Salma Hayek attends the TIME 100 Gala at Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York City, on April 26, 2023.
Landon Nordeman for TIME

Oscar-nominated actress Salma Hayek Pinault said Hollywood has made strides in Latino representation since she first joined the world of film more than two decades ago, speaking to TIME with optimism at the 2023 TIME100 Gala on Wednesday night.

Hayek Pinault, whose decades–long career includes stints as Frida Kahlo in the 2002 biopic Frida and as the executive producer of the comedy-drama television series “Ugly Betty,” said that the conversations in the industry about a greater need for representation are evidence of progress.

“Given the range of how exquisite the Latin talent is today, I am confident that we will stay and continue to open more doors,” Hayek Pinault said, mentioning actors like “The Last of Us” star Pedro Pascal as a prime example of a Latino whose talent in the industry is now being noticed after decades in the industry.

“I think that we’re already [creating change]. I think the quality of our work will continue to open doors. All I can say is that we may need to have more people behind the camera, writers especially, but it’s happening. You have to be patient,” Hayek Pinault told TIME.

Latinos—who make up nearly a fifth of the U.S. population and are the country’s second largest racial and ethnic group—only make up about 7% of lead roles, and less than 6% of writers in major films. And even when Latinos are represented, research shows that their roles are not necessarily positive, as more than a third of Hispanic or Latino actors were depicted as criminals, according to a count by USC’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative that looked at the top-grossing movies from 2007 to 2019.

Hayek Pinault, who is also regarded by many as a sex symbol, also touched on the oversexualization of Latinas in the film industry.

“I think that Latinas are given the stereotype about being sexy because we are,” she says while laughing. “But it’s good that they’re saying we are a lot more than that.”

The TIME100 special airs Sunday at 7/6c on ABC and streams on Hulu and Disney+.

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