Eva Longoria Talks Progress, Change, and the Power of Speaking Up

Eva Longoria is a glowing (literally) example that kind and powerful can beautifully coexist.

On September 13, the celebrated actress, producer, and L’Oréal Paris spokesperson participated in an open virtual discussion centered around her personal experiences within the film industry and championing diverse female voices.

The impactful event was hosted by L’Oréal Paris, the Official Beauty Sponsor of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), which took place in Toronto September 9 to 18. After a year of uncertainty and unrest, L’Oréal Paris – much more than an iconic beauty brand –  remains dedicated to amplifying the voices of females pioneering change in the industry and inspiring audiences with their remarkable stories.

At front and centre is a powerful message that women-supporting-women is inspiring a greater sense of self-worth for all. And there’s no better champion of this than Longoria.

“You don’t know how many times I have walked up to people to compliment them,” said Longoria off the bat at the L’Oréal Paris TIFF event, a revelation that deepened my longstanding soft spot for her (she was always my favourite ‘Desperate Housewife’).

“I was at the doctor’s office the other day, and the nurse there was so compassionate to this older couple who, because of COVID, she said, ‘you cannot stay with your husband, I’m sorry, he’s  going to have to go in.’ She was terrified and she was terrified and she took extra time to comfort them. I stepped up to her and said, ‘you are great at your job. You are great; you are compassionate and kind and not everybody has that. Thank you for that.’”

Longoria went on to explain that the nurse was taken back, telling Longoria that she was simply doing her job. “It was so beautiful to witness,” said Longoria. “The same way that, if you’re standing in line at Starbucks and you go ‘you know what you look beautiful today, that lip colour looks amazing on you.’ Do it; don’t be shy.”

Not only does Longoria spread good vibes, she uses her voice and talent to inspire meaningful change. Through her production company UnbeliEVAble Entertainment, she focuses on telling authentic stories about the Latin experience.

While Longoria acknowledges that the film industry has made some progress on the representation front, there’s still a lot of work to do.

“The way we’ve consumed media has changed. You have so many options as a consumer. You can watch streamers, you can watch cable, you can watch network, you can watch YouTube, you can watch social media,” says Longoria. “There are so many outlets for content. So, what has happened is that studios and gatekeepers can no longer keep tapping into the same talent pools as they used to before. In this crowed market of content, you have to be so loud to break out. You have to be something special; you  have to have a hook, you have to have a gimmick, you have to have a star.”

As a result of this changing media landscape, Longoria says the industry has been “forced” to tap into different talent pools.

“And that’s been a great opportunity for women and people of colour who normally wouldn’t get the chance,” says Longoria. “There’s just so many opportunities for people to create, and studios need talent. They need people to come in.”

Longoria stresses the benefits of tapping into typically underrepresented groups in the film industry. “So, what happens is, it can be the same old story of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ but told through a female perspective – that’s kind of a different story. Things may be different,” says Longoria. “Perspective is everything. Having a female gaze and perspective on life and stories and universal themes – that’s something I would want to see for sure.”

While we are moving in the right direction when it comes to the gatekeepers in the film industry (“we’re starting to take the first baby steps,” says Longoria), it’s important that representation is authentically done and creates systemic change.

“With any stories about women or people of colour, there is a saying that we’ve come up with: ‘never about is, without us.’ You cannot tell a story about a woman’s journey unless there’s a woman in the writing room. You can’t tell the story of a Mexican American who created the Flamin’ Hot Cheeto unless there’s a Mexican American telling that story with you.”

But responsibility isn’t just in the hands of the gatekeepers and creators. As Longoria stresses, there is also a big ownership on the audience.

“The audience has to show up. You have the responsibility as an audience, whether you’re a woman, a Latino, from the Black community – whatever it is – if there’s a Black female film, you go buy that ticket,” says Longoria. “It’s our duty to show up and support the creators who are creating this content. Because if we don’t, we aren’t going to deliver the message to the studios and gatekeepers and people in power that we are listening and we are a market that should be paid attention to.”

On the topic of challenging power structure, Longoria is also vocal on the abortion fight in her home state of Texas. While Longoria is no stranger to lending her voice to social justice issues, she acknowledges that it’s more difficult to do so in today’s climate due to cancel culture.

Nevertheless, she says there are certain core values that she stands for and will always stand for, like justice and women’s rights.

“Being an actress, director, and producer – that’s what I do,” says Longoria. “But who I am as a human being, and an American citizen, and a mom, and a sister of a special needs person…I am all of these other things which policy effects. So, I am always going to be active and involved,” says Longoria. “What I do is that I don’t speak for the Latino community. I go out and encourage the Latino community to speak up for themselves. I encourage women to speak up for themselves. Go vote; go get educated about these measures in your state; go volunteer; go door-to-door; get involved. Do what you can but be involved in civic duties. It’s important.”

As for Texas, Longoria says people shouldn’t be surprised about the new abortion law. “You should be paying attention and know this coming down the pipeline; that this was about to happen,” says Longoria. “That was a state legislature that did that. So, you should be participating in that election. If you don’t like what just happened, you should make sure you vote in your state election; not every four years when we vote for president.”

The powerful conversation came as L’Oréal Paris celebrates the 50th(!) anniversary of their longstanding tagline, “Because we’re worth it.”

“It’s not about selling lipstick and hair colour; it really is that message of empowerment,” says Longoria. “It’s no coincidence that phase was made by women.”

Amen.

Erin Nicole Davis

Erin Nicole Davis

Erin Nicole Davis is a Toronto-based writer and actor. When she’s not writing the day away in a face mask, she’s taking in the city’s vibrant arts scene, doing a red carpet interview or brunching with her leading ladies (at least, in pre-COVID-19 times). Follow Erin: @erinnicoledavis

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