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Down and Dirty with Salma Hayek

Salma Hayek is a bombshell Hollywood superstar, a hard-working mom, and now the voice of a new campaign from UNICEF and Pampers called the "One Pack = One Vaccine" program, which works to eliminate maternal and neonatal tetanus in developing nations. Through May 1, 2009, every time you buy a pack of Pampers (with the UNICEF logo), Pampers will purchase one life-saving tetanus vaccine for a mother and her newborn. It might have been a long day of press conferences and interviews (by the time it was my turn, she had kicked off her tall, black boots and was sitting on her feet in a chair), but she was still energized and passionate about everything -- from saving babies in Asia, to her own baby, 16-month old Valentina. (And yes, she changes Valentina's diapers.)

Did you get involved with One Pack = One Vaccine because you're a mom?

Salma Hayek: I would have gotten involved anyway. It took a lot of courage, though, because when you have a child, you don't want to be associated with child disease. You don't want to think about it. You don't want to see it. You don't want to be heartbroken about it. It's just too much to bear. If anything, in a way, it makes you not want to get involved. Of course in another way you do, because you are a lot more sensitive and you feel more vulnerable. It gets to you deeper.

How has being a mom changed you?

SH: How has Valentina changed me? Babies keep you so busy that you don't have time to think about it. You're just in it. I do many other things, too. What does not change is that I am in awe every day and I am mesmerized by her, and the fascination in just looking at her. And the gratitude that she's in my life every day. Thank you for coming! I hope it stays with me until I die.

What kept you thinking forward and positively on your trip to Africa? It must have been difficult.

SH:The work and staff of UNICEF was very inspiring. I had no idea how difficult it was to bring these vaccinations. Everything that could be chaotic and go wrong did. Every day they go through it. It's one hundred times more work than we could imagine, from the 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.

Do you think woman solve this problem better than men?

SH: I Think so.

Caryl Stern, president and CEO of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF: I think the thing that makes it a woman thing is by vaccinating another mom, you're saving a child. That's something we all relate to. What wouldn't you do to save your child? We spend a lot of time when we're pregnant thinking of all these things. What do I have to eat? What shouldn't I drink? No dry cleaning! Not going near those chemicals!

SH: Oh my God, I didn't know about the dry cleaning.

CS: Don't quote me on that. But you know, think about the extremes we go to. So when moms hear about this campaign, it's an action moms can take. It resonates with them.

SH: The problem starts with us and the solution is also within us. The problem is with the umbilical cord. The solution is also with the mother. So it's very focused with the mother.

You've said that "this is about moms coming together." Have you annoyed other moms, your friends, trying to get them involved?

SH: Yes! I get into fights. Someone said to me, "why are you doing this for Pampers? They are not bio-degradable. You should be using the brand that is ecologically friendly." But some ["eco-friendly" diapers] aren't really biodegradable, it is that instead of 120 years, it takes 110 or 115 years to disintegrate. I actually went to Pampers and said, "Well, you should make an effort to not use bleach in your diapers." But you know what? There is no bleach. Diapers are diapers. They are bad for the environment. But these are really some of the best. I wouldn't be promoting something I didn't have respect for. So my friends that try to attack me on this, I say, "Listen. Let's talk about this. It's going to take two years longer to disintegrate than the other brands, but it's going to save hundreds of thousands of children from dying." The same person said, "I cannot believe that Valentina wears Pampers. I thought you would just talk about it but you wouldn't dare to put them on your child." And I said, "Are you crazy?"

What have you learned about parenting?

SH: I'm not a super mommy. But I do know it's so important to have a network out there to reach out to and talk to and connect. Because I've been lonely in my experience as a mother because I didn't have any friends that were pregnant at the same time. I felt lonely, and I wish I had that interaction with other mothers. And just now that I'm socializing her more I'm beginning to have that and I wish I had known where to reach out from the beginning.

What do you like to read to Valentina?

SH: She loves books. She loves them. She goes through phases where she wants the same ones. She has some French books that her father got her that are very interactive. And she has Goodnight Moon, "Good night cow that jumps over the moon!" and Goodnight Gorilla.

Does she have a lovey?

SH: My pajamas. She carries them around with her every day and every night.

Is she like you?

SH: (sighhhh) No. She isn't like her father, either. She is her own person.