Eva Mendes Didn't Want To Have Kids—Until She Met Ryan

EVA MENDES is digging through the contents of her purse in a scene that looks not so much like a choreographed opportunity for celebrity product placement as like what might happen if you—or your babysitter, or a woman on the train—rummaged through a bag in desperate search of gum.

Here is a rattling Costco-size bottle of Advil. Here is a balled-up shirt that “very well could have been a blankie.” Here is medication for a sluggish thyroid, and three bottles of water that she “stole from the photo shoot.” Here’s a pair of Celine sunglasses, a stick of deodorant, and an L.A. Dodgers hat she grabbed as she left her house because “I just looked so busted.” Finally, here is a black, 8×10 At-A-Glance planner sprouting loose papers.

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Eva beams. “Ryan Gosling happened.” Then she giggles and adds, “I mean, falling in love with him. Then it made sense for me to have…not kids, but his kids. It was very specific to him.”

Eva sits cross-legged on a sleek gray bench that runs the length of the clubhouse at the Sheats-Goldstein residence, which is known for its organic architecture, view of Los Angeles, and place in history as the scene of Rihanna’s 27th-birthday party. The environment is chilly with exclusion, but everything about Eva is warm.

She hugs easily, smiles readily, and keels over laughing when discussing the realities of motherhood. Like the fact that she and Ryan haven’t yet corrected Esmeralda, who—thanks to the film First Man—thinks her dad works on the moon.


“We’re just starting to get out of survival mode,” the 45-year-old says. “I’m starting to feel like a person again.”

She’s back to exercising three times a week with trainer Johana Spates, doing integrated workouts that consist of mobility, stability, strength, cardio, and plyometrics moves.

“I’m envious of women who enjoy working out, because I have the worst attitude about it,” she admits. “My vanity gets me to the gym—and obviously health reasons—but I’m kicking and screaming the whole way through.”

Having come up for air after two babies, she’s keeping an eye on what she eats too. “I have blood work done at least twice a year because I have high blood sugar, and high cholesterol runs in my family,” says the actress, who eats a lot of salmon and quinoa and has found that fish oil and CoQ10 supplements help her feel balanced.

She has scrambled eggs and coffee with coconut oil or coconut sugar every morning, and she cops to sipping a soda or two a week. “I’m not squeaky-clean healthy,” she says. “I have a sweet tooth, so I can’t keep anything in the house.”

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During the infrequent moments when she can relax (“It’s still a little dangerous to leave both girls in the room alone”), Eva indulges in Thai massage and is soothed by opera, whether on a night out or at home listening to Maria Callas.

What were the things that got her through, when at one point she had two children under 2 years old? “Family,” she responds, right away. “We have an amazing support group: Ryan’s mom, my mom, Ryan’s and my sisters. It’s a village that helped us. My heart goes out to women who do this alone. I basically come from a single-parent household; although I love my dad, my mom mostly raised four of us on her own.”

Eva’s mother rooted the family in L.A. after moving from Miami, where Eva was born, and before that, her native Cuba.

“She was the mom in Cuba who had to walk however many miles to fetch water from the well,” says Eva. “That was her reality for a while, so the level of respect and appreciation I have for her now is incredible.”

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Eva learned about gratitude from her mother. “We didn’t have much when I was growing up,” she explains. “My mother would say, ‘As little as we have, there are so many people who have less.’ She made me appreciate that from an early age.”

I ask how she plans to instill the same appreciation in Esmeralda and Amada, who are growing up amid vastly more resources and eyeballs.

“It’s definitely a concern,” she says. “Not only are we in the industry, but the whole fame component is super scary when you try to raise your kids.” (Eva sighs while explaining the lengths to which they go to find playgrounds beyond the purview of the paparazzi.)

“What I try to emphasize is that I don’t let them see me put attention to how I dress. They’ve never seen me get ready for something; they’ve never seen me at work. Which is fine, for whoever wants to do it that way, but the way I keep it normal is by not letting them see me in these situations. I’m just Mom. And I’m more than happy to just be Mom.”

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Something shifted in Eva, she says, when her first baby was born. She felt she’d worked really hard in Hollywood for 20 years and wanted to put that energy elsewhere.

“I felt a lack of ambition, if I can be honest,” she says. “I feel more ambitious in the home right now than I do in the workplace.”

The work she did—and continues to do—in her household was brought to the world’s attention in 2017, when Ryan accepted a Golden Globe for best actor for La La Land. There, he thanked his “lady” for raising their daughter and carrying their second—during a time when she was also helping her brother fight a losing battle with cancer. Ryan then dedicated the award to the memory of Juan Carlos Mendez.

At that moment, Eva was at home and not watching the ceremony, since her kids’ viewing choices are restricted to PBS Kids. Her sister called from the other room as Ryan started to speak.

“It was like a dream,” says Eva. “But really, what I heard was that he said my brother’s name. It was the most beautiful gesture, and I had no idea Ryan was going to say it. Losing my brother was incredibly difficult,” she says softly. Days after his death, Eva gave birth to Amada.

Shop Eva’s New York & Company Line


Eva will return to acting projects at some point, but for now her gig, in addition to parenting, is her design partnership, currently in its fifth year, with New York & Company. The line is fashion-forward, unfussy, and sensibly priced (she slashed the price of a $40 tee because her mother said that’s not how much a T-shirt costs).

Her new collection, out at the end of April, features a lot of denim—a material to which Eva, who was always a dress girl, has recently taken a shine. Jeans, quite simply, make her life easier now that her focus is at home.

I felt a lack of ambition [after having kids].

“Every day is such a learning experience—they challenge you in so many ways. Like, I’m their mom,” she says, as if still in disbelief. “I have to rise up, and hopefully, most of the time I do, but sometimes it’s definitely maddening.”

The next addition to the family is going to be a rescue puppy, although Eva’s obsession with the Instagram account The Dodo, where tearjerker videos paint happy portraits of unorthodox pets, has made her wonder if she can adopt a pig. “It makes you think you can have an ostrich as a best friend, you know?”

Do you think, I try to ask casually in reference to the puppy, that it will be overwhelming to have three little beings in your house that pee everywhere? “Of course it will be!” says Eva cheerily. “But it will be so fun!”


This article originally appeared in the May 2019 issue of Women’s Health. For more intel on how to live a happier, healthier life, pick up an issue on newsstands April 23.

Photographed by Peggy Sirota • Fashion editor: Kristen Saladino

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