Eva The Explorer: Globe-Trotter Eva Longoria On The Greatest Adventure Of All—Motherhood

Eva Longoria
DRESS: Atelier Le Lis by Helo Rocha

Photo Credit: John Russo

Photography: John Russo

Styling: Charlene Roxborough

Hair: Elan Bongiorno

Makeup: Frankie Payne

Nails: Kimmee Kyees

Shot on location at 1 Hotel West Hollywood 

If you ever need travel advice, just call Eva Longoria Bastón. She can share the best place to imbibe a Bellini in Capri (J.K. Place); sit down for a savory pan con tomate in Madrid (Casa Lucio); discover delectable haute cuisine in Paris (Monsieur Bleu and L’Avenue); and where to rendezvous for a romantic date night in Saint-Tropez (Chez Bruno, her go-to anniversary celebration spot). Longoria is a self-admitted hodophile and proud of it.

“Travel, to me, is a great luxury,” the 44-year-old actress, director, producer and businesswoman admits, acknowledging that it’s actually the greatest luxury in life. “Just being able to experience new people, places, cultures, languages and food is incredible. For gifts, I always love giving trips—especially to my mom and sisters—so they can experience the world. The best gift you can give is the gift of travel.”

As for the best gift you could give a globe-trotting actor, well, that would be a movie about travel. Although ironically, Longoria’s decision to join the cast of Dora and the Lost City of Gold, a live-action film based on the popular children’s cartoon Dora the Explorer, which revolves around the worldwide travels of 7-year-old Latina Dora Márquez, had nothing to do with her own wayfaring ways and everything to do with her strong sense of self.

The series was one of the most popular in Nickelodeon’s history, finally ending after an eight-season, 172-episode run in 2014. It was—and remains to this day—a culturally relevant, highly educational show. And at its beating heart was a strong, smart and adventurous role model—who happened to be Latina. For this reason alone, wild horses couldn’t keep Longoria away from playing Dora’s mother, Elena “Mami” Márquez.

“When [the producers] called me and asked me to be Dora’s mom, I was like, ‘Oh my God, yes!’ because [Dora] was such an icon in our community, the Hispanic community,” she notes. “When it was announced that I was going to be in the movie, my friends from all over the world were so excited. I was like, ‘How do you know who Dora is?’ I didn’t know she was a global icon; I thought she was our icon. That made me want to bring this project to the screen even more!”

Eva Longoria
DRESS: Fabiana Milazzo

Photo Credit: John Russo

When the Paramount Pictures film hits theaters on August 9, fans of the series might notice Dora (Isabela Moner) looking a little… different. She’s no longer a child (or a cartoon, for that matter), but a teenager who has spent most of her life adventuring through the jungle with her parents (Longoria and Michael Peña), only to discover that the most terrifying adventure ever is… high school. (And come on, you remember high school—it was a jungle out there! Metaphorically, of course.) The plot also involves a quest to save her family and solve an impossible mystery—the titled lost city of gold. And by all accounts, the perambulating protagonist is just as gutsy and strong as her younger self.

“I think it’s a great movie for young girls right now,” Longoria states. “There’s not an image onscreen like Dora―she’s intelligent, adventurous, fearless and confident. She’s both a science nerd and cool. In this movie, there’s a bully at her school, but the bully is a smart girl, and [she and Dora] are fighting to see who’s the smartest. It’s different; we haven’t seen that before. She doesn’t really conform to any ideas of what’s ‘cool’ in high school. The message of the movie is ‘Just be yourself.’”

And this version of Dora, at least, gets it from her mama (and OK, her papa, too). Elena is no longer a homemaker and baker: In Dora and the Lost City of Gold, she is a jungle-dwelling adventurer intent on solving a massive mystery. “This is an origins story,” Longoria explains. “You see her parents and you go, ‘Oh! That’s where she gets it from. That’s why she’s Dora the Explorer.’ If you think Dora’s an explorer, well [then], her parents are on steroids. They’re just all about exploring, discovering, documenting and academia.”

But—as in real life—Dora’s parents can’t live her life for her or expect her to live her life like theirs. “At the end of the movie, the message is ‘We have to let her live her life;’ not imposing your ideals and goals onto your child can be a bit of a message in itself,” she notes. “Even though Dora loves nature and the jungle just like her parents, at the end of the movie, they realize, ‘We need to let her explore life.’”

Longoria, Isabela Moner and Peña

Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures

This is something Longoria herself is going to grapple with at some point in the (thankfully distant) future now that she has embarked on the biggest adventure of her life: motherhood. She gave birth to son Santiago “Santi” Enrique Bastón just eight weeks before filming began on Dora in Queensland, Australia, rendering the role even more important because it was her first as a mom. But unlike the character she’s playing, Longoria doesn’t see herself being quite so laid-back with her son. There will be no jungles out there, thank you very much.

“I think [as a mother] that you have to have a balance,” she says. “There’s a laid-backness of letting Santi, even at this stage, run around and put things in his mouth so he knows ‘That doesn’t taste good.’ I want him to figure things out [on his own]. At the same time, making sure you have structure and discipline is very important. I’m probably going to be a little bit of both [laid-back and tough].”

That’s the only “probably” you’ll hear from Longoria in relation to motherhood. Her first year as a first-time mom (Santiago turned 1 in June) was just as wonderful as she expected. “[Motherhood] has changed me in every way,” she shares. “Everything is different. You’re no longer the center of your universe. Now, everything revolves around him and his schedule and his needs—happily so. [My first year as a mom] was exactly as it was supposed to be: It was beautiful and magical, but there was nothing that surprised me… Like, ‘Oh, I’m so tired.’ I knew I was going to be tired. Or ‘It’s so hard juggling everything.’ I knew it was going to be hard.”

