Eva Longoria has been on our television screens since 1999, getting her start on The Young and the Restless and famously starring on the similarly soapy Desperate Housewives for the show’s eight-season run. Today, Longoria has put the drama to the side, starring in and directing documentaries, hosting a podcast, and focusing on her activism.
Longoria knew from a young age that she would be involved with activism “whether she was famous or not” and recalls volunteering as a hugger at the Special Olympics, helping out at her local Boys and Girls Club, and advice she’s gotten from her mentor, the iconic Dolores Huerta. For Longoria, it’s all about community, which is what led to the creation of her podcast, Connections With Eva Longoria.
This week on the In Her Shoes podcast, Longoria talks to the Cut editor-in-chief Lindsay Peoples about her new CNN series, Eva Longoria: Searching for Mexico (she says she cries in every episode). For Longoria, a Mexican American, the six-part docuseries gave her the chance to learn more about precolonial Mexico, reckon with her own history, and finally come around on mole.
Listen and subscribe for free on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen to hear about her recent directorial works, La Guerra Civil and Flamin’ Hot, and why Longoria prefers being behind the camera and involved with the business.
This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.
Lindsay: Welcome to In Her Shoes. I’m Lindsay Peoples, and I’m Editor in Chief of The Cut. On this show, I get to talk to people that we love and admire, or some that we just find interesting. We’ll explore how they found their path, what got in their way, and how they brought others along now that they’ve arrived.
Eva Longoria Baston is a true Renaissance woman. Most of us were introduced to her as Gabrielle in the show, Desperate Housewives, but she’s walked many different paths since her time on Wisteria Lane. The actress now holds titles as a producer, director, activist, entrepreneur, and most recently podcast host. She joined us to talk about all of her different projects, including stepping behind the scenes as a director and how her activism has shaped her work.
Our show is called In Her Shoes, so I have to start always by asking our guests either what kind of shoes you’re wearing now or what are your favorite pair of shoes?
Eva: Oh my gosh, well, I’m not wearing any shoes now. I’m barefoot. I am barefoot. I’m normally barefoot. My favorite shoe is no shoe.
Lindsay: I have to work with shoes on.
Eva: I grew up on a ranch in Texas and so I’m usually barefoot in my home and stuff, but I’m a sneaker girl now. I’m into comfort, that’s what I’m into.
Lindsay: 100% agree.
Eva: I love this sneaker craze that came in during COVID. Elastic pants and sneakers, I was like, “Yes.”
Lindsay: I wear a ton of sneakers, I always have specific outfits for them.
Eva: Right, me too. Yes ma’am.
Lindsay: Love it. Okay, so you’ve just finished up Searching for Mexico, a six part docu-series on CNN. I wanted to start there because you traveled to Mexico exploring different foods and talking about different experiences and culture. Tell me a little bit about what that was like and how it came about.
Eva: Searching for Mexico is a spinoff of Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy. Stanley Tucci was an Italian American searching for his roots and I’m a Mexican American. I was like, “Wait, you’re going to pay me to go eat my way through Mexico? Yes, sign me up.”
Lindsay: The best job.
Eva: Is there drinking involved? Great. I don’t think there was an episode I didn’t cry because the world will finally know the Mexico that I know, which is full of beautiful people, beautiful culture, beautiful places, the best beaches in the world. I feel specifically in the United States, there’s a criminalization and villainization of Mexicans and who and what that country looks like, and I think this show will finally show Mexico in the light it deserves to be shown as because it is a beautiful country. I was really moved every episode with the history, pre-colonization, precolonial times, precolonial techniques and food. Mexico as a country is the only cuisine in the world that’s protected by UNESCO as a whole, because it’s tied… even pasta in Italy can’t be protected because pasta’s technically from Asia, Asia created the noodle, and you can always find different connections and how things ended up where, but for Mexico, the cuisine is mostly authentic since precolonial pre-Columbian times.
Lindsay: Oh, that’s amazing. What were some new foods that you were able to try or things that you were able to eat that you had had before and tasted way better?
Eva: I wasn’t a fan of mole. Do you like mole?
Lindsay: Yes, I love mole.
