The Violet Files
She's So Violet
At VIOLET GREY we document the women we love and file their stories in our archives under SHE’S SO VIOLET. From screen sirens to boardroom moguls— these women have the inherent ability to empower, inspire and enthrall us all.
Eva Mendes, a recent creative director on a cover shoot for VIOLET GREY, embodies a spirit and the sort of attributes we admire. She possesses an insatiable desire to learn, is brutally honest (about herself and others) and revels in being out of her comfort zone. She manifests an honesty and commitment to her characters without ever being completely overtaken by them, whether it’s a character that is coping with emotional torment (A Place Beyond the Pines) or a comedic one that demanded improvised scenes (Clear History). She is devoted to her personal endeavors from charitable interests (Art of Elysium, Equal Justice Initiative) to the creative—Mendes recently launched a fashion and jewelry collection with New York & Company—and never attends a meeting without her composition notebook in hand.
After a chance encounter with Eva Mendes at a film industry event, VIOLET GREY founder, Cassandra Huysentruyt Grey, was transfixed by Mendes’s refreshingly honest charm and wit. The next day Grey took a cue from old Hollywood’s preferred method of correspondence and rang up Mendes’s manager. A lunch date was made and soon enough a friendship was sealed.
In this file, Grey sat down with Mendes and asked a series of questions on acting and beauty.
THE CONFESSIONSTHE ACTRESS INTERIVEW
Cassandra Huysentruyt Grey: What is your idea of home?
Eva Mendes: History. I like antique furniture and walls that can talk. Being an actor, home is sometimes a Holiday Inn in Schenectady or the Marriott in Shreveport. I bring home in a suitcase packed with history: Scarves from my grandmother, my linens, my lady paintings and a string of Christmas lights, and scent, scent is very important. I bring different stuff depending on the season.
C.H.G.: Do you have a favorite scent?
E.M.: I am a sucker for the bergamot note in Thierry Mugler’s Angel perfume and violets, of course! No really, coincidentally one of my favorites is Royal Violets, which is actually a cologne. It’s a Cuban rite of passage for a child to be dabbed with the cologne, so the smell of it always reminds me of that tradition and of my family. It’s so violet, right?
C.H.G.: Ok, more importantly, where would you like to die?
E.M.: In a bowl of penne arrabiata… or what about Disneyland, isn’t that the happiest place on earth?
C.H.G.: Um…I think the happiest place on earth is in the arms of Ryan Gosling.
C.H.G.: What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
E.M.: On acting it was to make sure you humiliate yourself. But isn’t that true in life as well? Humility shatters the ego.
C.H.G.: How important is your hair, makeup, and wardrobe when you are working on a film?
E.M.: Very important. I love playing characters and these elements all help with the physical manifestations of the character. In last year’s Holy Motors I played a French fashion model and my hair and makeup were extreme and key for getting into that character. For Pines (A Place Beyond The Pines), my character was emotionally conflicted. I needed to feel uncomfortable to feel her pain. I lost weight, wore clogs, my unflattering jean cutoffs from high school, and I didn’t wear a bra. There is nothing like wearing clogs, being underweight and having no underwire support to make a girl feel rattled in her skin. I did my own hair and makeup, which included just a little powder and lip liner. It felt right, like what she would’ve done.
C.H.G.: Didn’t you shave your eyebrows for that film?
E.M.: Yes, for the second half of the film after her tragedy I decided she was a picker, and in her quiet despair, she picked all of her eyebrows off. On the opposite side of the spectrum in Clear History I played this nutty character, Jennifer, whose name I decided would be pronounced, Yennifer. I thought she should have bushy eyebrows and tight, curly, cuddly hair.
“There is also an incredible depth to her that really takes you by SURPRISE. She asks incredible questions, is always educating herself more, learning and growing. She wants to get right down to the REAL stuff. She is a real woman’s WOMAN.”
C.H.G.: Do you remember the first actor you admired?
E.M.: Alyssa Milano from Who’s The Boss. I just thought she was living my ideal life on that show. It was a rags-to-riches story and I felt like that maybe it could happen to me. I just loved her little attitude and her name, I loved her actual name and her character’s name, Samantha Micelli. She also had this workout video called Teen Steam. I know it word for word. When I was 15 I even went to the Glendale Gallery mall and waited in line for hours to get my picture taken with her. I still have that picture. More recently I admire Julianne Moore as an actor and a woman. She’s fearless in her role choices and really embraces being out of her comfort zone. Though at the same time she’s grounded and elegant in her private life.
C.H.G.: Which six people would you invite to a dinner party?
E.M.: Ayn Rand, Charlie Chaplin, Antoni Gaudi, Hedy Lamarr, Carl Sagan, and my cousin, Chuchie—he knows how to keep the conversation going.
C.H.G.: What is the most memorable beauty moment you have of your mother?
E.M.: When I was a young girl, my mother worked at Mann’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood on the weekends. She would never leave me with a babysitter, so she would cart me into work with her on the bus. Her uniform for work was a red cheongsam, which is a Chinese traditional dress. We would be sitting on the bus, traveling from Echo Park to Hollywood, and I just remember looking at her and thinking that she was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen—wearing this red dress on the bus.
“The first time I met Eva, she came toward me with a beautiful SMILE and her hand outstretched to shake mine - I was immediately struck by the sheer WARMTH of her personality. It is eclipsed only by her extraordinary beauty!”
C.H.G.: Have you premiered a movie there yet?
E.M.: Yes, about five years ago and of course I brought my mother. That was one of those “dream come true” moments for both of us.
C.H.G.: Is auditioning difficult? Do you have a memorable one?
E.M.: I still have nightmares about my auditions. They were always in office buildings with florescent lighting and they always gave you the most difficult scene in the script like five minutes before you were expected to nail it. Luckily after you’ve made enough movies, you don’t really have to audition anymore. But for Larry David’s Clear History they didn’t think I was right for the role so I insisted they just let me read for it. They said the character was for a plain Jane girl and Larry didn’t want to waste my time. I had to fight for it. Even on the day before the audition, the casting director called me again and said, “It’s really not a glamorous role, are you sure you want to come in”. I thought, “Do they think I sit around in my Golden Globes gown everyday?”. I showed up to the audition in baggy sweatpants, a dirty t-shirt, those Vibram Five Finger sneakers and a baseball cap. I’m standing there looking like a schlub and Larry doesn’t even recognize me. The audition was so fun because with Larry it’s all improv after he sets of the scene. I loved every second of it. It’s taken fifteen years for me to finally have an enjoyable audition.
C.H.G.: And of course you got the role.
“Sometimes when you’re having TROUBLE casting a part you start thinking that maybe the scenes you’re using for the audition just aren’t any good. And then someone, in this case EVA, comes in and nails it, and you’re so RELIEVED that one, you found the right person and two, the scenes actually do work.”
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“I read it every few years.”
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“I cannot live without my NPR app on my iPad. I listen to Terry Gross’ Fresh Air every night.”
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