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People

Jessica Alba | Relax, Be Still, And You'll Be Here Shortly

The actor features in Ben Bridge for Issue 183, Emotional Rescue

Written by

Paulette Ely

Photographed by

Jonny Marlow

Styled by

Dani + Emma

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RODARTE dress, BEN BRIDGE earrings and necklace, and GLADYS TAMEZ MILLINERY hat.

HONEST BEAUTY Hydrogel Cream, Calm & Renew MeltingEye Balm, Everything Primer Glow +2HA, CCC Clean Corrective with Vitamin C Tinted Moisturizer Broad Spectrum SPF 30in shades Dune and Sahara, Honestly Bright Eyes Tinted Eye Cream in shade Sandstone, Fresh Flex Concealer in shades Almond and Fawn, Invisible Blurring Loose Powder, Get It Together Eyeshadow Palette, Eye Catcher Lid Tint in shades Pay Day, Out of Office, Joy Ride, and New Love, ExtremeVolume Mascara + Bold Lash Primer, Honestly Healthy BrowGel in shade Natural, Eyebrow Pencil in shades Taupe and Brown worn throughout.

Two breaths in, one breath out. Two breaths in, one breath out. All through your mouth. It’s the David Elliott way. The way Jessica Alba taught me with closed eyes and a smile as we reached the conclusion of our interview. After an hour-long conversation about her past roles that made her a Hollywood heavy-hitter and the future of her highly adored brand, The Honest Company, the mother of three and mindfulness aficionado craved a little bit of presence. “My mind is usually focused on the future and what else is next to create,” she says, “but you need to try to not be so caught up in what you’re creating that you can’t enjoy the present moment.”

RODARTE dress, BEN BRIDGE earrings and necklace, andGLADYS TAMEZ MILLINERY hat.

HONEST BEAUTY Creme Cheek + Lip Color in shade RosePink, Lit Powder Blush in shade Flirty, Liquid Lipstick in shadeForever, and Gloss-C Lip Gloss in shade Pink Agate.

It turns out there really is something to breathing in 90-degree Los Angeles air (twice). Escape by going inward. Rather than searching for refuge with arms stretched forward, rescuing comes from the inward practice of presence—this is a pillar of Alba’s life. Beyond a mantra, it’s how she walks through the world. That said, it’s been a conscious road to getting here. “I think a lot of the ways that I spoke in interviews when I was younger, I didn’t have a ton of self-awareness around how my words are going to be taken and misconstrued….I think a lot of my discontent wasn’t with Hollywood, I think it was me with myself. I think I was angry with myself. That I was compromising how I wanted to be treated. I didn’t stand up for myself, and I didn’t know how to. I only knew how to fight.”

Alba began acting at 11 years-old, begging her family to schlep her from her hometown of La Verne, CA to an acting competition in Beverly Hills. The pre-teen won the competition and hit the ground running. After appearing in numerous television shows and commercials, her big break arrived at age 17 when James Cameron cast her in Dark Angel, the early 2000’s FOX sci-fi series which saw her play the genetically engineered super-soldier, Max Guevara. Credited with a Golden Globe nomination and widespread recognition as a major modern feminist hero, this role placed Alba in a hyper-specific and complex spot within the industry. She became the kickass hero whose powerful body was intrinsic to tackle each episode’s turmoil head-on—and in turn, experienced overt objectification by the industry employing her at large. 

Early in my career, I was in an aggressive mindset,” she reflects. “It was probably my way to defend myself against predators, being a young woman and knowing that people at any moment can take advantage of you. It doesn’t even matter that it’s Hollywood, it’s anywhere in society, but with the layer of Hollywood on top of that, it bred really toxic masculinity and toxic behavior. I think my defense to that was to get out in front of it and be more aggressive so that they wouldn’t even try. I think that was me being disconnected from my feminine, and me feeling like I was compromising myself, and I think a lot of my interviews are reflective of that.”

GUCCI jacket, pants, and tie andBEN BRIDGE earrings and rings.

HONEST BEAUTY Creme Cheek + Lip Color in shadesPeony Pink and Rose Pink, Tinted Lip Balm in shade SummerMelon, Lip Crayon in shade Demi Matte Honey, and Gloss-CLip Gloss in shade Rose Opal.

From Dark Angel, Alba went on to achieve A-List admission, appearing in everyone’s favorite indie thrillers, rom-coms, and Marvel mega-movies. Still, Alba was stuck in a paradox of sorts. She was continuously doubted and discredited, yet adored. Beyond that, little girls still looked up to her as their on-screen hero, empowered and possessed to fight back. “I was told early on that everyone thinks that you’re going to get your ass handed to you, and you’re going to fail, and they’re waiting for you to fail,” she remembers. “I was like, ‘Fuck that! I won’t!’ I was really intense, but I went in with a mentality of what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. While I do think that that mentality served me for a really long time, I don’t think it serves me anymore. Frankly, I don’t know if I want that to be in the space that women have to be in to be successful. We shouldn’t have to live in that state of feeling like we’re going into a bloody battle every day. It’s not cool.”