Eva: See, everybody loves mole and I was like, “I don’t like it.” Everybody would always go, “You just haven’t had a good one. You just haven’t had a good one.” When I was in Oaxaca, I got to make mole and have many different moles and it was really great. There’s sweet ones, there’s salty ones. It was really an experience because moles usually have 46 ingredients minimum, so it’s like a whole thing. It truly is a mixture between European and indigenous ties, and so it was really fascinating. Mole was one. I’m not a Mezcal person and Mezcal is the drink of the… this is exploding right now. I’ve moved an inch towards appreciating it because before I was like, “Ugh,” but I’m still a tequila gal. I’m definitely a tequila gal.
Lindsay: I’m assuming that the experience also was very introspective. Did you learn anything about yourself or anything about your perspective on life that shifted after doing the show?
Eva: Yes, I mean, so much. I’m Spaniard by blood. My whole life I’m like, “I’m Mexican, I’m proud Mexican,” and then I did my DNA and I’m 80% Spaniard. I’m like, “Oh my God, I was the colonizer,” and reckoning with that specifically after seeing the beautiful indigenous cultures that are in Mexico and still alive to this day, being in Veracruz, which is where the conquest really started and happened where the Spaniards landed, it was probably my favorite state because, to this day, a culmination of so many cultures and you can see that reflected in the food. There’s obviously the Caribbean influence. There’s a huge African influence. There’s a street that because the slave trade went through Veracruz up to the United States, the Africans that stayed in this area created this beautiful street where the food and the culture and the color… it’s also a protected street because it was just so ingenious what they did and built with nothing in the 1500s.
I also think the flour tortilla in the north… I’m a big flour tortilla person, and if you know what a flour tortilla is, it’s almost like a pita bread, which is almost like a… there’s a lot of origins to it, but the main origin is the Jews that fled the Spanish inquisition and went to the new world, which was Mexico. This was their unleavened bread that actually evolved into the tortilla, and so they were trying to hide their Judaism within this tortilla and trying to hold onto it. It’s very popular in the north where the Jews settled. Instead of eating pork, which was the main protein, they chose goat just to, again, hide their religion. It’s just amazing how resilient these people were within this culture of new Spain and this kind of colonization period.
It didn’t change my point of view, it just enlightened me to have an even greater appreciation, because I really believe I’m a global citizen. I feel like we all live in this beautiful world, we should be kinder, have more empathy, have more compassion, really understand each other instead of being so divisive and defining ourselves by our differences. It’s like, no, we’re way more similar than you think. Just walking away from that meaning being deepened, like I said, I got to see it really present itself within the food everywhere I went and every state. The French influence in Jalisco and the US influence in the north, and like I said, the African, Asian, and Indian influence in the east. I mean, it’s just beautiful. I think it was so enlightening and it was a trip of a lifetime for me. I said, “I wish people would travel more because then you’d have a greater appreciation for these cultures and these people.”
The same people here in the United States who are going, “Taco Tuesday,” are the same people saying, “Build that wall, build that wall,” and so you go, “No, you can’t appreciate just this one part of the culture, but not the people.”
Eva: I hope that this show really reflects how beautiful the people are.
Lindsay: I’m very excited for you, and such amazing storytelling always around food. I feel like it’s such a communal conversation always.
Lindsay: I want to talk about your film that premiered at Sundance, which is about the rivalry between two boxers, Julio and Oscar. What drew you to this project? What made you decide that this was something that you really wanted to do?
Eva: I didn’t want to do it. Oscar De La Hoya has been a friend of mine for 20 years and he called me up and he was like, “Hey, will you — It’s the anniversary of our fight. Can you do a documentary?” I was like, “What, like a boxing doc? No, oh my God, that sounds so boring. Jabs and punches and stuff.” I was like, “I have zero desire.” But what I remembered about that particular fight, which was Julio Cesar Chavez, he still is to this day worshiped and revered as just the greatest champion out of Mexico to ever live. When Oscar challenged him, there was a huge divide in the Mexican community here in the United States, and that’s why the name of the film is called La Guerra Civil, which means a civil war, because households were divided because here was this Mexican American kid challenging the Mexican. Up until that point, all Mexicans really supported Oscar because they were like, “He’s us. He held up the Mexican flag when he won the gold medal for the US.”
