It’d be easy to hate Eva Mendes. After all, she’s had a baby girl, Esmeralda, with People magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive, Ryan Gosling, and at 41, she radiates the kind of effortless beauty that has just attracted a high-profile contract from make-up giant Estée Lauder. She’s also an accomplished businesswoman with a new fashion and beauty line under her 25-inch belt. Not giving up the day job, she’s just starred in her partner’s directorial debut, Lost River. But despite all her successes, she remains one of the most humble and down-to-earth actresses in Hollywood, so who better to grace the cover of our honesty issue? As global brand president for Estée Lauder, Jane Hertzmark Hudis, remarked, “Eva is aspirational and real at the same time. She’s beautiful but approachable. That’s what makes her different and so inspirational to us.”
Keeping it real
Eva has a refreshingly normal home life – despite being one half of a super-star couple – though she did land herself in hot water earlier this year when a tongue-in-cheek comment was taken out of context. During an interview with entertainment channel E!, the actress joked that “Sweatpants are the number-one cause of divorce.” The remark caused an outcry with detractors accusing the actress of being insensitive and of making women feel insecure. However, her true intention was later revealed when she posted a picture of her favourite well-worn sweatpants on Instagram, with the following caption: “Dear favourite pair of sweatpants. I was just kidding when I said you’re the #1 cause of divorce. Everyone knows that orange Crocs are the #1 cause of divorce. Either way it was a bad joke and I feel terrible if you or anyone thought I was serious. Thanks for understanding sweatpants. Sorry, orange Crocs.” The apology seemed to sum up everything we love about Eva: she’s got a wicked sense of humour and underneath all that Hollywood noise she’s just like the rest of us – and is no stranger to lounging around the house in jogging bottoms.
She credits her family for keeping her grounded and not letting her take herself too seriously. “[My family] are my best critics. They’re very honest but they’re loving, and for such a working-class family, they really took to the fame thing very well. They get that it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.” For those who might resent Eva for snapping her famous curves back into pre-baby shape after giving birth, she is truthful, admitting that she has plenty of help when it comes to getting ready for her close-up. “You’re helped in those situations, I want women at home to know, you’re lit, you’re angled, so yes, it was a few months after the baby, but with a lot of help,” she explained of her first post-baby shoot.
The secret to her amazing figure? A combo of running and interval sprints with some weights. “Nothing too heavy, because my muscle bulks up pretty easily. I mix it up with yoga, or sometimes I’ll hike with my trainer.” She cut out meat six years ago, and hasn’t looked back. “This is just what worked for me, but when I cut that out I immediately felt better. And also, after a year of eliminating it, my skin looked brighter and healthier overall.”
Though she seemed to have nailed the motherhood thing in super-fast time, effortlessly juggling nappy changes with a busy career, Eva has no intention of lording it over other mums, and doling out advice. “I don’t feel like I’ve really earned the right,” she says. “I want to respect all the mums out there. They’re going to be like, ‘You know what? You’re a few months in. Just shut up.’”
In fact, she’s keenly aware that she has a lot to learn from other mothers, admitting she visits parenting websites and reads what other parents have to say, “[I] read the comment section from other mothers because I find so much solace in that. Just knowing that I’m not alone out there and that other mums have gone through the same thing can at least get me through the night.”
But when it comes to some aspects of parenting, she is relishing every moment. “I’m actually enjoying the sleepless nights because it’s bonding with my little girl,” she says. Adding, “I thought my wild nights were over, but these are some of the wildest nights I’ve ever had!”
Motherhood has also given her a new-found appreciation of her own mother, “Now I understand, my mother’s never had more ‘I love you so much, Mummy’ texts, I mean randomly… Ya, I get it now.”
A testament to Eva’s relatability is the fact that her new make-up line Circa is being sold at Walgreens, a high street pharmacy chain in the States, bringing her seemingly unattainable beauty to the masses. “Growing up, I was from a very lower-middle class family, and I really got all my make-up and products from drugstores,” Eva explains. “This is an amazing opportunity for me to bring quality products to people at drugstore prices.”
