At an early age, al-Salami was sent to live with relatives after her mother divorced her father over severe domestic abuse. At age 11, she was forced by her uncle into an early marriage and was raped by her husband. Some weeks later, after much protest and disobedience, her husband returned her to her uncle, who immediately disowned her and returned her to her single mother. She escaped the immense family and society pressure by finding employment with the local television station and simultaneously attending school in the mornings.
At the age of 16, she received a scholarship to finish secondary school in the United States. Subsequently, she enrolled at the Mount Vernon College for Women, in Washington, D.C. After a period in Yemen and Paris, she returned to Washington to earn her Master's degree in communications at the American University. For her thesis, she produced her first film. Her first feature film, which was entirely shot in Yemen, “I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced.” The film recounts the true story of Nujood Ali, Yemen’s most famous child bride, who was married off at ten and filed for divorce in court. Al-Salami did not want to tell only Nujood’s story, but also her own and that of many other Yemeni child brides. This movie won her an award at the Dubai International Film Festival.
Since then, al-Salami has produced several documentaties for various television networks in France and Yemen. The primary focus of her documentaries focus on women, possibly as a reflection of her life experience. She has also co-authored with her current husband, the American Charles Hoots, an autobiography, The Tears of Sheba.
- Hadramaout: Crossroads of Civilizations (1991)
- Le pays suspendu (1994)
- Women of Islam (1995)
- Land of Sheba (1997)
- Yemen of a Thousand Faces (2000)
- A Stranger in Her Own City (2005)
- Amina (2006)
- I Am Nojoom, Age 10 and Divorced (2014)
- "The most 500 powerful Arabs". Arabian Business. 2013. Retrieved 17 July 2013.
- "Khadija al-Salami, a Yemeni Child Bride Who Became a Diplomat". Fanack.com. Retrieved 29 August 2016.