JESSICA ALBA: Things I Can't Live Without
by Dennis Hensley
Using Marie Claire’s Canon Powershot to document the Things She Can’t Live Without (TSCLW) is going to be a breeze for Jessica Alba. She owns the exact same camera. Or she used to. “I just lost it,” the Dark Angel star laments, before snapping a shot of the first TSCLW, the spectacular view from the balcony of her French villa-style house in the hills above L.A. “I’m so happy I had deleted the naughty pictures.” Hold on a second. We’re five minutes in and she’s already talking about naughty pictures? “Not that naughty,” she says with a laugh. Were the pictures of Alba and another person? “My boyfriend,” reveals Alba, before confirming that she has been dating Cash Warren, a Director of Development at a film production company, since they began working together on the upcoming Fantastic Four ten months ago. And with that, Alba snaps a shot herself wearing the rose gold and diamond hoop earrings Warren gave her for her 24th birthday just last week. “He knows me very well,” says the honey-skinned actress. “Every day I find an excuse to wear them.”
Alba leads the way to her master bathroom. “That’s probably the most decadent thing I have,” she says pointing to the next TSCLW, her “big-ass” bathtub, which seats at least two and has a flat-screen TV mounted above it. “I take a bath almost every day,” she says. “Because I work out, I usually put in a gallon of Epson salts. And I light my Joya vanilla candles that smell like cupcakes.” So just how long is she likely to soak for? “Well, we took a two and a half hour bath like two days ago and watched American Idol,” she says, giggling at the memory. “It’s real romantic.”
“When I got this place three years ago, it had lime green walls and white Burber carpet everywhere,” she says, making her way downstairs to the living room. “Everyone said, (dismissively) ‘Oh, it’s a cute first house,’ and I was like, ‘Don’t worry. I know what I’m doing.’ I wanted it to be beautiful and elegant but warm and homey at the same time.” For Alba, a military brat who attended 12 different schools before graduating at 16 and then spent several years working on TV series abroad—Flipper in Australia, Dark Angel in Vancouver--it must be nice to have a place to call home. “I finally have a place, yeah,” she confirms. “I feel settled.”
Did she imagine growing up that, at 21, she’d be able to buy a house like this that was all hers? “On one hand, I absolutely thought I would be in this place, but on the other hand, it’s like, ‘Pinch me.’ I mean, do you have any idea where I came from?”
Jessica Alba was born into an Air Force family in the L.A. suburb of Pomona, CA. When she was an infant, the family moved to Mississippi, then Texas, before returning to Pomona when Jessica was nine. At 12, Alba became interested in acting and started taking classes in Beverly Hills, over an hour away from Pomona. An agent saw Alba perform in a showcase and started sending her on auditions. She booked her first job, the film Camp Nowhere, two months later. Team Alba was all about tenacity. “I wasn’t lucky,” she says. “We hustled.” Alba walks over to a shelf of personal photographs. “My mom gave up working and drove me around. And my dad put the ‘Never quit’ thing in my head. To this day, my work ethic is pretty on point.”
Alba picks up a favorite picture of her parents. “My dad is so dark and my mom is so light,” says Alba, who is French-Danish on her mother’s side and Mexican-Indian and Spanish on her father’s. Did her mixed ethnicity ever come into play in terms of casting? “It was definitely something that made it a struggle at the beginning,” she admits, “because I’m not the all-American blonde or the typical Latin girl. I fell into the ‘We don’t know what you are’ category. Now, it’s more open.” Case in point: Alba’s role in Fantastic Four is Sue Storm, a fair-skinned, blue-eyed, long-necked blonde. “I’m playing a person that everyone said I could never play,” marvels Alba who stayed out of the sun and wore blue contacts for the role. “I think that’s way cool.” And she welcomes the opportunity to be a role model to others of mixed race. “I was never accepted into the Latin community as a Latin girl and I was never accepted into the white community as an all-American girl,” she reveals, “so whatever place I fit is where I feel I can hopefully be an example to other people that feel like outcasts.”
Before Fantastic Four, Alba played a lasso-twirling exotic dancer in Sin City, a hip-hop choreographer in Honey, and a scuba-diving shark expert in the upcoming Into the Blue. Though Alba is the first to admit she’s in a cutthroat business, she claims she doesn’t spend a lot of time lamenting the parts that got away. “If someone isn’t completely gung ho about me doing the role, then I don’t want to waste anybody’s time,” she says. “There are a lot of lovely girls out there and I want women to be stars in every movie, in all genres. As many Camerons and Drews and girls like that, the better.”
Judging by her “media room,” with the screen that descends from the ceiling, Alba is as passionate about watching movies as she is being in them. She shows off a stack of DVDs she says she can’t live without, and she admits to enjoying a few guilty pleasures in her media room as well, like Mariah Carey’s Glitter (“It’s so wrong, it’s right”) and the reality series America’s Next Top Model. “The girls are just funny,” she says. “And I love how ghetto Tyra gets. I have a hard time missing that show.”
