When we started our phone conversation with Jessica Alba last week—she from nearby her Beverly Hills home, Shop Around from our DC office—we felt like we were talking to a girlfriend. She was nice, down-to-earth, disarmingly real, and pretty damn funny, which was refreshing because that’s how we felt about her new book, The Honest Life: Living Naturally and True to You. Unlike most celebrity lifestyle how-to tomes, Alba’s is surprisingly helpful, well-written, resourceful, and realistic. The 31-year-old mom of two offers tips and insight into creating an eco-friendly and healthy lifestyle for herself and her family—and does it in a way that doesn’t make us roll our eyes at the sheer impossibility of it all (ahem, Gwyneth Paltrow). We meant to talk clothes and trends with Alba, since she’ll be in Bethesda on Friday signing copies of her book at the Front Row fashion extravaganza, but she was so fun to talk to about her writing process and her future in acting that we didn’t get a chance. Plus we already know the girl can dress.
Your new book seems really well-researched and thoughtful—how did you become an expert in this sort of eco-friendly lifestyle realm?
Well, I wouldn’t call myself an expert, necessarily. I gathered the information over five years, and then it took about one year to format it and turn it into a book. And it was so difficult to gather [the information], which I did along the way as things affected me throughout my own life and personal experiences.
But you were able to dissect it and filter it into a book that is really easy to read, even for those of us who aren’t familiar with these sorts of toxic versus non-toxic issues.
The information is pretty dense, and unless you’re a scientist, you’re going to be like, “What the heck are you talking about?” But I knew there were things that weren’t good and that I wanted to avoid that touched parts of my life, from beauty to food to materials for my home. So it was such a daunting process to decipher it all, but I felt it was super-necessary. I mean, I wish I had this handbook and guidebook when I was learning and a new mom.
We also like that we could find what we needed quickly—moms often have limited time and patience for a book loaded with data.
It’s meant to be very useful and user-friendly—you can pick up a chapter that you care about and that’s relevant to you. I wanted all the charts to be color-coded, and all the chapters with an icon to identify them; it’s easier for me, so I figure it’s easier for everyone else. The enhanced e-book is even more user-friendly—all the charts pop up as you click on them, and I created little videos for each chapter; the still photos come to life, and that’s kind of fun. I asked the publisher if we could do more than the normal digital version of a book. I wanted a more robust experience.
You’ve been building this lifestyle brand, the Honest Company, for a few years now. Does that mean you’re transitioning away from being an actress?
It’s funny, because it wasn’t a conscious decision, it sort of just happened this way. I’m still so passionate about acting and having that as a creative outlet, and it’s a big part of who I am; I’ll never stop acting. But it’s my time, and where I was in my life, this business was a priority and a passion of mine over going to auditions and trying to get roles. I’m still doing movies; I’m about to start another at the end of this month, a period piece set in the ’60s. [Having my kids] was the best time of my life. I love it—I feel more fearless as an actress after becoming a mother, which is quite liberating. I’m ready to take on heavier roles, where before I was nitpicky and afraid of so many things. I don’t have that filter anymore. I think as you go into a new, different phase, things do change, and that’s influenced who I am and my choices. It happened organically.
So are you plotting to be the Martha Stewart of your generation? Any more books in the works?
I think if I was going to do any more in a series, naturally it would be something I can do easily, that I’m passionate about. A cookbook would be good, and probably not as time consuming. That would be a process where I just say, “I’m going to spend three months, rent a house somewhere, and just bang it out.” Something that would encompass baby to toddler to family, make a more robust book—that’s something I could totally do, about healthier food choices and recipes that aren’t so scary and daunting.
Jessica Alba will be signing copies of The Honest Life in front of Redwood restaurant on Bethesda Lane from 5 to 6:30 on Friday. For more information, visit the Front Row website.