I mean, who does that? He’s so proud of his Mexican heritage, he waved a Mexican flag in the ring with the gold medal. He almost got disqualified for it. Mexicans loved Oscar because they were like, “He’s one of us.” I remember Oscar holding up the Mexican and American flag and I go, “Oh my God, that’s me, I’m both things. We can be both.” Once he challenged Julio, Mexicans immediately go, “Oh wait, well you’re not that Mexican.” It was an exploration of what it means to be Mexican enough, and identity, and especially since a lot of us now are hyphenates. We’re Chinese American, we’re Cuban American, we’re Mexican American. I mean, we straddle two worlds and sometimes the assimilation process in the United States says, “Forget that other one, you’re this.” You’re like, “No, I want to honor it. This is part of who I am.” The documentary was really an exploration of identity through this boxing match, and it’s pretty compelling.
Lindsay: I mean, when you’ve talked about that in obviously a generational riff and as you were saying a divide in households, but also not being enough, I think all people of color, we’ve all felt this in certain circumstances. Is there anything in your personal life or career that’s been challenging as far as you not feeling Mexican enough or feeling like your trying to still find your identity in that?
Eva: Yes, because I didn’t grow up speaking Spanish. I speak it now because I live in Mexico City, I’m married to a Mexican, and it’s my third language. My second language is French. I remember just feeling not enough because I didn’t speak the language, just that in itself you feel a little alienated and kept apart. But, I remember moving to Hollywood and I couldn’t get Latina roles because I didn’t have an accent. Every time I went into an audition, they’re like, “Could you do an accent? Could you do an accent?” I was like, “I mean, I don’t have one. I don’t know how to do one.” I was just not talented enough. Then, I would go out for white roles and they were like, “Oh, but you’re brown.” I’m like, “Yes, but I can play Alice. I think I could play Alice.” I moved to Hollywood, I ended up playing a lot of Italians. They thought I was Eva Longoria, I was like, “Sure. Yes, why not?”
Definitely on both sides, I’m not Mexican enough and I’m not American enough, and so navigating that is you just have a daily identity crisis until you really reconcile that when people go, “Oh, you’re half Mexican, half American,” and I go, “No, I’m 100% Mexican and 100% American at the same time.” But, I feel like I’ve probably experienced more barriers as a woman. There’s been more sexism in our industry, compound that by being a woman of color. I mean, but mostly women have to be twice as good, twice as prepared, twice as fast, twice as everything. We just have to be twice everything to even get considered for jobs, specifically behind the camera, producing, directing, writing.
Lindsay: That’s what I actually was going to ask you. Was that what led you to wanting to step behind the camera more and produce and direct?
Eva: Well, I’ve always been a producer director, turned actor. I’ve always loved the business side of things. I think people think I was an actor turned producer, I’ve always been a director producer. Once I had the opportunity to do it, I jumped. I was like, “Yes, I’m going to do this.” I did it because of the lack of representation of Latinos in the media, in front of and behind the camera. I wanted to be in a position of power, which is hiring. As a producer, you get to hire people. I wanted to be in a position of hiring and building a pipeline of talent because everybody… it’s like the chicken or the egg, we don’t get the opportunity of experience to get the job, but I can’t get the job because I don’t have the experience. Give me the job so I can show you I can do the job.
That’s what I wanted to do was give this opportunity to many people so that now they have it on their resume and you can’t say, “Well, she’s never done a TV show. Well, she’s never done this or that.” You’re like, “Yes, she has, and she did well.” That was really the inspiration behind getting behind the camera.
Lindsay: I also meant to bring up Flamin’ Hot, which is your feature film directorial debut, and sounds so fun. I really was interested in what made you want to choose this as a project, which I’ve read about is the Mexican American who turned Flamin’ Hot Cheetos into a global phenomenon. I’m a huge Flamin’ Hot fan also.
Eva: Are you a Flamin’ Hot?
Lindsay: Yes, I like the puffs though. I like the puffs.
Eva: Well, I like Doritos actually. I like the Flamin’ Hot Doritos. Flamin’ Hot is a billion dollar brand today, just the Flamin’ Hot.
Lindsay: I’ve been part of the funding because I’ve been buying it my whole life.
