Life is coming up roses for Jessica Alba, with a new baby joining her young family, an evolving sense of self, and a passion project that reveals a different side to her.
Striding across her open-plan office in Los Angeles’ Santa Monica, Jessica Alba barely turns a head. She’s a regular here; the five people working away at their desks go about their business, unfazed by her presence. Settling into a chair opposite, Alba smiles—a dazzler instantly familiar from many a movie poster and red-carpet appearance. She’s fresh from a planning meeting and lays her new iPhone 4S on the table next to her. These days, having the gadget within reach is more about maternal accessibility than a desire to check emails, text messages or Twitter feeds.
Alba, like any modern mum, has a lot on her plate. There’s baby daughter Haven Garner, born this past August; Haven’s headstrong older sister, three-year-old Honor Marie; her nearly-four-year-old marriage to producer Cash Warren, 32; and Alba’s acting career. In almost 20 years she has leapt from small screen to silver screen—following bit parts, she broke out as the lead in the James Cameron-created series Dark Angel in 2000, before making her mark in cinemas in Honey, Sin City, and Fantastic Four. Most recently, the California-born actress, 30, starred in Spy Kids 4: All the Time in the World, and she’ll be heard later in 2012 as the voice of Lena in the animated Escape from Planet Earth.
But what Alba’s really excited about today is the new business venture that’s dominating her schedule. “It’s an eco household-and-baby consumer product line,” she explains proudly of The Honest Company, a web-based enterprise situated here in Santa Monica. Set to launch this month, it will be marketed with the tag line: “honest baby products for the next generation”.
“Our core item will be diapers,” says Alba, adding that the idea behind the brand came when she was pregnant with Honor. “We also have household cleaning products and bodycare products.” Alba is quick to stress that the range of environmentally-friendly items, to be available through the site thehonestcompany.com, will be “accessible and affordable. If something is healthy and non-toxic, it is usually at a premium price point. We aren’t going to be the cheapest, but certainly not the most expensive.” Early buzz is strong, with almost 7,000 followers checking out Alba’s frequent posts on the company’s Facebook page.
Such a venture reveals a different side to the actress, more commonly associated with big-budget blockbusters, a contract with cosmetics company Revlon, and being named on lists of the world’s most beautiful women. But this is no vanity project. “When I started to talk about doing something with consumer products, a lot of people were like, ‘Huh? Why not fashion or bags like most actresses?'” she says. “But this is what I am passionate about; it affects the health of not only my children, but all children.”
Not that Alba is short on sartorial savvy. Today, she is the picture of effortless cool in a Vanessa Bruno blazer and fitted 7 For All Mankind jeans. Ask her about red-carpet staples, and she easily rattles off names like Ralph Lauren, Prada and Diane von Furstenberg. “If I want to be more edgy,” she adds, “I will go with Proenza [Schouler], Lanvin, Versace or Dolce & Gabbana.” Her pregnancy style was guided by a far simpler desire, familiar to many women: “I didn’t want to feel frumpy,” she says. “I still wanted to feel beautiful, elegant, chic and playful—if I could. Especially because you feel so sick, hot, achey, swollen and all of those wonderful things that come with being pregnant.”
Alba’s shape post-Haven has been more familiar to her than it was after having Honor. “[When I was pregnant] with Honor, I didn’t make the healthiest choices when it came to eating,” she says. “All of a sudden, I had gained over [30 kilos]. I stopped weighing myself after that. With Haven I didn’t gain as much, so [afterward] I was closer to where I felt comfortable in my own skin.” She also works out with a personal trainer three times a week, often alongside Cash. “It’s fun and another way we get to spend time together,” she says with a grin.
Alba readily admits that managing her life requires assistance—the couple have a nanny (a sister of her sister-in-law; Alba thinks of her as a little sister and an aunt to the girls)—and that there are moments when it all seems too much. “It’s overwhelming. I don’t consider myself a lot of the time. I think a lot of mums do that, try to be everything to everyone all the time. I make mistakes. I do try to do way too much.” But that doesn’t stop her from taking on more, starting with a few questions from InStyle…
What did you find most surprising about becoming a mother? “That I felt completely different. I really came into myself as a person. Before, I was always working for my identity. And then you take the focus off of yourself. I was probably—definitely—a bit of a narcissist. When you are young and an actor and driven, it’s a bizarre state of mind to be in at times. I was so focused on things that didn’t matter at the end of the day. Now I have what I do for a living in perspective. Working was everything to me, my entire identity, and once I got to step away from it, everything changed.”
What is different with the second baby? “I’m more relaxed. Every sneeze or runny nose or little bump on the head that would have freaked me out before…I am more easygoing with that sort of thing. And the sense of knowing that I can get Haven to stop crying. It was all new with Honor and I wasn’t confident, and she could feel that so she continued to cry. That didn’t happen a lot, but when it happened I felt like I would crack.”
How does Cash feel about being the only guy in an all-female household? “He’s totally great and a real hands-on dad. He’s just such a nice, good person…His biggest thing is that he doesn’t like the idea of them growing up and dating! He’s kidding, but I can tell he’s kind of thinking of the future already.”
Jessica Alba never leaves home without…
Her go-to gadget: “I just got the new iPhone 4s and I haven’t really figured out how to use it; I have the iPad at home. I had a BlackBerry before, so it’s all kind of new.”
Haven’s must-haves: “With a baby you always have diapers, and diaper wipes, and a change of clothes – the essentials. And a pacifier of course.”
Honor’s must-haves: “She likes to carry around different princesses, like Jasmine or Rapunzel or a Barbie, or some kind of dolly. Honor loves to carry around random things that she finds for the day, like sunglasses or binoculars. It changes all the time…Honor is really girly. She likes to dress up, try on my high heels and play with purses.”
Keeping Honor entertained: “We always take a change of clothes — she’s three and likes to play in puddles and everything else. There’s always a coloured pencil or crayon and something for her to doodle on because there are moments wherever we are that she’s sitting and will want to do something. I think we started doing that when she was around 18 months old – that period when you can tell them to stop putting things in their mouth and to draw on the paper.”
Stroller derby: “Always a double stroller, never two separate ones — one sits in front and one behind.”
I splurge on: “My kids and my house. I’m always doing things to my house. I go that bit extra: I designed my furniture and had it made in an eco-friendly way.”