Jessica Alba on Putting Her Acting Career Second
“I had to learn how to be a boss... I knew I had that in me.”
I was 26 when I landed my first InStyle cover, in June 2007. It made me feel like I had finally arrived. I was a big fan of the magazine because it made high fashion feel accessible. By that time I’d been in the [entertainment] business for over a decade, but I was still trying to figure out how to be in the public eye and have ownership over who I was. Ninety percent of what people understood about me then came purely from magazine articles, press-tour interviews, and blurbs of gossip.
Fast-forward six years to my next InStyle cover. I had gotten married [to Cash Warren, a film producer and co-founder of Pair of Thieves] and given birth to my two daughters, Honor and Haven. For the first time in my life I was really embracing my womanhood. I was in my early 30s, and it had taken up until then for me to feel confident in my body. I also stopped allowing myself to be objectified in the press through a male’s perspective. Screw that, man. It’s OK to be sexy. It’s OK to wear a short skirt or a loud print if I feel like it because I own it in my own way. I can flaunt what I want, cover what I want, and still feel good. My son, Hayes, was just 7 months old when I shot my most recent InStyle cover, last July , and if I had been younger, I probably would have been obsessed with dieting and exercising, but instead I thought, “This is where I’m at. This is my life. And this is my body.”
VIDEO: Jessica Alba looks Back at Her InStyle Covers
Having kids also propelled me to start my business, The Honest Company, in 2012. It was very ambitious for an actress who didn’t go to college, but I knew I was good at collaborating, brainstorming, and problem-solving. With Honest, I had to learn how to be a boss. And here’s the thing about good bosses: They enjoy managing all types of personalities and helping people develop professionally. I knew I had that in me.
People in Hollywood soon realized they couldn’t put me in a box. I was an actress first, but that didn’t mean I was incapable of other things. Like I said in my InStyle interview in 2007, the second somebody says no to me, I jump up and say yes. That ambition is paying off. This summer I launched The Honest Company’s beauty line in Europe. It was my company’s first big thing to go global. It’s been really exciting.
I’ve actually met a surprising number of people over the years who know me only from Honest. Even my kids didn’t know I was in the entertainment industry because I took a step back from it once they could walk, talk, and be in the world. It wasn’t until recently that they were like, “Wait, why are you on a magazine cover? That’s awkward, Mom.” And I’m like, “Oh, yeah, I do this other thing sometimes.” [laughs]
I’m back into acting now after doing a show called L.A.'s Finest with Gabrielle Union. We are two self-aware women of color playing police officers who are kicking ass and cracking jokes. It just got renewed for a second season.
Looking back, when I shot my first InStyle cover, I was insecure. I felt like I needed to be someone I wasn’t in order to be accepted. I allowed other people’s ideas of who they thought I should be to define me. Who am I now? I give zero fucks. I have three children. They’ve exploded my body, and I’m cool with it. [laughs] And I know I’m smart. I don’t care what everybody else thinks. I’m good, girl. I’m good.
How I’d describe myself in three words:
In 2007 — Prickly, Insecure, Dorky
Today — Still a Dork, Smart, Independent
Photographed by Paul McLean on June 3 in Beverly Hills. Styling: Jamie Mizrahi for The Wall Group. Hair: Davy Newkirk for The Wall Group. Makeup: Aurora Bergere. Manicure: Kim Truong for Startouch Agency.