On a nearby shelf, Alba keeps a selection action figures from Dark Angel. Though she can live without the toys themselves—“I think they’re hilarious”—they represent a pivotal time in her life. “I had told myself that if I didn’t get something significant by the time I turned 18, I was going to quit acting and go to college,” she says. “I got Dark Angel when I was 17.” The series, which was produced my Titanic director James Cameron, changed the way Alba thought about the business. “Jim allowed me to be a part the complete development of the show,” marvels Alba, who has several scripts in development as a producer. “I don’t know any man in this business that would give a 17 year-old girl so much control. I was absolutely terrified but also loving it. It was like, ‘Finally. All the hard work and my parents sacrificing and not having money had paid off’.”
Alba heads up to the kitchen where she finds another TSCLW, her bottle of Glucosamine Chondroitin. “Anybody who works out should take this stuff,” she says of the non-prescription supplement, designed to support healthy joints, ligaments and other soft tissues. She also can’t get enough water and has a bottle of Evian or Fiji nearby at all times. “I get thirsty,” she says with a shrug. Given that she’s in incredible shape, one wonders if Alba is one of those people who just lives to work out. We’re happy to report she’s not. “It’s such a pain in the ass,” she groans. “Running is suffering, I don’t care what anybody says, but it always makes me feel good afterwards.”
The doorbell rings. “Oh, Bille is here!” she says excitedly. Bille Woodruff is Alba’s best friend and a definite TSCLW. They hit it off instantly when Woodruff, the filmmaker behind the recent hit Beauty Shop, directed Alba in Honey. It was Woodruff who, in the aftermath of Alba’s breakup from her Dark Angel co-star Michael Weatherly, bought her the book The Art of the Seduction by Robert Green. The tart and twisted relationships primer is definitely on Alba’s TSCLW list.
BILLE: Jessica didn’t need The Art of the Seduction. I just thought she’d enjoy it. I wanted to remind her of the diva that she is.
JESSICA: He was like, “Don’t feel like you need to feel bad about yourself and go out with guys that are lame,” because I was depressed.
BILLE: It was her first love. That was one of my ‘tough love’ things for her. I was like “Don’t let him call you anymore!”
JESSICA: It was bad.
BILLE: She did not stop crying. She was like, “Nobody likes me…”
JESSICA: “How can anyone ever like me? Waaahh!” It was the worst shit ever.
After bidding farewell to Bille, Alba hops in her car to run some errands. Before long it becomes clear that everyone knows and loves her, starting with the clerk at the newsstand on Beverly Drive, where Alba regularly gets her fix of such favorite titles as The New Yorker, W, and, what a coincidence, Marie Claire.
Then it’s onto Petco, where her two female pugs, Sid and Nancy, both of whom she can’t live without, are being groomed for a charity event Alba’s taking them to tonight called the Lint Roller party. “It’s to support Best Friends Animal Sanctuary which is a place that does pet adoption,” explains Alba. “I’m getting them cute for the red carpet.” Alba crouches down to greet her bowed and beautified babies. They couldn’t be happier to see her.
“Oh no, Nancy, NO! Shit!” Alba exclaims. It seems dogs will be dogs, even when they’re owned by a celebrity. First Nancy lets go with a number #2 on the store’s tile floor, and then Sid promptly follows suit. “Oh Sid, what the hell is wrong with you?” Alba shrieks. Thinking fast, Alba grabs a package of wipes from a nearby shelf, wipes up the mess, and puts everything in the trash. “You have no idea how often this happens,” she admits. “Anytime I’m in front of Louis Vitton, Gucci, Prada, anything super nice, that’s a prime moment for them to let it all out.”
Alba’s last stop before heading home is her favorite java joint, Euro Café. “I can’t do my day without coffee,” she confesses.
The owner knows what Alba wants before she can even order it: a three-shot soy latte with sugar-free vanilla. While she waits for her drink, two fellow customers, who claim to be movie producers from France, start chatting her up. “What do you think of life in Hollywood?” asks the more forward of the two. “It’s a struggle,” Alba replies. “What is?” asks the man, who by this point, is practically undressing her with his eyes. “Not being objectified,” says Alba pointedly.
“Men are silly the way they approach women, and I know it’s not just me,” she remarks a few minutes later back in the car.
“As if there were a chance in hell I’d ever want to go out with someone with a line like that.”
It’s a mute point anyway as Alba’s taken, and very happily so. “When I met Cash, I knew I was going to know him for the rest of my life,” she says as she turns up the hill to head home. “If I would have met Cash when I was with somebody else, it would have been bad, bad news for that person. Because no matter what, I know he’s the person I’m supposed to be with. He loves me, he’s really smart, and he knows how to talk to me and put me in my place without being cruel.”
Does she think about getting married and starting a family? “My parents have been married since they were 18 and 19,” she says. “So I know about ‘through thick and thin’ and I know it’s possible to make it work if you want to. I want to have a couple of kids. After my first one, I may change my mind but I definitely want to have my first one by the time I’m 30.”
In the meantime, Alba’s happy to spoil her fourteen younger cousins and her godson, Wilson, who is at the house when Alba returns. Wilson’s father, Chris Henze, has been Alba’s manager since she was 12. “It’s been a long, deliberate road,” he says, while Alba and Wilson pose for a TSCLW photo. “Jessica decided long ago what she was going to do and she’s been laser focused. You can’t do it without that.”
Alba hands Wilson to his mom, Veronica, then takes the digital camera and looks back over the shots she’s taken of the things—and people--she can’t live without. “I’m just really grateful,” she says, when asked how she would describe this time in her life. “Hard work pays off. Honestly, I could never imagine my life being any different than it is now."