It’s 8:30 a.m. on a Monday, and Eva Longoria has already been at it for two hours. Her voice has a happy lilt and she has her infectious laughter at the ready. While most of the nation reaches for the snooze button once more, she’s been answering calls, planning her day and continuing steadily on her course toward world domination. Or, her version of it.
At first, saying that about Eva Longoria – a celebrity who hardly needs any introduction, and star of the new television show, “Telenovela” – might sound like an exaggeration. But, consider all the Corpus Christi native has managed to accomplish in a mere few decades.
She has moved from pageant podium to daytime soaps; risen to primetime fame on multiple occasions; made the transition to the silver screen; conquered the runway and countless red carpets; authored a cookbook; founded and maintained two charities; been a spokesperson for political and social activism; released both a clothing and a bedding line; and, in her spare time, she earned a master’s degree from California State. World domination doesn’t seem like quite the stretch for someone who seems powered by something inexplicable.
“I drink a lot of coffee,” Longoria humorously explains. Her disarming candor immediately steers her to elaborate. “Well, I say I drink a lot of coffee, but I always forget where I put my cup down, so then I have to go and make a new one. Then, I forget where I put my cup down, so I have to make a new one.” It’s a very human moment, filled with honest laughter. Nearly everyone can empathize with the search for lattes lost, but it is far more than coffee alone that fuels Longoria’s drive.
“I have a lot of passions. My mind is diverse and I have a lot of different muscles that I want to use,” she explains. With Longoria’s talent and audience, there is no shortage of new requests for time and effort amid the already cramped demands of her schedule. Yet, it hardly slows her down. She confesses, “I am the ‘Yes, we can,’ ’Yes, we are,’ ‘Yes, we’re going to,’ type, as opposed to ‘Oh, I don’t know if that’s going to work.’”
Dispelling the notion that she manages her many endeavors alone, she is quick to give credit to those who make this breakneck pursuit possible. “I have an amazing team,” she says. And, where Eva Longoria’s concerned, that team has to bend space and time to make it all come together. She explains, “I have an ‘I have to do it all’ mentality and there are only 24 hours in one day. I think we waste more time than you think.”
Since her star turn in the television phenomenon “Desperate Housewives,” Longoria hasn’t wasted too many hours.
She has lent both her fame and her name to two charitable endeavors. Eva’s Heroes is a nonprofit organization that sheds light on the struggles of special needs children and young adults in Texas. It is a plight that is incredibly close to Longoria’s heart, and formed much of the woman she is today.
“When I was young, we benefitted from a lot of community programs because I have an older sister with special needs,” Longoria reveals. Her inspiration, care and concern are obvious. Born out of necessity and nurtured by family, they were profoundly formative, from the earliest age. “We would always be at the Boys and Girls Club. We’d always be at the Salvation Army. We’d always be volunteering at the Special Olympics. I knew the word ‘volunteerism’ very early on in my life.”
Longoria’s family, moved by the generosity extended to them, made it a priority to render aid to others in the community who were in need. The lesson held fast, and shaped how she sees charity. “From an early age, it made complete sense,” she explains. “These charities are run on people who are donating time, money or energy. I thought that if we don’t volunteer, there will be no programs for my sister.”
She’s carried that lesson with her, she explains, making sure that she is doing everything she can to give back, even if it’s in a small way. “The system doesn’t work without people giving back.”
But, as she admits, her passions are many, and her own personal experiences as a Latina in the United States inspired her to establish a foundation to meet the needs of others who might want to follow her path, but find themselves without the resources or inspiration to do so. The Eva Longoria Foundation seeks to provide inspiration, motivation and any necessary support to Latinas who want to pursue higher education. As a role model for many young women, she leverages her own fame to drive the message home.
“Every time I do speaking engagements,” Longoria says, “I hear and see young people saying, ‘I want to be famous like you.’ I tell them, ‘You should invent a cure for cancer. Then, you’ll be really famous.’ ‘You should figure out how we can get back into space, that would make you really famous.’ ‘You should figure out how to solve global warming. That will make you famous.’”