She has also drawn on her own experiences as a time-starved new mother when making the range. “Concealer is everything to me right now,” she admits. She’s learned a lot about beauty, both from sitting in the make-up chair on movie sets and from her modelling experience (she’s posed for everyone from Calvin Klein to Revlon), yet her own beauty regime is enviably simple: tinted moisturiser, bright pink cheek stain and concealer. (“Because no matter what, I have dark circles. I made peace with that a long time ago.”) She also swears by coconut oil: “I use it on more than my hair. It’s my moisturiser for my hands, body, even my face.”
Her fashion line, too, is equally as attainable. Alhough she is a Frow favourite at every show from Dior to Saint Laurent, when it came to launching her own collection for New York & Company, it was all about affordable dresses at mall stores.
Acting-wise, after finding fame in Training Day and Hitch, she’s flitted between commercial hits like The Other Guys and the Fast & Furious franchise and indie passion projects like The Place Beyond the Pines (on the set of which she met Gosling). She’s at a point now where she chooses her roles on merit, not on their box office potential. “A couple of years ago I made a decision to only do things I was really in love with, whereas before I just did things that seemed right for my career – a big part, a good move.... I’m at a nice place where people know me and I don’t have to make financially motivated decisions anymore. It’s empowering to be able to choose.”
She’s not arrogant enough to think she knows it all, and admits she takes acting lessons to continue her learning curve. “I’ve been taking acting classes for 12 years and Larry Moss [acting coach to Hilary Swank]... has a great point. He says if you’re a good painter or a cellist, you don’t stop practising. I feel like with my acting, it’s only the tip of the iceberg.”
With the interest in her private life reaching fever pitch since she became a mother, she’s cautious about her daughter growing up in the spotlight. She kept her pregnancy a secret until she was seven months along, and every aspect of her family life is shrouded in secrecy.
“Ryan and I decided early on to give [Esmeralda] as much privacy as we could. And my pregnancy was the first opportunity to give her that,” she explains. Adding, “It’s such an intimate time for the mother, too. I know that it seems very innocuous when you’re flipping through a tabloid at the doctor’s office or see a photo of a pregnant lady online, but I find the media’s ‘bump watch’ obsession to be both intrusive and stressful. So I made a decision to eject myself from it completely. I was like, ‘Annnnd I’m out.’“ But she is pragmatic about the realities of her superstar status, “Whether we like it or not, privacy is going to be very difficult for Esmeralda. It’s unfair, but that’s our reality.”
She adds, “Paparazzi, hands down, is the most overwhelming thing. It’s not only bizarre to have someone watching you from the bushes, but rude and foreign and scary. Sometimes I don’t even know what’s happening until my mum alerts me. She has me on Google Alerts.”
Her mother has also been on hand to help with babysitting duties, “Esmeralda has two amazing grandmothers and incredible aunties who come over and really help me.” Something tells us that with such a grounded family around her, Esmeralda will grow up being just as down-to-earth as her famous mum.
From indie projects like The Place Beyond the Pines to big blockbuster hits like 2 Fast 2 Furious, Eva’s movie career has got to a point where she can choose parts for love rather than money.
Red carpet style
No stranger to a spot of Prada or Dolce & Gabbana on the red carpet, Eva says she also loves thrift store buys – her first red carpet dress cost $6 (Dh22) from a charity shop.
Counting Liv Tyler, Jessica Alba and Jada Pinkett Smith among her pals, Eva has come from a humble background to a lifestyle that’s A-list all the way.
Having kept her pregnancy with fellow actor Ryan Gosling under wraps until she was seven months along, Eva is eager to give their daughter Esmeralda as normal an upbringing as possible, surrounding her with down-to-earth family members like Eva’s mum and aunt.