s so smart.
Isabel (Alpha Mom): What’s her favorite book?
Salma Hayek: She loves books! She loves them. She has a lot of different ones. She’ll go through phases; 20 times [with one] and then she goes on to a different one. She has some French books that her father got her that are very interactive with peekaboos…And she has Goodnight Moon. She loves that one. And Goodnight, Gorilla. She loves all the animals.
Isabel (Alpha Mom): Do you do the voices?
Christine (Boston Mamas): I know, the bar is kind of high for you. You have to act out all the parts. [laughter]
Salma Hayek: Oh yes. And she’s so funny. When I do the songs… she has signals for which ones when. When she was more little I could just sing and she could enjoy and now she’s like, “No no no no no no no… Sun! Sun!” And then I go, “Mr. Sun, Sun…[Mister Golden Sun…].” And I have rules now. “No, that song we can only sing during the day because there’s no sun out right now!”
Isabel (Alpha Mom): Are you raising her trilingual? Or bilingual?
Salma Hayek: Trilingual. Oh, and she loves to play I Spy.
Nicole (Momtrends): Does she have a lovey?
Salma Hayek: My pajamas. She wants me to wear them every day and every night and if I’m taking a shower she wants to hold them.” [Aww’s all around]
Image credits: 1 & 2 (PainePR); 3 (Christine Koh); 4 (People); 5 (Nicole Feliciano)