The name Jessica Alba means different things to different people. To action fans, it conjures up scenes of sexy superheroes. To eco-conscious women across the country, it means safety and reliability—the hallmarks of products from her brand, the Honest Company, which will be launching skin care and makeup this month. (The Honest Company has recently received complaints online that its sunscreens aren’t effective. See the company’s response here.) It’s hard to think of another actress who makes blockbuster movies and organic nipple balm, but Alba never did like being pigeonholed. “I’ve always been on my own path,” says the star. Here, Alba poses for photographer Carter Smith.
Still an actress—she recently appeared in the Entourage movie—Alba seems to truly come alive when discussing the finer points of selling primers and eyeliners. “We have 5,000 to 7,000 touchpoints with our customers every day, and they’ve been telling us from day one that they want us to make beauty products,” says Alba, whose Honest Company office is located in Santa Monica. Touchpoints, heat maps, benchmarks: Alba drops MBA-worthy terms into casual conversation the way other actresses drop designer names. Running Honest seems to be Alba’s calling. Does she still feel strongly about acting? “I did,” she says, notably using the past tense.
Alba—shown here in the cover shot—is aware of the fact that the media likes to compare her to Gwyneth Paltrow. And frankly, she’s tired of it. “What I think is unfair is to lump actresses together,” Alba says, irritated. “People aren’t lumping Justin Timberlake and Ashton Kutcher together. They do other businesses. I think it’s expected that when you get success in one area, you’re supposed to evolve and try to do something else—especially in business, and especially if you’re a man.”
Alba has made a point of refusing certain acting roles. “I never wanted to play into a stereotype, where it’s like, ‘Oh, you’re just the girl who gets saved by the guy,’ and she doesn’t know how to make decisions, and she gets overwhelmed with all this stuff happening around her,” she says. “Women are freaking resilient.” She also avoided onscreen nudity. “If there’s a role where I feel comfortable doing that, sure. It’s just I never felt like being naked was going to make the movie any better. If anything, it was just going to exploit me for no reason.”
Alba is private about her personal life. Still, she softens when asked about her husband, producer Cash Warren, the father of their two daughters, Honor, 7, and Haven, 4. “Gosh, it wouldn’t really be possible without him,” Alba says. “He helped me put together my initial business plan. He was always my biggest cheerleader but never gave me unrealistic expectations and never criticized me so much where I felt defeated. Having someone who genuinely has your back, no matter what, there’s nothing like that…. It’s a real unconditional love…. The partner that you choose to go through life with you, that’s your chosen family.”