Eva: The idea of it came from the Mexican janitor who worked in the factory. His name was Richard Montaänez, and he is considered the godfather of Latino marketing because he was one of the first people to say, “You guys aren’t paying attention to us. We buy things differently. We search for things differently.” If you’re Mexican, if you buy potato chips, we put Chile on them. He was like, “Why not sell them with Chile? Why not cater to this market?” He was the first guy to do that. But I mean, his life story… because the movie’s not about the creation of the Flamin’ Hot Cheeto, it’s about his life. His life was… he was a gang member since he… he was born into it. His grandpa was a gang banger, his dad was a gang banger, he was a gang leader. He shouldn’t be alive today, much less successful. It’s just that American dream, and he knew he could be more and do more, and his resilience.
He’ll tell you, he was like, “I’m the smartest, most uneducated you’ll ever meet.” He’s just like, “I’m not educated, but man am I smart.” I think a lot of people from communities of color will identify with that struggle of like, “No, I don’t got that elite education or I may not have this,” but Richard’s line is… he goes, “I don’t got no degree, but I have a PhD, I’m poor, hungry, and determined.”
Lindsay: That’s real.
Eva: That’s real, and that’s sometimes better fuel for going after things you want in life. It’s a beautiful movie, everybody’s going to identify with it.
Lindsay: Love, love. I’m so excited. I mean, I know you do so much from directing and acting and you have a ton of businesses, but I do want to talk about your activism and why that’s important to you because I do think that, for so many people in the public eye, they don’t realize that platform and using their voice to speak up on things really does matter. It really is so important to be intentional with your platform and the voice that you have. I just have such admiration for all of the times that you’ve always spoken up, and obviously it means so much to you. I was wondering if there was a moment or things that have happened in the past couple years that made you really want to step into your power and speak up more or that you were really passionate about as part of your own mission.
Eva: I was really lucky to be introduced into community work, philanthropy, and volunteerism at a young age. My oldest sister has a mental disability, so she’s special needs. My mother became a special education teacher because of her, so some of my earliest memories are of Special Olympics. I remember my mom… I was six and she made me be a hugger at the Special Olympics… My job was to hug athletes.
Lindsay: That’s sweet.
Eva: I remember sleeping at the Salvation Army as my mom and my sisters were volunteering. I remember being at the boys and girls club having to volunteer so that they would take my sister who was special needs into one of their karate programs. That just embedded into me this idea that it takes a community, it takes a community to raise a community and I’ve just carried that. I was going to do this work, whether I was famous or not, and I was doing this work, I just happened to one day get a bigger microphone. I remember one of my mentors, Dolores Huerta had said, she goes, “One day, you’re going to have a voice so you better have something to say.” I was like, “What am I going to say? What do you mean?” I didn’t know what that meant. Then throughout the years, just honing in and really defining what my life’s work was going to be about, not the movie star stuff, but my life’s work, my philanthropy and giving back. I don’t really see this as a celebrity’s job, I feel like everybody should partake in…
Lindsay: Yes, that’s the point, everyone should be doing it.
Eva: I think the biggest myth is you got to be rich and famous to be a philanthropist, no, you don’t. Most of the biggest philanthropies in the world were created by a mom who was upset, a mom who fought injustice, a dad who wants guns out of schools. Most stuff is created by extraordinary people who want to see change in the world, and so I think we should follow suit.
Lindsay: I mean, you’ve also talked about this a lot on your podcast, Connection, with a lot of people just being vulnerable about changes that they want to make in the world, or just trying to find their way. What was it like to start your own podcast and I think be on the other side, since you’re probably used to being interviewed so much, but also push some conversations forward with people and kind of challenge some world views that they may have had going into it?
Eva: I mean, when we were in COVID I remember everybody saying, “I just want to go back to normal. I just want to go back to normal. I want things to go back to normal.” I was like, “I don’t.” There’s a lot of lessons I learned through this time to reflect when the world was shut down. I mean, I hate that it took a global pandemic, but I’ve never not worked in my life, and to stop, sit, reflect and analyze my connections with my mom, my husband, my child, my career. I mean, you really have to sit with those connections. I created the podcast to talk to experts in many fields about connecting better. I don’t want to go back, I want to go forward. I want to move forward with my evolution as a human being, and so how can I be better at those connections? Connections to spirituality, your connection to the idea of money, connection to politics, connection to everything. We’re connected to everything, and connection to each other, and most of all, your connection to yourself.
I’ve had some amazing conversations on the podcast with experts on happiness, on depression, on anxiety, on emotional resilience, on I mean just expert after expert. I find that the conversations are really helpful. But to be the interviewer has been fun because I am curious by nature, I love asking questions and I love going, “But why? But how? But when? Oh my God.” I love it. I love learning. You always learn from talking to people if you just listen. You learn a lot more by listening.
