ELLE Digital Cover Star: Jessica Alba On Coming Full Circle

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Jessica Alba has always embodied strength. In her films, she portrays characters who are formidable, emotionally resilient, and unwavering in their pursuits. It’s as if the roles she’s essayed in her over three-decade career on screen could actually serve as a manual for navigating the complex world of Hollywood as a woman. Being passive and compliant isn’t her style. Within minutes of conversing with Alba, it becomes evident that she operates from a place of authenticity. She is sharp yet not abrasive in her responses, effectively articulating why she has always maintained a sense of toughness about herself.

On Jessica Alba: Pearl tassel gown and high jewellery earrings, both by Manish Malhotra

“I never let my guard down [as an actor]. I was always pretty tough, pretty in-your-face about it. I probably channelled more of that tough, masculine energy. When I look back at why I was probably so tough for so much of my life, it was probably just to safeguard myself from a lot of people,” says Alba. She started her career as an actor at the age of 13 with Camp Nowhere (1994), followed by The Secret World of Alex Mack (1994), and rose to prominence at the age of 19 as the lead actress in the television series Dark Angel (2000–2002), for which she received a Golden Globe nomination.

On Jessica Alba: Hand embroidered midnight sequin corset and midnight charm sequined skirt both by Rahul Mishra. Victorian gold ear studs with polki and victorian gold necklace with polki, both by Amrapali Jewels.

Navigating Fame 

Even though Alba found success at a young age, her time in the industry wasn’t traumatic. “I could have been a potential target for a predator, but luckily, I wasn’t. There were a few times when things felt uncomfortable, but they never escalated too much, thankfully. I’m truly grateful to God for this because many others haven’t been as fortunate, especially starting out young as I did. Having my mom with me all the time really made a difference,” she recalls.

On Jessica Alba: High neck incut fitted gown with gold sequins base and gold nakshi lines and high jewellery earrings both by Manish Malhotra.

Born in 1981 in Pomona, California, Alba describes her family as ‘very conservative, traditional, Catholic, Latin American.’ She identified as liberal and feminist from a young age. Various physical health challenges marked her early life – including numerous surgeries and multiple bouts of hospital stays due to her chronic asthma and allergies.

On Jessica Alba: Red swarovski gown with sequins and high jewellery earrings, both by Manish Malhotra.

Despite the competitive nature of the acting industry and her health challenges, Alba emphasises that she never felt competitive with other women or girls. She was very confident, even at a young age and felt secure in the fact that if she were chosen, it was because she stood out, not because she fit a certain mould. Alba’s energy and interests also diverged from traditional feminine stereotypes; she was more into sports and led an active lifestyle. This sense of individuality and self-assurance allowed her to approach her career without feeling the need to compete with others based on appearance or conventional standards.

The Female Gaze 

Even though she appeared in movies like Sin City and Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, among others, in her extensive filmography, which primarily catered to the male gaze, Alba reveals she focused heavily on appealing to women rather than men. “Capturing that audience was crucial to me. While I did consider the male fanbase, it was essential for me to connect with women because, ultimately, I’m someone who values female solidarity. That’s why I participated in beauty campaigns, including global ones,” she admits.

On Jessica Alba: Sheer black asymmetrical fishnet dress with branch corals embroidered in beads and crystals by Jean Louis Sabaji. Vintage murano glass flower earrings by Viange Vintage.

The appeal of this demographic, combined with the struggle of Alba to find reasonably priced, safe and eco-friendly baby products when she gave birth to her firstborn daughter, Honor Marie, in 2008 (Alba broke out in a rash from her first baby’s detergent while washing onesies), inspired her to create The Honest Company, which was launched in 2012. The brand specialises in clean- and sustainably-designed products, offering a wide range, including stylish diapers for babies, wipes, and personal care. “I wanted my needs met as a person. I wanted a quality product that was reasonably priced,” she says.

On Jessica Alba: Azure burst cut-out column gown by Shvan And Narresh. Gold earrings with peridot and blue topaz gemstones by Amrapali Jewels.

Alba’s mom found out she had ovarian cancer at age 22 years old resulting in a full hysterectomy. This made Alba start looking into things like hormones, things in the environment, and harmful products used on the body. She wanted to make healthier choices that didn’t have toxins. This way of living became important to Alba.

The Unbeaten Path

In 2021, Alba became the youngest Latina to take a company public, a feat that requires all of her attention. “Raising funds to hire people, having to switch out employees as the company grows and requires different skills. I mean, all of this is very, very tough. I never imagined myself in a corporate environment. That was a really strange emotional change for me,” she explains.

On Jessica Alba: Hand embroidered midnight sequin corset and midnight charm sequined skirt both by Rahul Mishra. Victorian gold ear studs with polki and victorian gold necklace with polki, both by Amrapali Jewels.

Putting acting aside for about ten years and concentrating on growing this business was something else Alba had to contend with. “I was exploring other businesses too. But none were really pursuing what I wanted to do. So, doing something entirely new is also very challenging because people might think you’re crazy. People often think it’s impossible unless they’ve seen it done before. And for many, it just seemed too daunting,” she says. The Honest Company doesn’t only sell baby products now. It also operates in categories like skincare, household care and wellness.

While she manages her professional life, Alba takes care to look after herself by living healthily and having good sleep routines. If you take a quick look at her Instagram, it’s clear that she embraces a mindful way of living, feeling content in her own skin and taking each day as it comes. “The modern standards of beauty are often unrealistic, influenced by years of conditioning that success is only achievable if you look flawless or attractive. I feel now it’s cool to embrace natural imperfections, like a shiny nose or dark circles under the eyes,” she says.

On Jessica Alba: High neck incut fitted gown with gold sequins base and gold nakshi lines and high jewellery earrings both by Manish Malhotra.

In a bold stride towards inclusivity and empowerment, Alba has embarked on a new chapter by establishing her own production company. With a steadfast commitment to amplifying diverse and female-centric narratives, her next film, Trigger Warning, is set to captivate audiences when it premieres this summer on Netflix, furthering her multifaceted career as both producer and actor. Not one to rest on her laurels, Alba’s creative journey continues with the completion of filming for the second season of Honest Renovations, a testament to her passion for storytelling in the realm of home renovation. Alongside co-host Lizzy Mathis, she lends her expertise and
vision to this captivating series, set to inspire and entertain viewers on The Roku Channel.

ELLE India Editor: Ainee Nizami Ahmedi, Photographer: Veronica Sams, Fashion Editor: Zoha Castelino, Words: Barry Nathaniel Rodgers, Hair: Brittney Conkle, Makeup: Maria Vargas, Nails: Queenie Nguyen, Bookings Editor: Alizaa Fatmaa, Assisted by: komal Shetty, Nirali Patel, Jessie Somekh (styling); Reece, Cole Micek (photography), Production: Veronica Sams Studio, Artist’s Reputation Management: Full Coverage Communications

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