BEAUTY AND BRAINS is what you see when you look at 36-year-old Jessica Alba. According to Forbes, the actress-turned-entrepreneur has a net worth of $340 million. As a young girl, Alba suffered frequently from asthma and allergies. She co-founded the nontoxic-household goods startup The Honest Company in 2011. The business began largely as a subscription service for diapers and baby wipes, but now sells over 100 products. We meet the actress—best known for Sin City and Fantastic Four—at her office in Playa Vista California.
How did The Honest Company come about?
Believe it or not, laundry detergent started this company. My mom, about 10 years ago, recommended that I use a certain laundry detergent; it was the same detergent that she had used on me when I was a baby. I was pregnant, and I had an allergic reaction to the detergent. I actually got welts on my hands, I started sneezing and my eyes were watering. So, I called my mom and I was like, ‘Are you crazy? I am having an allergic reaction to this, how can this be safe for babies?’ And she said, ‘Stop yelling at me, you are hormonal, call me back when you’re done.’ I asked her what’s in it and she said ‘I don’t know, it’s for babies,’ so then like any sane person in the world today I googled it, and I learnt that there are a lot of untested, potentially harmful chemicals in everyday products, from baby laundry detergent to your everyday personal care products. Everything you put on your skin, over 60 per cent goes into your blood stream. I was horrified and thought that there has to be a company you can trust, that uses high-quality ingredients. So, I started The Honest Company.
Many companies claim to be doing the same today. What makes your products different?
I care about human health and I care about the quality of what is inside, not just the packaging, and I don’t think that it should cost ten times more. That’s not fair. I wanted quality ingredients, accessibly priced. We are not the cheapest, but we are priced within reach, and I wanted to get it to you however you want to shop it. So, we are in low-end and high-end stores and we are on Amazon.
Do you find the same joy in this as you do in acting?
It’s totally different. This fulfillment and what I get from this is very substantive and I think that when you inspire a little girl who says, ‘I came from this neighbourhood and I didn’t ever think that I could be seen with someone like you who is Mexican and has made it and you can be a leading lady, like I knew that I could be somebody someday’. That is what entertainment does. But in this, it’s every day in someone’s home; they are trusting you with their most little precious baby. People say, ‘I slept through the night and I got six hours of sleep because my baby doesn’t have diaper rash anymore.’
Why did you want to become an actress?
I was really sick when I was a child. I was in the hospital a lot and my dad was in the military, so I moved around a lot as well and didn’t have a lot of friends. And I felt weird because I spent so much time in the hospital with various illnesses, and I didn’t know anybody else like me. So for me acting was kind of a way to be someone else, and that to me was a nice escape from being who I really was. And that is why I gravitated to female super heroes, strong women and action movies.
What does money mean to you?
I grew up in a family where both my parents usually had three jobs each, and we lived with my grandparents for a large chunk of my life. I wanted to be financially secure. I didn’t want to live paycheque to paycheque. Now that I have money, I have responsibilities and I have to figure out long-term goals.