Jessica Alba is one of Hollywood’s most likeable ladies.
In an industry where being young and gorgeous often goes hand-in-hand with superficiality and irresponsibility—Alba has opted for a cleaner and classier reality. The 31-year-old actress has made her mark as one of the entertainment industry’s hottest stars with her rise to fame in the TV drama, Dark Angel, as well as major motion pictures like the Fantastic Four series and Sin City. More recently though, Alba has been stepping out of the sexy spotlight and into the family-friendly sphere with projects like Spy Kids 4, Little Fockers and the forthcoming animated comedy Escape from Planet Earth.
As a working mother with a baby and a preschooler, Alba maintains her Hollywood appeal, but with decidedly less glitter and glam than most of her A-list cohorts. Instead, she spends her nights and weekends with Honor, Haven and her husband of four years, movie producer Cash Warren. And in her latest undertaking as Founder of The Honest Company—an eco-friendly diaper, skin, bath and household cleaning products provider—Alba seems to have found her next perfect role.
“The inspiration [for The Honest Company] came out of being a mom and really just wanting this company to exist!” Alba says.
When she was first pregnant with daughter Honor, who will be four next month, Alba read environmental health expert Christopher Gavigan’s acclaimed Healthy Child Healthy World. The book opened her eyes to the hazardous chemicals found in not only household cleaning supplies, food, fragrances and make-up—but also baby care products.
Like any good mother, Alba took matters into her own hands by reading consumer reports and scouring the market for the best stuff available. But, like most parents, she found the process to be overwhelming and often confusing.
“It has to be easier for parents,” Alba insists. “[It’s] so unfair that most of my family and friends can’t go out and afford this stuff, and they want to have healthy children and a healthy life.”
So Alba made it her mission to team up with Gavigan and together they honed in on assembling a new eco-minded diaper and baby products sales model. Based on a personalized monthly subscription delivery service, The Honest Company took about three and a half years to bring to fruition, and it’s been a true labor of love for Alba, Gavigan and the Honest team, which includes business partners Brian Lee (Founder of ShoeDazzle.com) and Sean Kane (an executive from PriceGrabber.com).
And while she had some concerns about knowing whether or not other parents wanted the same things that she wanted, the public’s initial response to Alba’s flexible-meets-accessible company has been overwhelmingly positive. Consumers have even been asking for the option to buy items piece by piece, as opposed to following the company’s customizable subscriptions.
“They’re asking us to make more stuff,” Alba says. “[For example], there are no good eco bathroom cleaners [on the market].”
Without the sticky supply-and-demand pressures of a traditional business model, Alba and her team are free to innovate as they see fit, adding new products to the line, tweaking their offerings and discovering what works. One of the most exciting innovations presented from the start was a high design factor. While most eco-conscious brands rely on color-free logos and a “less is more” approach, The Honest Company infuses its packaging with turquoise blues and floral imagery. The ripple effect is a modern yet distinctly family-focused feel—a combination we expect to see in Alba’s forthcoming book set to release next year (tentatively titled The Honest Life).
With its core team of about ten people, and some additional customer service staff, The Honest Company houses a friendly kids corner in its L.A. offices. On days when she’s not filming, Alba spends at least eight hours there as Honor attends preschool just three blocks away. As for baby Haven, who was born in August, “it’s really just about her nap schedule,” says Alba. “We have a little room set up for her at the office so she can go sleep and she has her highchair connected to my desk. The only time it gets distracting is when she’s crying but she’s a really good baby. She’s mostly just giggling and being cute.”
At one point, Alba politely interrupts her own train of thought, having found her littlest one turned around in her crib. “Oh my gosh, my baby is upside-down,” she laughs. “What are you doing? What are you doing you little faker?” Her voice goes up an octave with a hearty, audible smile.
It’s moments like these that make the down-to-earth mom her happiest. When asked about her daughters, Alba’s voice softens and she seems to take extra care with her words.
