Hollywood is just a job, writes the actor, director, and philanthropist. Helping people is her passion.

By Eva Longoria, as told to Samantha Simon
Jul 16, 2020 @ 9:00 am
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Credit: Andrew Harrer/Getty

Moving to Hollywood with no contacts, no money, and no job was easily one of the most badass things I’ve ever done. I had the bravery to believe in myself and know that I was going to succeed. But I’m not sure if acting was ever my passion; philanthropy has always held that spot. I have an older sister with special needs, and I was born into a world of giving back. It’s been a constant in my life since childhood. When Desperate Housewives became a hit, I realized that I had a louder voice and a bigger platform that I could use to reach more people. I can now create impactful, sustainable change with my philanthropic endeavors.

I’m not an expert on anything, but when it comes to activism, I like to be very literate. I want to be educated on a subject. Making assumptions can lead to mistakes, so I operate based on facts and truth. While filming Desperate Housewives, I went back to school [at California State University, Northridge] to get my master’s degree in Chicano studies. For my thesis, I focused on the lack of Latinas in STEM. I was determined to find out why certain barriers still exist, as well as what Latinas did to succeed in other fields so we can replicate that for the future workforce in STEM. I started the Eva Longoria Foundation in 2012 as a way to help even more families in the Latinx community reach their full potential through education and entrepreneurial programs. Another cause that’s very important to me is farmworkers’ rights. I don’t know why it’s taken a global pandemic to understand that migrant farmworkers — the people who plant and pick and process our food — are essential to our food supply and the most important part of the food chain. They’re doing the backbreaking, painstaking work that many people don’t want to do, and they’re receiving a poverty wage. They deserve so much more than what they’re getting, starting with our gratitude.

We live in a global community, and understanding that makes me a better human being, neighbor, friend, sister, and wife. My role in my family is a constant that grounds me and never changes. Glamour, on the other hand, does. I’m the It girl for a couple of years, and then I go away. I’m back with a new project, and then I go away again. The ebbs and flows of relevancy in Hollywood don’t really penetrate who I am as a person. Hollywood is just what I do for work. Still, I never half-ass anything. So when I decide to put my name on a particular project, I ask myself whether I’m going to be able to give it my all.

Some years my mantra has been “This is the year of yes — I’m saying yes to everything!” I decided that this was going to be the year of no. Instead of going to red-carpet or charity events, I wanted to be with my family, my husband [José Bastón] and my son [2-year-old Santi]. Then, of course, the pandemic happened and gave us all a reason to just stop. This time has made me do an emotional inventory of what I’m thankful for. Before, I used to rush home from work thinking, “I have to bathe Santi. I have to put him to bed.” Now I’ve changed my attitude to “I get to bathe Santi. I get to put him to bed.” My priorities are clear, and I’m so grateful for those moments instead of seeing them as tasks on my to-do list.

Where and how I spend my time is much different now from what it was before Santi was born. The projects I choose to do are focused on bringing storytelling from my community to life. It is a privilege to be one of the few Latina directors getting a shot at making studio films, so my goal is to use these opportunities I’m given to open the door for others. I’m producing a movie with HBO called A Class Apart, about the first Mexican-American lawyer who argued in front of the Supreme Court in 1954. I’m also directing the female-led workplace comedy 24-7, starring Kerry Washington, and a film called Flamin’ Hot, which is about a Mexican janitor [Richard Montañez] who came up with the genius idea to invent Hot Cheetos. Our community should get to see his story told on the big screen and say, “He did it; I can do it.”

I’ve been directing for 10 years, but Flamin’ Hot and 24-7 will be my first two studio films. So there’s still something I have to prove to the industry and to my colleagues. Every time I walk on set as a director, I get butterflies and worry that people will think I don’t know what I’m doing or that I don’t deserve to be there. It’s impostor syndrome. But I think the fact that I still get super-nervous is a good thing. It’s a motivator. If you’re scared of something, that means you should probably do it.

It doesn’t matter where I am; I’m always going to be that little girl from Corpus Christi, Texas. I try to keep my head down and my feet moving, and though there have certainly been obstacles, I never let them dictate where I need to go or how I need to get there. Do women, especially Latina women, get fewer opportunities? Absolutely. But you can’t sit there and play the victim. You’ve just got to work twice as hard. Success silences critics, and success begets success. When you do the job and you’re good at it, the work speaks for itself.

In addition to her work as an actress, a director, a producer, and a philanthropist, Longoria is a spokesperson for L’Oréal Paris and a co-founder of Time’s Up.

For more stories like this, pick up the August issue of InStyle, available on newsstands, on Amazon, and for digital download July 17.