Lithe and luscious, Latino lovely Jessica Alba is the Hollywood’s Golden Girl of the moment. Exclusively for Enigma, the star of Sin City, The Fantastic Four and The Good Luck Charm, speaks to Sam Kent about being attracted to older men, settling down, her tormented upbringing and her refusal to strip naked in movies.
Jessica Alba is tired of being seen as just a pretty face. The stunning 26-year-old actress, who regularly tops men’s magazines’ sexiest women polls, is quickly earning a reputation as a Hollywood beauty not to mess with. She refused to use a stunt double while playing super tough heroines in Fantastic Four and Dark Angel. In fact, she packs such a punch, her male co-stars are often seen nursing bruises between scenes. “I like to play rough. But if you hit a guy, they put ice on it and take a 20-minute break. Unbelievable!” she says. Jessica even managed to terrify deadly sharks while filming Into the Blue by “jabbing” them in the nose when they swam too close for comfort.
The star hopes she will soon be known for her acting talents rather than her stunning looks. “I look forward to the day when I can do a small movie and act and it’s not about me wearing a bathing suit or chaps,” she says. Unlike many other young Hollywood starlets, Jessica has refused to bare all or rely on her amazing body to win film roles. She is willing to sacrifice movie roles for her beliefs and was adamant she would only pose topless for a GQ photo shoot if she was covered and wearing “granny panties”.
The actress insists she will never be a damsel in distress and proudly declares herself a “guy’s girl” who is more at home in a sweatshirt than stilettos. But Jessica’s tough exterior has been slow in the making. As a self-confessed OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) sufferer who previously battled eating disorders, panic attacks and bullies, Jessica always felt like an outsider when growing up.
Born in California to working class mixed race parents – she is part Mexican, part Danish and part French – she admits her school days were miserable. “My memories of school aren’t great. I always felt like an outcast. I was self conscious about my puffy lips and darker skin. I didn’t fit in,” she confesses. Suffering from a collapsed lung, burst appendix and pneumonia as a child only further distanced the star from her school friends.
Jessica began acting when she was 12 as a way to escape the high school bullies. Just nine months later she was signed by an agent. As she took on more challenging roles, her confidence blossomed and she grew more comfortable with her body. She won her first film role in 1994, landing a small part in Camp Nowhere. After appearing in several TV adverts, she went on to star in the first two seasons of US TV show Flipper. Her big break came in 2000 when director James Cameron chose her to play the genetically-engineered super soldier Max Guevara in US TV series Dark Angel.
Jessica admitted her dedication to getting in shape for the role spiralled into an “obsession” and she soon developed an eating disorder. She associates many of her body anxieties with her strict Catholic upbringing. “When I was younger, my religion made me feel ashamed of my body and of being a woman. I felt guilty if I was seen as desirable to the opposite sex,” she once revealed.
While Jessica could have her pick of men from her legions of fans, her heart was firmly taken by movie producer Cash Warren until recently. The two-and-a-half-year romance – which began on the set of Fantastic Four in 2005 – is said to have ended in August after Jessica grew tired of waiting for Cash to propose. However, friends say the pair have been “miserable” without each other and Jessica and Cash have been seen on several romantic dates since the split. If her love affair with Cash doesn’t work out, Jessica has spoken about other men she dreams of dating. She is “a sucker” for older men and admits to having crushes on Sean Connery, Morgan Freeman and Robert Redford. Whatever her current romantic status, Jessica isn’t the type of girl to kiss and tell. “I don’t believe you should talk about your private life. I think it’s best to keep this sort of thing to yourself,” she insists.
And yet, Jessica has managed to overcome the bullies, health problems and her own angst to become one of Hollywood’s hottest young stars. Her most notable film roles include a sexy dancer in Sin City and as Sue Storm, the Invisible Woman, in the Fantastic Four. She recently appeared as an accident-prone penguin fanatic alongside Dane Cook in new comedy Good Luck Chuck. The beautiful star believes her “klutzy” personality in real life made her the perfect choice to play Cam Wexler. And she has several other big movies lined up, including Sin City 2, thriller The Eye and romantic comedy The Love Guru.
How do you feel about being seen as a sex symbol?
It’s crazy because I am a total goofball. I’m always falling over, messing things up and just generally doing silly things. Comedy comes completely naturally to me which is why I was so thrilled to do Good Luck Chuck. People think of me as the action girl but in real life I am a true klutz. If there is something to trip over in a room, I’ll trip. I can’t help it!
What type of men are you attracted to?
I definitely go for the shy, nerdy type of guy. And I always prefer older men. I’m pretty wary of really good looking guys and actually as an actress you work with so many gorgeous looking men, you become completely immune. Deep down, it’s probably because they were always the ones who ignored me when I was younger.
I feel much more at home with normal, regular guys.
What is it about older men that you find sexy?
Older men are much more comfortable within their skin and out to prove less. I like that. They have been around for longer and know so much more than younger guys.
Do you make a good girlfriend?
I think so. But being an actress and in a relationship is really hard. It doesn’t always work out.
