The Body & Soul of Jessica Alba
Jessica Alba is hiking in Hollywood’s Runyon Canyon with one hand gripping her left cheek. She is talking about her body. The body. Hers of the mesmerizing torso showcased to full, undulating perfection in several films, most recently Sin City and in this month’s summer opus Fantastic Four, and bested only by the aforementioned ass, a heart-shaped beauty that sends men into fits of sputtering praise, but an ass that Alba nonetheless believes is a tad too large.
“I hear people in this industry talking shit all the time about how Jennifer Lopez is fat,” she says tersely. “And I know if they’re calling her fat, they’re saying the same shit about me.”
Rightly, Alba worries about this. At twenty-four, she has, thus far in her acting career, been largely defined by her body. Of her last eight films, she has been nearly naked in seven. She is five feet six and a half, 34-25-34, and weighs 120 pounds, depending upon her training schedule. But the numbers tell little of the story. Even beneath the baggy sweats she favors, Alba’s body is a marvel of feminine proportion. A siren song. Everything slopes and curves where it should. Nothing juts or strains. Muscles blend into soft arcs.
As a result, Alba has consistently been ranked in the top ten on various men’s-magazine fuckability polls. Web sites devoted to her celebrity hammer on her hotness with creepy persistence. Mark Wahlberg’s reality-infused HBO show Entourage devoted an entire story arc to the conquest of Alba, her body hounded like the Holy Grail of scores by the young male cast, a quest Wahlberg himself has supposedly pursued in real life. Us Weekly even reported the rumor that Alba was Tom Cruise’s first choice for a publicity girlfriend — the plum position ultimately handed over to default pick Katie Holmes. The thinking: Alba’s carnal appeal is so powerful it could endear Mr. Cruise to a youth audience and affirm his virility once and for all.
She is good-humored about the scrutiny, but she confesses the one-note quality of it all is starting to wear her out. “The scripts I get are always for the whore, or the motorcycle chick in leather, or the horny maid,” Alba says as she climbs a hill, panting slightly. “I get all these screenplays that start, ‘Tawnya is in the shower. The water streams down her naked, perky breasts.’ ” She sighs, then laughs a tired laugh. “I don’t think this is happening to Natalie Portman.”
There are many reasons for this, and Alba, to her credit, has a firm grasp on most of them. Cast as she is, she hasn’t yet had much opportunity to “act.” The closest she comes to a scene-stealing turn is as one of the popular snots in Never Been Kissed, where she is indisputably funny and natural. The rest of her curriculum vitae — including schlocky thrillers, the short-lived James Cameron sci-fi television series Dark Angel and the ill-conceived hip-hop-heroine picture Honey — is less impressive. Her turn in Sin City stands out, but largely because Alba plays a stripper with a heart of gold. And a lasso.
“It’s not always so great to be objectified,” she says. “But I don’t feel I have much of a choice right now. I’m young in my career. I know I have to strike when the iron is hot.”
Alba plans to capitalize on her God-given assets for the moment, saturate the market with her sultry image and then, when she “won’t have to do that stuff just to get people’s attention,” she hopes to transition into someone like Diane Keaton or Goldie Hawn, women she admires for their kookiness and pluck. “I look forward to the day when I can do a small movie and act,” Alba says, “and it’s not about me wearing a fucking bathing suit or chaps.”
Problem is, Alba isn’t kooky. Kooky does not come with plum lips and amber skin and a beckoning grin. Alba, for better or worse, is a babe. More than that, she is a certain strain of babe — the kind that invites rather than intimidates. She is a good girl, playing a bad girl. Her face is open and warm. She smiles often. She is fresh-scrubbed. She never struts, but ambles. She has normal-size breasts and no plans to enhance them. She points to pimples on her forehead and laughs. She eats — a lot. In short, she is girlfriend material, and it is this accessibility, when married to her liquid body, that makes her walking kryptonite — an effect in evidence whenever she exits the house and leaves a trail of double takes in her wake. Men on the street take note initially because she is pretty, but then, as she walks closer, it registers — “Man, that’s Jessica Alba!” — and the admiration explodes into palpable desire.
“She doesn’t even notice it,” says her close friend and sometime personal trainer Ramona Braganza. “We went into Starbucks in Ohio, and all these guys were falling all over themselves and whispering. She had no idea.”
Alba herself tells a charmingly naive story about how in L.A. she is never able to dine alone.
“Everyone feels bad for you,” she says. “For some reason, waiters, cooks, they all have to come out and talk to you: ‘How’s the food? Did someone not show up?’ I’m like, ‘No, I’m reading my book. I’m totally happy.’ ”
When it is suggested that perhaps these concerned gentlemen emerge specifically to see her, that surely not every gal eating solo gets the pity party, Alba shakes her head. “Men in Los Angeles get uncomfortable when a woman is by herself,” she says. “Unless she’s shopping.”
On any other actress, such an observation would smack of disingenuousness, but somehow Alba pulls it off. Maybe because she has been acting since she was twelve and has already in her short lifetime “had periods where I was in everybody’s face and times when nobody knew who I was.”
Alba has already been back and forth on the celebrity trip and has decided, ultimately, “Fuck it.” Now she ignores fame completely, staying in a bubble of her creation, a sunny, insular place where life is as deliciously sweet as she wills it to be. A place where men talk to her because they are kind, not horned up. A place where the future has nothing to do with her haircut or her high-riding buttocks.
“I don’t need to be famous,” she says adamantly. “I’m not that ambitious. At this point, if I’m not sucked in, I’m never going to get sucked in. Being the so-called hot girl, I disconnect from that. It’s not that deep.”
(Excerpted from RS 977-978, June 30, 2005)
The Body & Soul of Jessica Alba