Lindsay: This is true. This is true. Something we talk about at The Cut a lot is just women and fems who read The Cut wanting a balance around self care and being so busy. I’m curious of, as you’ve had all these conversations with others and analyzing it yourself, what have you learned about trying to take care of yourself, but also just having a lot on your plate and trying to do all the things that you want to do, but also just making space for yourself in the process?
Eva: I mean, self care to me I think is probably the most difficult for women to do because by nature, we are the caretakers of our children, caretakers of the elderly. We’re the CEOs of our family, we’re making the financial decisions, the educational decisions, the healthcare decisions, we’re the human taxi. It is hard to step back and do that. I also think, for me, self-care isn’t a trip to Cabo… it doesn’t have to be huge, for me, I love taking a bubble bath. Man, if you want to get me a good gift, get me a bath bomb because I won’t buy them for myself. I don’t buy them for myself, so when somebody gives me a bath bomb, I’m like… because to me, that’s my time by myself in the tub. I love that meditation… I meditate every day, and I work out every day as my mental health.
People are like, “You’re always working out,” and they think it’s vanity, but that’s my hour where I can really get my endorphins pumping and prepare me for the day. It’s my mental health hour. I think a lot of times people think self care is I got to go to the spa, I have to get a massage, it could be many things. It could be sit down and take a deep breath, journal, sit down and name five things you’re grateful for today. I do those things every day and I feel like it just centers me. I also think, like you said at the beginning of this podcast, you’ve been busy, busy, busy, and I just changed that word to productive. How was your day? Productive. Because whatever you’re doing in your day is towards a goal that you have, you want to be more successful, you want to earn more money, you want to have a bigger voice, whatever it is. You’re not busy, you’re productive because you’re doing shit towards something. How you talk to yourself is a form of self-care as well.
Lindsay: No, I hear that. I hear that. Do you find that it’s hard to balance at all, or do you find that you were ready and equipped for this moment in your life and all of the productive busyness of it all?
Eva: Yes, I mean, I’m built this way. I have to have 10 things juggling in the air. If you give me one thing, I’m like, “Ugh,” but I have an amazing team around me too so, I mean, I’m definitely privileged. I worked hard my whole life to put myself in a financial situation that I don’t have to think about, “I need to take that job. I need to do this thing. I need to say yes.” I’m in a position of saying no, and I like it. I understand I have that privilege. I have an amazing family that supports me, takes care of me, and helps me raise my son, my mom, my sisters, my husband and his siblings. It takes a community of people. I do think, though, my superpower is time management. I think there’s 48 hours in a day and I’m very efficient with that time. Time is my greatest wealth, I mean that is where I’m either investing in it, spending it, or wasting it. It’s just like money, you’re either investing money, spending money, or wasting money, and the same thing with time.
I like to invest my time in things that are going to produce fruit, they’re going to be fruitful. If it’s not, it’s out of my day, and that has to do with people too. Who are you investing in? What relationships are you investing in? I usually don’t spend hours on Instagram and sitting around, every minute of my day is packed and moving. I like it that way.
Lindsay: What are you investing your time in for the future? What’s the next iteration of things that you want to do or that you can at least tell us about?
Eva: I mean, I haven’t been in front of the camera in a while so I’m going back in front of the camera for a show for Apple. I’ll be shooting in Spain for the next five months, this amazing show, it’s a drama-dy called Land of Women. That’s going to be… I mean, I haven’t been in front of the camera in so long I feel like I’m a little nervous. I’m like, “How do I do this again?”
Lindsay: Five months is so long, how do you even prepare to be gone that long? Or do you commute back and forth?
Eva: No, I’m there, which is funny you say that because I’m there… it’s hot when I arrive, but it’s going to be cold by the time I leave so my packing is a little schizophrenic right now. But just really preparing, I’ve made lists, I’ve made to do list, I’ve made things I have to buy here, things I should buy there. The plugs are different, so I need a new blow dryer. I mean, all kinds… I’m a list maker. I’m definitely excited about it and I can’t wait, and nervous. I have a good anxiety towards it.
Lindsay: Thank you so much for doing this. I really appreciate it.
Eva: Thank you. It was so nice to speak with you.