If we were to supply a single word to describe today’s birthday girl Jessica Alba, it would be “versatile”. From her unpredictable sense of style to her choice in films – ranging from thrillers like Sin City to action franchises like Fantastic Four and comedies like The Love Guru – she is impossible to pin down. Not only is Alba a Golden Globe-nominated actress, a philanthropist, and an entrepreneur, but she’s also a legitimate billion-dollar business mogul who manages to do all of this and raise three children.
Born to a father who was in the Air Force and a mother who did a little bit of everything, Alba’s life started humbly in California. Her working-class military family moved often because of her father’s job, relocating to Mississippi, Missouri, and Texas before returning to California, where her father would later launch a real estate company. She was afflicted with illness throughout her childhood, suffering pneumonia, asthma, a ruptured appendix, OCD, ADHD, and two incidents of collapsed lungs. Looking back, Alba holds allergies responsible for much of her suffering, and her debilitating experiences as a child would later come to inform the billion-dollar company she would eventually create.
She took an interest in acting at a young age and won an acting competition in Beverly Hills at the age of only 11. She was subsequently rewarded with free acting classes that she took rather seriously and signed to an agency nine months later. Her first film role was in Camp Nowhere in 1994, but her big break came when James Cameron cast her as the lead in TV show Dark Angel, for which earned a Golden Globe nomination. After working 80-hour weeks on set, her incredible work ethic distinguished her among her peers, earning her high praise from the directors and casts who worked with her over the years.
In fact, in an interview with Vanity Fair, Cameron said, “If you went back to the day I met Jessica and told me, ‘This girl is going to build a billion-dollar company,’ I would’ve said, ‘I believe it.’” However, a lifetime spent as a prominent Hollywood actress wasn’t the future Alba saw for herself. Even though men’s magazines regularly labeled her as the “hottest”, “sexiest”, or “most beautiful” woman alive, the actress pushed back against her oversexualized image. In an interview with GQ, she cheekily joked, “Right now, I’m just exploring what my contribution to this business is – other than wearing a bikini and getting caught by the paparazzi.”
To hear Alba tell it, meeting her husband Cash Warren and having a family with him, changed everything. The two fell in love on a film set in 2014 and, in a recent tribute to their relationship, she posted the following about Warren: “You are the calm and voice of reason, always keeping things in perspective and seeing the beauty and light in every circumstance.” Together, the two have had three children: Honor, Haven, and Hayes. Yet, Alba prickles when asked how she balances motherhood and career, often responding, “How many men get asked that question?” However, unlike many women, motherhood directly informed her current career. Without the birth of her first child, The Honest Company might never have existed.
When Alba was pregnant with Honor, she was naturally concerned with the environment into which she would be bringing her baby, especially given how sick she had been as a child. She began researching clean products for her home in an effort to protect her baby from toxins lurking in everything from diapers to body creams. After receiving clothes at a baby shower and washing them in a detergent that caused her skin to break out in hives, Alba became more determined than ever to launch a company that would provide consumer products that were safe, ethically made, and beneficial to both mother and child.
It took several years before Alba could find the right investors to launch The Honest Company, but in its first year, it reached $10 million in sales – despite carrying only 17 products. As far as start-ups go, The Honest Company has astonished even the harshest critic by reaching $100 million in financing in 2014, making it a legitimate “unicorn” – meaning it has reached a billion-dollar valuation in under five years. In fact, The Honest Company did it in three. As the head of a billion-dollar enterprise, Alba is surprisingly comfortable in her role as a business mogul.
It also means she has stepped out of the film world to raise her family and work on her own enterprise. Back when she was an actress, though, she commanded her publicist to book her for three women’s magazines for every one men’s magazine. In 2014, the fruits of her efforts came to pass; there she was in the same month on the covers of both Shape and Forbes magazine. Sporting a black tuxedo jacket with the sleeves rolled up to emphasize her hands-on approach to business, Alba beamed from the cover of Forbes. The headline? “America’s Richest Self-Made Women.”
Her tenacity and business acumen have been proven again by her company’s recent handling of the COVID-19 crisis. As an essential business, The Honest Company has been particularly mindful of how it delivers its products, ensuring that safety measures are met with each delivery. It has also dedicated itself to donating essentials to families in need. So far, Alba and The Honest Company have provided three million diapers, 20,000 wipes, and 20,000 personal care products. Additionally, The Honest Company is partnering with March of Dimes for It Starts with Mom, an event that will focus on the issues faced by countless mothers during the pandemic.
While Alba’s drive and ambition have certainly set her apart in both the film and business worlds, Alba is also a style icon, holding fascination globally because of her unique sartorial sensibilities. While she is conventionally gorgeous, she isn’t scared to dress down in jeans and a tee. In fact, we’d go so far as to say she has the most accessible and easy-to-replicate street style of any celebrity. In her off-duty moments, she dresses for comfort and practicality. Yet, when she’s feeling it, Alba will be the most polished woman in the room, evidenced by her incredible appearances on the red carpet. Browse through the gallery, below, to get a sense of her style.