Once Eva Longoria became famous for starring in the TV show Desperate Housewives, she also became overwhelmed with pleas for her charitable support. “I was getting, like, 1,000 requests a week for, you know, dolphins in Japan and AIDS in Africa and sex trafficking in Thailand,” she says. “All of that is important to fix, right? But I learned quickly, I couldn’t do everything. And I wanted to stand for something.” A mentor pushed her to define where she wanted to make the most impact, and she realized it was in helping the Latina community. She didn’t want to just highlight the barriers women like her have faced; instead, she wanted to zero in on the ways they overcame. “How do we repeat success?” she says.
Entertainment was the obvious place to start. On the Desperate Housewives set, Longoria spent her free time interviewing the producers, directors, cinematographers, and screenwriters about their jobs. She wanted to learn how things were made so she could repeat them on her own terms. She launched her production company, Unbelievable Entertainment, in 2005, where she has been intentional about creating fresh projects and hiring new talent that widens representation for marginalized communities in front of and behind the camera. “As a producer, you assemble everybody, you hire the best people, and you create the jobs. That always intrigued me,” Longoria says. She has since produced and directed a wide range of TV shows; in August she wrapped filming on her directorial film debut, a biopic called Flamin’ Hot, about the Mexican-American janitor who invented the popular Cheetos flavor.
As an entrepreneur and an activist, Longoria has also expanded beyond the bounds of Hollywood—co-founding the nonprofit Eva’s Heroes, which enriches the lives of people with intellectual special needs; cofounding the Latino Victory Fund to raise Latino voices at every level of government; co-founding a digital platform called Poderistas, which aims to empower Latinas to transform their lives and communities; and in September, launching Poderistas, Poderistas, a luxury sipping tequila that has philanthropic initiatives and a predominately female leadership team. Through it all, she says, she’s become upfront that her mission must always be larger than anyone project she works on. “There are bigger things at stake than TV ratings and box office of your movie,” Longoria says she often tells potential partners. “We’ve got a lot of stuff to fix in the world—and that’s going to need your help.”
Here, she talks about how she transformed her career and how she thinks women can make powerful, lasting changes in their industries.
How did you prepare yourself for this transition from actor to producer-director?
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