The message rings loud and clear, reflecting the thesis she authored at California State for her Master’s – a degree she earned while still maintaining a high-profile television career. Her thesis has formed the basis of her second philanthropic venture, focusing on how the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) can provide an obvious path to success for women and, specifically, women of Latin descent. Longoria sees a need and a way for that need to be met, and little will stand in her way. “The disparities are great,” she explains, “and I want to know how I can make a dent in improving the educational outcomes for Latinas.”
Not content to merely provide lip service, Longoria and her foundation maintain a concentration on the area where their help can make the most impact. “You have to be very laser-focused to make sustainable, impactful change,” she explains. For every STEM graduate that comes out of college, there are three jobs waiting for them, she says. For every other degree, there are five people competing for the same job. “If you look at the future workforce of America and what we’re going to need, it’s going to be in STEM fields.”
She’s fully aware of her position and the volume that it lends to her voice, but she vehemently contends that one need not be a television star or magazine cover model to help make a better future come true.
To begin, Longoria has a critical step for any and all who are compelled to make a positive difference in the world. “First, you have to debunk the myth that you have to be rich and famous to be a philanthropist or to make a difference,” she says. “Some of the strongest, biggest, loudest foundations today in the United States came from a frustrated mom, spouse or wife. Somebody who saw an injustice, who saw an inequality, and said ‘That’s not fair, that’s not right and I’m going to do something about it.’”
To get started, she provides critical insight, from a well-informed perspective.
“I tell people to start in their community. Start with your neighbor. What are their needs? And it’s as simple as a kind gesture. You don’t have to create a charity.” There are already thousands of charities in the United States, Longoria points out.
“Seek out the current resources in your community and figure out where you want to donate your time and energy and how you want to do that. There are so many different ways you can participate in the world of charitable giving or philanthropy, by either creating awareness or raising funds.”
Peering into the future of charities and philanthropic endeavors, Longoria even embraces a horizon where her efforts are no longer needed. As with all great leaders and many of the best innovators, she would ideally like to work herself out of a job. “That is the dream – where foundations and charities are not needed,” she says. It is a very hopeful outlook, from an even more hopeful place, but rooted in a practical knowledge of the system.
Having run a foundation since 2010, and Eva’s Heroes for over a decade, her perspective is both well-informed and attainable. “Foundations and charities are meant to catch people who fall through the cracks that our public sector does not address or somehow doesn’t really touch. So, I do dream of the day when my foundation is not needed to level the playing field for Hispanics in education, specifically women in education.”
With all of her involvements, from a hit show that is breaking ground by employing an all-Hispanic cast to a recent engagement, it’s easy to see that Longoria is bending the laws of space and time to fit 48 hours into a standard day. She switches hats, jets from coast to coast and maintains the same energy level throughout.
One might wonder what keeps her grounded, when and if her down time arrives. “I tell everybody I could live anywhere in the world, because home is where I am. Home is where my mind and heart is. If I’m in Mexico City with my fiancé, I feel at home,” she insists. “My home is in my heart, and I get to take the essence of all of me, everywhere I go.” So, no matter where she goes, she carries that grounded nature with her.
“My aunt told me a long time ago, ‘Grow where you’re planted.’ If you’re going to be in L.A., you need to grow. If you want to be in Mexico, you need to grow; but, grow where you’re planted, because you could be planted anywhere.”
And, although she’s a self-professed gypsy, there is one source of power, of rootedness, that Longoria confesses she cannot, nor does she wish to, disavow.
“When I think about home, I think about Texas,” she says. “I can be anywhere in the world and people ask, ‘Where are you from?’ I say, ‘Texas,’ and they immediately know what that means. That makes me so proud and happy because I do consider Texas to be the place where I grew; and that’s where I was surrounded by this amazing and interesting culture and history that I navigated through.”
One might say that the Lone Star State is where her quest for world domination began, and so it seeps into all of her plans and designs. But, rather than conquering the world with might, fame and power, Eva Longoria is winning the world over with optimism, new ideas, charity and lots and lots of coffee – and perhaps just a little bend of space and time. With the dedication, energy and moxie she possesses, there are few, if any, people better suited to the task.