“They’re both really happy,” she gushes. “Honor’s imagination is always going crazy. She says really funny things all the time. Literally from the moment she wakes up until the moment she goes to bed, her mouth doesn’t stop running!”
Even as a silly big sister, cracking jokes and playing dress-up, Honor was actually a “very serious” baby. “She would check people out…look them up and down,” Alba says. Now, graduating from the toddler stage, she’s getting into things, finding interests and learning about the world.
“She always tries to go into my make-up and I say ‘No, it’s toxic. You can’t have it.’ And now she goes around and is like, ‘Daddy, is this non-toxic?’”
Alba met Honor’s daddy while on set filming Fantastic Four in 2004.
“He’s super hands-on. He and Honor hang tough on the weekends and watch golf… And he’ll let her paint his nails!” she laughs. “He’ll walk around with half-painted blue-and-red nails—such a good look. He makes her so happy.”
When Haven starts crying in the other room, Alba goes to pick her up and the baby transforms from howling to laughing instantaneously. “You’re so silly. You need to go to sleep. You haven’t had your morning nap, kiddo,” Alba coos.
This leads to the topic of parenting practices, philosophies and advice, which, for Alba, was difficult to resolve because she’s a perfectionist in an area of life where perfection simply doesn’t exist. But Alba had to remember her own mother’s words of wisdom.
“My mom gave me the best [advice] which was that all you can do is your best. At the end of the day, if you love your kid unconditionally, that’s really all that matters,” she says. “And you’re gonna make mistakes along the way—nobody is perfect. Especially with a first baby you want to do everything just so—or I did, at least—and I wanted to be in control.”
Looking back at her own childhood, Alba remembers her young parents being “fun” and “totally involved.” Rather than have separate kid and adult activities, Alba and her younger brother were always part of what was going on in Mom and Dad’s lives.
“They traveled with us, they included us in everything,” she remembers. “And I feel like a lot of people think that until a kid gets to a certain age…they are in two different worlds.”
For her part, Alba has been recreating that same dynamic with her own daughters, bringing them to restaurants and on trips whenever possible, to make them a part of her life while also exposing them to new experiences. She has even brought both of her girls to the Big Apple for New York City fun.
“We hit every park from the Lower East Side up through Chinatown to Tribeca,” Alba says. “We walk everywhere.” Some of their favorite places to visit, often with friends who live in Manhattan, include restaurants like Bubby’s and Balthazar, and the popular family hangout Citibabes for when it’s raining.
Honor’s last birthday was spent at NYC’s famed FAO Schwarz. To say that she was thrilled would be an understatement. The little one had never been to a toy store of that magnitude. “Between the lollipops and the toys and the dress-up, she loved it,” says Alba.
Next month’s birthday celebration for the growing girl remains to be seen, but it will undoubtedly be hands-on.
“I think it’s always fun for kids to do some sort of activity and go home with something that they made,” Alba insists. “One year we got little wooden cars for boys and wooden fairy wands for girls and the kids all painted [them].”
And even if the day is spent just relaxing at home, the Alba-Warrens will have plenty to do with a gorgeous nature preservation right next door to their Pacific Coast hideaway.
“We go to the park all the time and we spend a lot of time playing outside—we do art projects,” Alba says. “I put black tile outside so [that Honor] could write with chalk. Because we don’t really have sidewalks!”
With Mother’s Day on the horizon, Alba actually hasn’t thought much about downtime or taking a day all to herself. When asked about her plans, she hesitates slightly.
“Maybe a massage, while the [kids are] napping?” she says like it’s more of a question than a plan. Whether or not pampering is on the calendar, she mostly wants to be at home with her family. “Just hanging out with them!” she laughs.
Of course, that’s just the kind of honest answer that’s endeared the hearts of entertainment executives and moviegoers alike. And it’s undoubtedly what’s getting parents across the country on board with this down-to-earth mama’s next adventure.
To read the complete interview with Jessica, visit newyorkfamily.com.
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