These early depictions of Alba positioned her as both a savior and one to be saved. As well, on-screen, she played both heroes and victims. However, “rescuing” is not a binary. Her years of battling in the industry, and beyond, ended up showing Alba something special, evoking a spirituality of a certain selfless-selfishness. “I think that moral code can flex and change and look different in different phases of your life,” Alba says. “If you look at who’s in charge, it’s pretty clear where they want us to stay. It’s pretty easy to do what they’re doing. But the second any of us stand up and say, ‘I have a moral compass. I live by my moral code,’ there can be change. I think we may rely too much on going outside for that type of validation, or that type of community, and the more we go inside to our inner journey, and get more connected to our true self, as a society I think it will be wonderful because we really can make our own decisions.”

So might we suppose that selfishness is a fundament to feminism? Alba is not so sure, but as a mother of three, she thinks about this a lot. What really is the route to radical change? “I think it’s you doing it for yourself,” she answers. “If anybody believes in anything, the thing that you believe in will always be there for you. That is your truth and no one can take it from you. You don’t even have to talk to people about it. The more you connect to your truth and what that means to you, I think the better we all are. I guess I’m not judgmental about what that looks like and feels like to other people, but I do know that if you feel guilt, if you feel shame, it’s probably not a high vibration. If you feel anger, guilt, and shame, maybe you should look somewhere else. It should feel good, it should feel like a release, it should feel like grace. It should feel like unconditional love.”

What felt like a release for Alba was entering into a new identity. For a while, she let go of her identity as “actor” altogether to focus on her business endeavors. This came after she was outspoken about the effects of Hollywood on her life and that of the women around her. I wondered if this major shift was a conscious effort to rescue herself from the toxicity she previously cited. “I don’t know if it’s rescue or just getting connected,” she emphasizes, when I ask if there was a sort of rescue mechanism at play in the process, “I think it’s so easy to live in a disconnected world…to kind of go sit on a high horse and check a box and say, ‘I’m doing this and I’m doing that and that means I’m a good person. I have a sticker on my car! I check all the boxes!’ That doesn’t make a good person. Are you connected to unconditional love without judgment of others all the time? Sometimes you’re going to be angry, sometimes you’re going to be frustrated, but does it pull you in or can you observe it, experience it, and let it flow through you without nailing you to the ground?”

GIVENCHY dress and skirt and BEN BRIDGE earrings, bracelet, and rings.

HONEST BEAUTY Creme Cheek + Lip Color in shade Coral Peach, Lit PowderBlush in shade Foxy, Tinted Lip Balm in shade Fruit Punch, Lip Crayon in shadeSheer Petal, and Gloss-C Lip Gloss in shade Poppy Topaz.

The Honest Company was a huge connection for Alba. “I think it was connecting me to my purpose. I think I felt like I made inroads as far as my limited ability to set a vision of goals for myself in Hollywood. I felt like I achieved the maximum of what I could have achieved at that moment in my life. I was 26/27 when I stopped to focus on it. I was craving a deeper connection with myself and the world around me. It took me three years to have this idea turn into a start-up company. It took another 10 years for it to turn into a legitimate business that is in the world.”

Today, The Honest Company was founded on an ethos of non-toxic ingredients, which implores a deeper level of inclusion. Despite this, Alba is conscious of the beauty industry’s efforts to turn aging insecurity from “pretty privilege” into consumerism—that images of women in entertainment have almost always been wrinkle-free. To this topic, Alba first makes clear that, “a lot of men love a beauty product, too,” before carefully reflecting on the realities of this situation. “Obviously, we get better as we get older, but we live in a society that brainwashes us through imagery and media and storytelling. Thank God for Sandra Bullock and Julia Roberts and Reese Witherspoon and Halle Berry and Jennifer Lopez and all the incredible women who are still in entertainment and working, but how many times do you have a 50 year old guy with a 20/25 year old woman in stories? If we keep doing that, then that’s how people will be getting set up with ideas on how to look in order to be the one that people are desiring. This goes back to the old age of Hollywood. It’s always been like this. It brainwashes you to think that this is the only way to really own your power as a desirable, sensual, full woman. I think the more we can stand in our power, the more we cannot feel so oppressed and confined to these standards that frankly we never put out there in the first place. We know who’s been in charge. Not us. We’re chipping away slowly but surely. We just can’t get deterred or dejected or angry. We have to get powerful and excited to change it.”

An answer for Alba lies in the ethics of the environment. The Honest Company strives to practice sustainability through eco-friendly packaging techniques and plant-based ingredients. It goes beyond this for Alba, however, as the natural world has become an answer for her in everything. Here lies her evolution, in which mindfulness connects her deeper with herself, connects the natural world to the feminine. “That seems to be a theme,” she remarks. “How healing nature is. It makes me really reflect on what we’re doing to it. If you think of mental illness and you think of how it feels so overwhelmingly prevalent in our society, you can connect with what we’re also doing to the planet and thinking about if there’s a mirror there.”

