Jordana Brewster Talks Mental Health During Quarantine and How She Explained the Pandemic to Her Kids
She may star in the Fast & Furious movies, but in real life, the actress says this past spring has taught her valuable lessons about taking it easy.
As with so many of us, this past spring threw life off course for Jordana Brewster. Her latest movie—the ninth installment of the super successful Fast & Furious franchise—was due to come out in late May. But as COVID-19 became more and more of a threat, the premiere was pushed back a full year. So rather than traveling the globe to promote a blockbuster, she found herself at home with her 4- and 6-year-old sons, trying to navigate the boys’ schooling.
Jordana also turned 40 on April 26. She had intended to have a massive celebration. Instead, she had a quiet night in, which, she says, wound up being wonderful. Of course, these things are just small blips in comparison to the devastation that so many people have faced—something Jordana is quick to acknowledge.
As she chatted with us, it was important to her to be clear about her gratitude that her family is healthy, and to show compassion and concern for people who have had to face unbearable hardships. And while she says that this entire situation has been anxiety-inducing, it has also taught her some valuable lessons. Here, Jordana opens up about realizing she needs to slow down in her life, how she has talked to her young sons about the serious nature of what is happening in the world, and how she’s taking care of her mental health.
How have you handled the entire experience of COVID-19 and social distancing?
I’m definitely not relaxed about it. Though, in some ways, it’s been good because it’s pushed me toward getting back into mental health. I’m doing therapy and acting and writing classes through Zoom. It’s also been very difficult to create a structure, when really there is no structure.
It’s great you’re taking care of your mental health during all this. How about your physical health?
I’m very lucky in that I’ve been doing FaceTime workouts with my trainer, Harley [Pasternak]. I also go on hikes, which is really nice. I need to get steps in. I need to be outside and breathing fresh air. I’m so lucky that I live in L.A., where I can do that, because otherwise I would go absolutely stir-crazy.
How did you explain what’s going on in the world to your kids?
It’s really sad because it became such a part of our lexicon and our every day. It was just on the news, and we were talking about it—we’re pretty open. My youngest plays doctor, and so he’s dealing with it by imaginative play. He’s like, “Mommy, you have coronavirus.” And then he gives me a shot. It’s heartbreaking. But I feel honesty is the best policy because even when we go out and they have to wear masks, how do you explain that? In some ways, I think my anxiety level has gone down because it’s like, “OK, there’s a real problem, and everything else pales in comparison.”
Have you found any silver linings?
It’s massively simplified everything. I’m a little bit like a hamster on a wheel. And I feel like I often give myself a to-do list because I want to feel like I’m accomplishing something. But it’s not really accomplishing anything. Now I’m actually spending time with my kids, reading, and going on hikes. And I’m noticing, “Oh, my drawers need cleaning.” It’s making me far more practical, and that’s really grounding. I really hope that I don’t get back into the rat race, that I continue to slow down a bit and continue to simplify. I think that’s the biggest gift.
The ninth Fast & Furious film was due to come out this past spring, but it was pushed back a full year because of COVID-19. From your perspective, what makes those movies so special?
It’s like this was lightning in a bottle. When I first heard the title, Fast & Furious, I was like, “Guys, I don’t know if this movie is going to work.” And then it was this massive success, and it resonated with so many people. What’s great about this franchise is none of us takes that for granted. Vin [Diesel] works his ass off to make sure that the movies continue to have integrity and that the themes resonate. And Justin [Lin, the director] also works his butt off. We want to put something great out into the world, and we all work really hard. We go to each other’s birthdays, and I text Vin for advice—we’re all very close.
You recently turned 40. Did you have any feelings around that?
I really do see it as I’m so grateful to be here. I’m so grateful. I have two boys, and I’m still working. Thank God most of the women I look up to—like Sandra Bullock, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Cate Blanchett—are over 40 and are still working and thriving. So I feel like the only way to go is up from here.
Let’s go back a bit—what was your childhood like?
So my mom’s Brazilian, and my dad was an investment banker. He could jump around a lot, and I guess he liked to do that. So we moved around a lot before I was 10. And then we settled down, which was good because then high school was just in New York. [All that moving] gave me fish-out-of-water syndrome. You always feel like you don’t really belong anywhere. Like, in New York, I felt very Brazilian. In Brazil, I felt like a gringa. So there’s always that sense that I didn’t fit in anywhere. Which may have contributed to me wanting to act—sort of immersing myself in roles and pushing myself in that way.
Was your mom a big influence when it came to beauty?
My mom was a model and was on the cover of Sports Illustrated—she is super old-school about beauty. I remember as a kid, if a party started at 6 p.m., we’d start prepping at 3 p.m., and we would put masks on and wash our hair and put rollers in. And it was fun. But now it seems so silly to me. Now, I’m like, “Oh, I’m going to go to Drybar and get this done as fast as I can.” And I drive while I have eye masks on. It’s just so different. But there was a way in which she really relished it, and it was more of a ritual, which is really nice.
In what ways are you like your mom?
I think her work ethic—I get up at, like, 5:15 a.m. every morning to run. I like treadmills—it hurts my knees too much to run outside. [My mom] is still a member at [a gym]. She’s in her mid-60s, and she works out. So I really got that from her, and I still defer to her. When I went to get Botox for the first time, I took her because I was so scared. I was like, “Mommy, come watch.” I’m like, “Let’s make sure I don’t look crazy.” I trust her more than anyone else because she’s not scared to tell me the truth.
Have you always had a healthy relationship with your body and food?
No. Uh-uh. When I was coming up in this business, it was all about, “Oh, let’s get on the cover of Maxim, and let’s put on a bikini or lingerie.” And now it’s no longer about that, which is really refreshing. Even with a movie like Fast & Furious, it’s awesome that we’re all wearing pants. Of course, there were the booty-dancing scenes around the car, but those are gone. Now it’s about strength and loyalty to one another. I almost wish I was born 20 years later so I could really thrive in what’s happening right now in the industry.
So did you struggle with body image when you were younger?
I struggled for a bit because I went through so many different phases. When I gain weight, it’s not in one place. My sister gains a butt and boobs—and I turn into SpongeBob SquarePants. I just get bigger and more square. So when I was in my teens, I started having shakes and bars all the time. I am a control freak, so I went through phases where I was obsessed with the number on the scale and I didn’t want to deviate. I was never anorexic, but I was definitely too controlled to be healthy. Now, I just try to think about modeling good behavior for my kids, who love treats. And, paying attention to if I am full or just eating mindlessly.
At this point in your life, what does wellness mean to you?
It is all about balance and feeling comfortable in your skin. I think that sometimes you have to be shaken out of complacency to get back to wellness. Like, for example, I love sugar so much—I am a sugar junkie. Recently, Harley said to me, “You need to figure this out.” I appreciated his bluntness because he was right. I would have Swedish Fish with my kids—and M&M’s and Tootsie Rolls are my weakness. And I was often replacing lunch with frozen yogurt instead of actual food. Not great. I hate smoothies, and I hate juices. I like chewing. So I steam tons of vegetables and add avocado. And then I have soup with chicken or salmon for at least one of my meals. And then I’m getting all my vegetables in one meal, and I don’t really have to worry about it after that. So it’s about checking in and making sure you’re living as balanced a life as possible.
Addendum: After this interview took place, news broke that Jordana and her husband of 13 years had separated.
This article originally appeared in the July/August 2020 issue of Health Magazine. Click here to subscribe today!
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