Jessica Alba Keynote Highlights: Her Conference LA

Actress, advocate, business woman, and mother Jessica Alba delivered an inspiring Keynote address during Her Conference LA: Inspire on June 1st. Her keynote focused on her relaunch of her Honest Beauty line as well as what it takes to be a successful woman in a man’s world. 

Alba set out to release products through the launch of The Honest Company that live up to her own standards and values and is completely safe to use for consumers. Alba recognized her own “real need as a consumer” after experiencing an allergic reaction from a laundry detergent. When she helplessly searched for what may have caused the reaction, she found harmful, untested chemicals were the culprit. “How is this legal?” she asked herself. 

From that point on, Alba began lobbying for chemical reform and pushing for change within the industry. Alba, as someone who likes color, design, and beauty, wanted to prove the alternative to these harmful products can still be cute, trendy, and affordable. She dreamt of creating a better brand that stands for better ingredients that actually work. Alba was always interested in growing her product line and immersing herself into the beauty business, but her ambitions were put on hold due to previously being the face of Revlon Cosmetics. She was finally able to begin her journey with Honest Beauty in 2015. 

“By being a little more thoughtful, you can make a huge impact,” Alba explains. “You can deliver products that totally work and don’t have all those nasty products…it can be done, and it can be done responsibly.” 

Alba explains it took her a long time to get comfortable to speak in an environment like this one, with hundreds watching and listening. It took her a while to feel comfortable in her own skin, especially in the beginning of her acting career. Alba expanded on her struggle in Hollywood, calling the film industry extremely competitive. Alba urges her audience to get comfortable with rejection, something she experienced endlessly when trying to become an actress. “This town is hard to be successful in.” 

Alba says in order to grow, she formed an armor around herself, and became energized to prove the doubters wrong and show what she’s truly capable of. Alba was constantly told she didn’t “look like a leading lady” but was often called exotic.  

“Exotic? I’m Mexican,” she says proudly. But she wasn’t always so proud. Alba explains that she became an actress because she “wanted to be someone else. I played white-girl roles.” 

Alba wasn’t shy to touch on the gender inequality in the industry either, something that continued to follow her as she emerged in the world of business. “I’d get asked, ‘Are you even smart? Weren’t you in Maxim?’ Yeah, so? I sell movie tickets, what do you do in your life? People stereotype what women are thinking or doing…mostly because of our boobs and vaginas. If they’re attracted to you, they put you in a box. You threaten their masculinity.” 

Alba takes much of her inspiration from just talking to her children, explaining much of her vision was inspired by how her daughter views the world: pure. She also is inspired by her husband, whom she claims in the opposite of herself in many ways. He taught her self-care and showed her that she’s allowed to cry and feel. 

Now, Alba aims to be more reflective. Only four years ago, seven years into launching her business, she became comfortable claiming Honest was her idea. She wants to be better, recognize where she can improve, and understand others.  Alba notes she had a huge problem owning her own accomplishments and stepping into herself. “It was always hard for me to see what I accomplished because I was always driving toward the next thing.”

Alba values diversity and women in the workplace. Honest once had 15% of women on the leadership team, and now boasts an impressive 60%. She says within the company, she focuses on building values in character. “Often our own barriers within our character are the reason we’re not successful. When you see where you can improve, doors open.” 

As Alba explains, within her company women are supported when they come into work. “Women can have children and are not punished for it…in fact, they’re celebrated for it." Honest offers a four- month maternity leave and a mother’s room within their offices which feature nursing and pumping stations. Additionally, they offer paternity leave and are flexible with both parents about the rate they want to return to work. Alba dismisses the old-school mentality that women don’t want to be in the workplace after having kids. She thinks about her daughter and the legacy she’s leaving her, insisting kids mainly learn from example. “People see it’s possible and model it.” 

When taking questions from the audience, many women asked Alba how they can stay motivated or feel confident they’re on the right path.  Alba was quick to give her expertise, warning one shouldn’t trust every door that opens, “When it’s a struggle and you don’t know how it’s going to end, you’re probably on the right path. When things happen easily, you shouldn’t trust it.” 

Alba urges her audience to force themselves into uncomfortable situations, and not just figure out how to float, but grow. She believes failure is an essential tool to growth, emphasizing you can’t learn until you go through it. “When you fail, fail fast- keep it moving. Things will start to make sense.” 

“And don’t worry,” Alba assures her audience. “You start giving less fucks as you get older.”