Jessica Alba's Honest Revolution
The actress and mom of two has turned her love of natural living into an empire of nontoxic beauty, home and baby products. Her advice to all? "Know what you're putting into your body."
Marc BaptisteThere's a new Jessica Alba in town. The screen star is still here, of course—this fall she appears in two major films, the comedy A.C.O.D. and the action movie Machete Kills. But the mother of two daughters (Honor, 5, and Haven, 2, with her husband, Cash Warren) is also an entrepreneur, who saw a need for more natural products for new moms and made it happen. A year after launching The Honest Company—which sells everything from nontoxic diapers to body wash—she has written a handbook to clean living, The Honest Life: Living Naturally and True to You, and is in the process of moving the company into new headquarters in Santa Monica. It's a bright, skylit space, where one wall is peppered with positive mantras. Among the painters and movers shuffling through, Jessica, 32, fits right in: She's wearing denim overalls and a black-and-white-striped tank top, her hair up in a topknot. It's a style inspired by "um, hammering things?" she says, laughing. "It doesn't get done unless I do it!"
As she sips a green drink she brought from home, the down-to-earth star chats with Health about how she got her brand off the ground, which healthy change helped her allergies the most and what it took for her to finally wear a short skirt in public.
When you started this company, you were already a movie star. Was it daunting to try something completely new?
There were certainly moments when it was scary. The day we launched, I was like, Is anyone even going to go to our website [honest.com]? Our distribution is mainly the Internet. It took me about three years of people telling me I was crazy and that there's no way it could ever happen before I found the partners who could balance my weaknesses.
What is it with people feeling the need to tell you it will never happen?
Well, because it's so untraditional, in a space that's dominated by big, big players. But at the end of the day, when you're so big, it's hard to be malleable; it's hard to have a soul. We never entered thinking we were taking on the big guys. We just knew that there was an opportunity to do something cool for families. We all have young children here, and all the choices we make are really dictated by what would make our lives better as parents, versus solely relying on market research. Of course people were like, "I've never heard of that." Because it didn't exist; there was no template.
Well, like your mantra downstairs says, "Dive in to the deep end..." What's your mantra of the moment?
Breathe. I swear. It's been so hectic. And I've been doing more work in movies and on television lately.
Is the fulfillment you get through your company different from what you get through acting?
Oh, yeah. My decisions here affect more than just me. It's a lot of pressure. This is intense. This is important. This is time-consuming. When I do a movie or a television show, I have control over so little of it. So I've found, lately, that it's so much more fulfilling to be a lot more risky with my acting choices.
What are you drawn to these days?
My choices used to be about pleasing other people. And you have to be the opposite, I think, to get the most out of your experience as an actress. So now I don't feel the pressure to be that girl. It's also part of getting older and being a mom. So it's a nice balance, because this business can really wear you down, especially being in it as long as I have. This year, I've acted for 20 years. That's so messed up! How did I do anything for 20 years? [Laughs] Now I don't work just to work. To me, doing two or three days on a movie with a cool director is more important than spending my life on a set.
Next Page: "What advice would you give to other women wanting to start their own business?" [ pagebreak ]
Marc Baptiste What advice would you give to other women wanting to start their own business?
Be the best. Be the coolest. And deliver on something that's different from anyone else's. What need isn't being fulfilled? Because if you're not doing anything innovative or cool, someone is going to come in and slam you. You're going to get copycats, but if you're that dope, then no one can really copy you.
You have a history of asthma and allergies. Has your more natural lifestyle helped?
Yeah, I used to have a stuffy nose every morning, and once we got a HEPA filter in our main air-conditioning unit in our house, it went away. Just having clean air: crazy! Even Cash—we would both wake up, like, "Honk," blowing our noses with swollen eyes. And now we don't.
So many of us want to use more natural products, but we are overwhelmed. What is the first change we should make?
Read labels on everything: what you're cleaning your house with, what you're cleaning yourself with and what you're putting in your body. You have the power to not expose your kids or yourself to chemicals that are endocrine disruptors or allergens. You don't need to live that way.
What's your favorite way to cook healthy?
Substituting oil with a broth, like a vegetable or chicken broth, is one of my tricks for chicken or vegetables or a stir-fry.
It's funny; a girlfriend of mine told me, "You were the only person I knew who cared about food and health when we were kids." I was 12 when I started cooking for myself. I never wanted things to taste nasty. Just because it's healthy doesn't mean it has to taste gross.
If you had a chapter in your book titled "Honest Workouts," what would they be?
I like dancing. There's a choreographer I used on a couple of movies, JJ Dancer [aka Jennifer Johnson]; her dance moves are so fun, so it doesn't feel like you're working out. And I like interval training on a treadmill, with sprinting and then uphill walking, then sprint, then uphill walk, then sprint. This morning I did sprint intervals with a high-incline walk. Otherwise I get bored—I can't just do the same thing over and over.
Do you do that a set number of days?
I started by posting on Instagram yesterday. I was like, "Motivated Monday, I'm going to try to do this every day this week." It was so brutal, but if you say you're gonna do it, then you have to do it!
After you had your younger daughter, you credited a corset with helping you regain your shape. Would you use one again?
Of course. Who wouldn't! Your muscles are completely stretched. It gets the muscle memory going quicker. It's just to get your body back. Because everything is everywhere!
People always seem to be trying to lose weight in Hollywood. Has your attitude on diets shifted?
To me, it's knowing that if you eat unprocessed fresh food—it doesn't all have to be organic, but try to have the least amount of GMOs [genetically modified organisms] and pesticides—you have energy, aren't starving and don't have to count calories. When I'm "dieting," I'm not eating as many snacks—because I love snacks. [Laughs] Popchips, Pirate's Booty—or I could eat a pound of fruit. So I cut down on snacking when I'm trying to be healthy.
Next Page: "By the way, what's in your green drink?" [ pagebreak ]
Getty Images By the way, what's in your green drink?
What isn't in my green drink? [Laughs] I normally do one with kale, spinach, green apple, blueberries, ginger, cucumber and celery. So this has all of that but also tomato and turmeric and pear. I blend with the skin and everything. There's only so many times that you can wake up, get right into the grind and all of a sudden it's dinner, a glass of wine...and then two. Then you go to bed, wake up tired and it starts all over again. I just felt like I was in a rut. So now I'm waking up, working out right away and doing juice.
These days, do you feel differently about your body?
I was a lot more critical of my body when it was probably pretty awesome. It's like, why did I not ever wear jean shorts? That's so crazy. I was so skinny! I didn't have any cellulite...what was I thinking?! I was more willing to wear short skirts after I had my kids. I never wore them before. Ever. I was so self-conscious. But I remember I was 28 or 29, at an MTV award thing, and my girlfriend Kelly was like, "You should wear a short skirt, because you are not going to be this age forever." Now I'm a lot more confident in my skin—because who cares? At the end of the day, it's so much time spent on something that really doesn't matter that much.
What is your favorite way to decompress?
A bath after the kids go to sleep. I put in a bag of Epsom salts or Honest Bubble Bath, and sometimes I'll watch TV or sometimes I'm on my iPad on Pinterest. There is no way that taking a bath is fun when the kids are awake, because they want to get in, too, and they're for sure peeing in it!
Who can always make you laugh?
Haven. She is hilarious. Every time we leave the house, she says, "See ya, be ya!" Like "See ya, wouldn't want to be ya," but instead it's "See ya, be ya!" [Laughs] Like...who says that?