Alba’s devotion to not only connecting to, but protecting the environment, could be argued a radically feminist practice. “I think (feminism) is acknowledging the oppression of women for such a long time and the systems in place that continue to oppress women,” she says. “If you think of the Earth, and if the Earth is the embodiment of women, it’s the creator. We are creators of life, as is the Earth. I think there are a lot of similarities in how you can connect the two. I think it’s acknowledging that in spirituality, if there’s a degree that is connected to the Earth, and if the Earth is a woman, and if we are destroying the Earth, and we are continuing to oppress women—it all goes together.”

VALENTINO dress, shirt, and shoes and BEN BRIDGE earrings and rings.HONEST BEAUTY Creme Cheek + Lip Color in shade RosePink, Lit Powder Blush in shade Flirty, Liquid Lipstick in shadeForever, and Gloss-C Lip Gloss in shade Pink Agate.

The craving to connect to the natural world came from a lifetime of Alba’s observations. “Prior to this company, a lot of other companies pretty blatantly didn’t care about people’s health and wellness or the planet,” she explains. “I think consumers didn’t know that they could care or even ask for transparency or clean ingredients or something that is non-toxic or vegan. Whatever it is, whatever the values that you care about, I don’t think people even know that this was a choice. I kind of open people up to the idea that you can actually ask for more.”

So, like the two breaths in and one breath out, Alba is exhaling into another evolution of herself. Connecting deeply with the present, she is also molding her future just the way she wants it. “As Founder (of The Honest Company), my job remains focused on bringing our mission to life no matter what, because I live out that mission every day. I hired a team of experienced and collaborative consumer packaged goods leaders who know how to strategically elevate the company. I feel like it’s the moment for Honest to be fully embraced by the team to take it and change it and mold it and grow it. That for me would be the greatest success. I didn’t call it ‘The Jessica Alba company,’ you know? Our mission is so much bigger than just one person.”

Of course, Alba still likes to get her hands dirty in the clean-beauty game. “I have labs in my office,” she explains. “I get to spend time with a chemist and we can dream things up. I always geek out when I can do product development with the team and people actually love the product.” The company has brand new make-up and sensitive skin products on the way, newly launching in ULTA and continuing to make safe beauty accessible to the masses. 

STELLA MCCARTNEY coat, FENDI dress,and BEN BRIDGE rings.

HONEST BEAUTY Creme Cheek + Lip Colorin shade Coral Peach, Lit Powder Blush inshade Foxy, Tinted Lip Balm in shade FruitPunch, Lip Crayon in shade Sheer Petal, andGloss-C Lip Gloss in shade Poppy Topaz.

Beyond beauty, the businesswoman has tapped back into the entertainment industry. Her recent projects with production behind them allowed for more than just on-screen power for Alba. She’s soon to star in an untitled Netflix action movie (formerly known as Trigger Warning) and both star in and executive produce Confession on the 7:45, alongside Encantos Charise Castro Smith. “With my kids, we got COVID and we were locked in the house, and we watched (Encanto) literally 75 times. It made me so happy, and when I met Charise, she was just such a freaking cool person. I felt like I was friends with her right away, like I’ve known her forever.” 

The dynamic Netflix thriller is based upon the novel by Lisa Unger, featuring characters that Alba explains as layered and thrilling. She is also launching Honest Renovations, a lifestyle program co-hosted and co-created alongside longtime friend Lizzy Mathis. Its concept is to create self-care spaces in homes turned upside down by sippy cups and diapers. “Sometimes you’re like, ‘What the hell just happened to my bedroom, to my bathroom, to my living room?’ So I was like, ‘It would be great if we could show parents that there’s another way.’ You don’t have to drown in the chaos or the overwhelming nature of trying to keep somebody alive. You can actually take time for self-care.”

With all of this in mind, as well as the context of a 30-year career in her back pocket, it’s understandable that the most radical act for Jessica Alba is sitting still. “I think everything that you see had to start as a thought, so it feels like those things are behind me, or in the past, even though I’m living in the present of the manifestation of those thoughts. Originally they had to be thoughts, and then we had to get the thoughts built, and then we had to put action behind the thought and fully realize it.” 

I’m not sure why the David Elliott way is two breaths in and one breath out. Or why it’s through the mouth. Or why Alba recommended this technique above all the other ones. But what I do know is this: when you’re breathing, you’re just breathing. Not questioning. Not rescuing. Not pouring beauty products into beakers to create a better future. You just are. Just a person in the present. I think that’s Alba’s favorite identity evolution of all. 

DOLCE & GABBANA jacket, stockings, garter belt, and shoes and BEN BRIDGE earrings and rings.

HONEST BEAUTY Creme Cheek + Lip Color in shades Peony Pink and Rose Pink, Tinted Lip Balm in shade Summer Melon, Lip Crayon in shade Demi Matte Honey, and Gloss-C Lip Gloss in shade Rose Opal. 

Photographed by Jonny Marlow at Early Morning Riot
Styled by Dani + Emma at Forward Artists
Written by Paulette Ely
Hair: Brittney Ryan
Makeup: Maria Vargas using Honest Beauty
Nails: Zola at The Wall Group
Production: Caroline Hughes
First Assistant: Ram Gibson
Second Assistant: Jordan Jennings
Flaunt Film: Nathan Presley
Production Assistant: Shei Marcelline

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