Would you like to settle down and have children?
I’ve always been surrounded by kids because I’m the oldest of 15 cousins. I would love to have a couple of children. I’m great at changing diapers, I have been doing it since I was six!
Do you rely on your looks to get what you want?
I’d rather slay a guy with my fists than knock him out with the way I look. I know people like what they see and I’m totally happy to dress up and look sexy, but I just see it as playing a part. Underneath I’d prefer to be known for something else like being tough or smart. It makes me feel far more confident to know I can hold my own in a fight than it does to look in the mirror and think I look beautiful.
Have you always attracted male admirers?
No one gave me a second look when I was growing up. I was the sort of girl other kids wanted to avoid. I was this incredibly shy, awkward child with buck teeth and a thick Texan accent. I hardly ever spoke up for myself because I didn’t want to draw any attention to myself.
Do you have many close female friends?
I’m a guy’s girl, no doubt about it. I’m much more comfortable in the company of men. I’d rather have a beer and talk about sports and I’m far more at home in a pair of jeans than high heels and tight skirts. I grew up hanging out with my brother and my dad a lot and they taught me to love the company of men. They’re so cool.
What was your upbringing like?
When I was about eight, my dad came out of the military and we moved to quite an up-market part of Los Angeles. We were totally the odd kids out. We lived in the smallest apartment. My dad worked in different jobs and my mother did all sorts, including working at McDonalds. I went to school with all these rich kids who only knew Mexicans to be cleaners or gardeners. I didn’t fit in and I was really unhappy.
No race has ever accepted me. I had a very American upbringing, my dad tried to forget his Mexican roots because he wanted us to feel accepted. I feel American and I don’t speak Spanish. So to say that I am a Latin actress would be insincere.
How did the bullying at school affect you?
They took so much out on me. I’m tough now because as a kid I never fought back. I tried to keep everything inside because I didn’t want to lower myself to the level of the bullies. I feel so bad for any other kid who is getting bullied. I’ve been there. I know how much it hurts and I know how it affects you. Even now I feel suspicious of people when they are friendly to me because I always had to be on my guard. I started to really blossom into my looks when I was about 14 or 15 but even then I couldn’t really believe it or enjoy it. In fact, I actually felt embarrassed about being pretty. My physical strength became my hard shell.
What advice would you give to people who are bullied at school?
Anyone out there who gets bullied should realise that they can take control of their lives and succeed. It’s just up to you.
Who do you admire in Hollywood?
Jennifer Lopez is a huge star but in Hollywood they still always want her to play the maid. I love her because she opened doors for ethnic girls like me but I want to break down more barriers. I want to be like Will Smith and get to play any character. That is my career plan
Will you ever strip naked for a movie?
I will never do a nude scene in a movie. Ever. I can act sexy and I can wear sexy clothes but I can’t go naked. I was always very uncomfortable about the way my body developed. I remember my grandmother would freak if she saw me in a bra and panties and throw a towel over me. I came from a very Catholic family, so it wasn’t seen as good to flaunt yourself. I can handle being sexy with clothes on, but not with them off. Maybe that makes me a bad actress, but I have too much anxiety to go naked.
What makes you different from other Hollywood actresses?
There is no other actress who can do what I do. In fact there aren’t that many actors either who will go to the lengths I go to for a role. In movies, I don’t use a body double to do my stunts. I do them myself just like Tom Cruise or Bruce Willis. When I was first auditioning for Dark Angel, James Cameron told me I would never be able to handle the role. That made me desperate to prove him wrong. I trained in Kung Fu, Karate, Thai boxing and gymnastics. I worked with Olympic hockey players and athletes. I know I could hold my own against four guys if I wanted to. And that’s always good to know.
You have been in several action movies. Have you suffered any serious injuries?
There isn’t a single part of my body that hasn’t been bloodied, bruised or broken. It may look good on the outside but I honestly see myself more like a warrior than a sex symbol. I’ve broken ribs on stunts and scarred myself with more cuts and bruises than you can imagine. I fell off bikes at fast speeds, got bloody noses and black eyes in fights. I’m not always a pretty sight!
What is the scariest thing you have ever done?
The scariest thing I’ve ever done is swim with real sharks. I agreed to do it for Into the Blue, but I what I didn’t realise was that there were no real safety precautions and we had to swim out to these huge old sharks. I was expecting a controlled environment and wetsuits but what I was faced with was the freezing cold ocean in a bikini. I did it with a couple of other actors because I wasn’t going to chicken out, but I was terrified. Sharks were actually bumping into us. I was so terrified I was kicking them away with my legs. It was a 10-week shoot and we would spend everyday in the water. We could only do 45 minutes at a time because we’d start to get hypothermic. It was terrible. Not something I’d do again.
And finally, what makes you happy in life?
Making lots of money has made me happy. No one else has helped me. I’ve done this all myself, on my own terms. I enjoy the freedom of travelling, not worrying about the rent or groceries. Since I’ve started working, my dad has also turned his business around and is doing really well with his real estate company. My brother acts, models and does mortgages so we’ve all come up in the world.