Many people know her as the beautiful wife of actor Matthew McConaughey, but Camila Alves is so much more. She is a mother, businesswoman, entrepreneur, and above all, a passionate woman who is dedicated to helping others experience a better quality of life.
Growing up in Brazil, Alves took a gamble at the age of 15 when she left behind everything she knew to follow her dream. A trip to the United States to visit her aunt turned into a more permanent stay. “When I got on the plane with my mom, I looked at her and said, ‘I don’t think I’m coming back,’” says Alves.
It is that kind of intuition that has led Alves to follow her passions. In addition to finding success as a model, she has involved herself in multiple projects that tap into her creative nature. “I watched my mother go to work and create; it’s in my blood to do the same,” she says.
For over 10 years, mother and daughter have collaborated on MUXO, a line of fashionable yet functional handbags. “We basically started in our apartment and grew our business to where we were selling on QVC and in various department stores,” says Alves.
This was one of Alves’ first entrepreneurial endeavors in the U.S., however, after the birth of her third child, she took a step back from the business to not only become a more present parent, but also to discover what it was that “Camila loved to do.” She did some soul-searching and realized that when it came to lifestyle—health, wellness, cooking, decorating—what she most enjoyed was sharing these ideas with other women.
Her website, WomenofToday.com, was born from these ideas in 2016. In addition, she has taken her other passion—providing a healthy nutritional foundation for her children—and parlayed that into a business collaboration with “Yummy Spoonfuls,” a frozen organic baby food company providing the freshest ingredients right from the farm. Together with her husband, Alves is also dedicated to empowering high school students by providing them with the tools to lead active and successful lives through the Just Keep Livin Foundation.
BELLA sat down with Alves to learn more about the mother of three, and all of the ways in which she’s working to put out a positive message through helping others have a better quality of life.
You came to America at a young age, not knowing the language, and leaving behind the only life you knew. Did you ever consider returning home?
When I was 19, I moved to New York to pursue my modeling career. After months of going on casting calls and not getting a job, I thought, “Well, maybe I’m not supposed to do this.” I considered going back to Brazil; when you leave everything and everybody you know and things don’t work out, you wonder if it was the right move.
The owner of the modeling agency [Major Models] I was signed with convinced me not to give up. I thought about returning to LA, where at least I had been working and knew a few people. She gave me a small allowance to help get me through the winter and eventually work started coming in. My first job was a billboard in Times Square, and from there things progressed. I was extremely blessed to work and live for months at a time in different places, including Greece, Paris, Milan, Africa, and Asia. Those experiences were priceless.
What led you to transition from modeling to handbag design?
I always wanted to start a business. Years ago, I thought about selling coconut water before it became popular. I found a way to bring it to the States and went to every single friend I knew to try and get funding, but all I kept hearing was, “Americans won’t drink coconut water.” Then it became a big hit here.
I look at things and think, “How can that work from a business perspective?” My mom was here with me and I asked her what she wanted to do; she suggested handbags, so that’s how we got started. I’m no longer part of that business, but she has continued with it.
Tell me about your website, WomenofToday.com.
I started the site as a way to share with other women what I have learned. Whether it’s taking care of your skin, learning how to cook, decorating, or kids activities, I wanted to create a hub… a community where we could all share tips and ideas. I don’t have all the answers—together we can learn from one another.
You recently celebrated the one-year anniversary launch of “Yummy Spoonfuls.” How did the collaboration with founder Agatha Achindu come about?
After having my third child, Livingston, we were on location, living in a trailer, and I would be up in the middle of the night making all of these purees and vegetables and trying to pack them so I could freeze and keep them fresh. I thought to myself, “Why is it so hard to find fresh, organic baby food in the store just like you make at home?”
I started to research the idea and to my surprise there weren’t any companies making frozen, organic baby food on a mass scale. While there were some smaller ones, they weren’t very practical for a few reasons. I travel all over the world, especially within the United States, to places that are small and in the middle of nowhere, where certain things aren’t always accessible. My goal in life is to try and make things accessible to everyone.
Through a mutual friend, I was introduced to Agatha who had started a similar business nine years earlier, and we clicked right away. We have similar backgrounds; we both come from a family of farmers and understand the importance of “real” food. It’s important to have the purest form of food and it shouldn’t be just certain people who have access to it. Our goal is to continue working to make it accessible to as many parents as possible. [Yummy Spoonfuls is sold in 1,500 stores, such as Whole Foods and Target, and is currently available in 31 flavors.]
Your foundation, Just Keep Livin, is based on the doctrine that part of life is about giving back. How does j.k. livin accomplish this?
The goal of our foundation is to help high school kids who are still in the developing stage…to help shape and impact them in a way that will change their lives. We want to build great men and women. Through afterschool programs that focus on physical fitness and wellness, we are teaching them how to take care of themselves while also providing a safe place to go. We bring in guest speakers from all walks of life to share their stories; you never know what will inspire kids. The more they are exposed to, the more possibilities they will have.
Another part of the program is community service; it’s important for kids to learn how to help others. They do things like cleaning up a beach and preparing packages for the troops in Afghanistan; whatever it is, we always have 100% attendance. What we are doing is helping them to see their own potential. Our program is inspiring them to do the right thing and they realize that what they have to give back is so special.
Are your children involved in the charitable work of both you and your husband?
Absolutely! They see the work we do and from an early age are learning to give back. Any time we visit schools or orphanages, they’re with me. Together we go to the store, pick out what to buy, and deliver it to the various places. They also have their own version of things they try and do—they save money, and at Christmas we buy gifts to send to children in orphanages in Brazil.
Small gestures of kindness can change how people go about their lives. In every location, we try to find ways to help the people of that community. I’m constantly doing these types of things; I just don’t talk much about it. It is how I go about my life—if I see someone who needs help, I try doing what I can.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
When I was having a hard time with one of my pregnancies, a family friend said to me, “This too shall pass.” It’s such a simple line, one that’s in the Bible, but up until then I had never really thought of it. Those words helped me, and any time I am going through something, I say to myself, “This too shall pass, so Camila, how are you going to handle it?” It helps me keep a good, positive attitude toward handling problems and situations instead of letting them take over.
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By Alexandra Anastasio