Maybe so, but she makes it look so easy! She juggles motherhood, producing, directing, acting and running her own charity seemingly effortlessly. We suspect a clone, but she claims her secret is strategizing. “I’m really great at prioritizing,” she notes. “I take things day by day, and I’m very efficient. There’s never a minute in my day that’s not accounted for—even playtime! I’ll say, ‘I’m going to play with Santi from 4-7 before he goes to bed.’ I schedule everything—even meditation. I work well that way, when I know exactly what my day is going to look like, and that’s therapeutic to me. When you have a child, you have to be pretty strict on time. I have to be home before he goes to bed to bathe him and to be with him at night. I want to be there in the morning when he wakes up, so I schedule meetings around that.”

Eva Longoria

Photo Credit: John Russo

That she can adjust her career around her son is nothing short of amazing, and she knows it. “I’m lucky that I have a job where he can go with me,” she admits. “I have him in the office, on set, behind the monitors. He’s been with me from day one of working. I’ve balanced work and motherhood pretty well because I have a job in which I can do that.”

Both she and husband of three years, José “Pepe” Bastón, the former president of Televisa, the largest media company in Latin America, have a fair amount of professional freedom that allows them to have it all: time with their son, time to travel and, also importantly, quality time together—which isn’t always easy with an infant. “We’re really lucky, where we’re in an industry that allows us to always be with [Santiago] and always be together. [José] can come with me to do a photo shoot in Paris; he can come with me to shoot Dora in Australia. My husband and I love traveling—we love work, work-ations and vacations—and are madly in love with each other. We’re always together.”

Longoria is so in love that she doesn’t even care that most of the diaper duties fall squarely on her very toned shoulders. “That’s not the nature of men,” she shrugs. “It’s not like he doesn’t want to—of course he changes diapers and gives [Santi] his bottle, but it’s not like 50-50. I do way more, but it’s no big deal. I have no complaints.”

Well, maybe there’s one, and. it’s kind of a big one. “The minute Santiago was born, I had an anxiety attack,” she recalls. “‘We’ve got to fix the world. The world is not a safe place right now!’” 

And in typical Eva Longoria fashion, she decided to do something about it. “My philanthropy [efforts] have increased,” she notes. “The stakes have gotten higher. I want to leave a better world for him. I see so many problems [during the course of] my activism, and the urgency has struck me in a way that it didn’t before.”

Longoria founded Eva’s Heroes, a nonprofit for those with special needs, in 2006. In 2012, she then started her self-named Eva Longoria Foundation with a mission to helping Latinas build better futures for themselves and their families through education and leadership by providing resources for success in school and in business. The nonprofit is very near and dear to her, but it isn’t just success for the Latin community that Longoria longs for—she preaches altruism and kindness in her own life, and that’s the message she wants to pass on to her son.

“[The most important thing for him to learn is] compassion and kindness,” she maintains. “When I was pregnant with him, I’d rub my belly every night with coconut oils and creams, and I would pray that he would be kind, compassionate and mindful. I hoped he would be mindful of people’s feelings, mindful of the world and its problems.”

Eva Longoria
DRESS: Atelier Le Lis by Helo Rocha

Photo Credit: John Russo

One of the biggest problems is sexism in Hollywood, an issue that Longoria—who has been producing and directing her own projects successfully for many years—is well-versed in, and is in a unique position to do something about. She made one small step forward as Executive Producer of ABC’s Grand Hotel, which focuses on the last family-owned hotel in South Beach, Miami. Its cast is predominantly Latino. “What I did behind the camera is hire predominantly female directors,” she notes. “The majority of our director spots went to females, then the next openings went to people of color. I hired a female DP (director of photography), which is like the unicorn in our business—it’s unheard of. She’s amazing and ended up hiring women in the camera department. I hired a female stunt coordinator. I was consciously hiring women instead of unconsciously ignoring them.”

Whether she’s producing, acting or directing, she chooses her projects for the same reasons—passion and purpose. “I always ask myself, ‘For what reason are you doing this?’ It might be to make someone laugh or to make a point or give them social medicine that’s easy to swallow in a comedy,” she says. “With Grand Hotel, I wanted to do an upstairs-downstairs show where the upstairs was Hispanic. Representation matters in the media; it matters in TV and film. Our communities can’t be what they can’t see. We want to show them different walks of life. There’s always a reason and purpose to what I produce and which projects I decide to act in.”

Oftentimes, again citing Grand Hotel as an example, that purpose is to incite change, even if it’s a small one. “I’m working a lot with women and Latinos as writers and directors, trying to build a pipeline of talent so when the chance and opportunity comes, they are prepared for it and can show a body of work that is worthy of these jobs that they’re missing out on because they can’t quite get the experience because they can’t quite get their foot in the door because the system still puts them on the margin,” she says. “I’m going to continue to do my part in helping those up-and-comers get those opportunities and experiences.”  

As someone who met the same resistance herself but overcame it to become the powerhouse industry vet she is today, Longoria refuses to take no for an answer, but she’s pragmatic about hearing it, anyway. “We always meet resistance because the industry has been tapping into the same talent pool for decades—which is white and male,” she notes. “Anything that is not that is always a bit of a challenge, whether it’s a woman, a person of color or [an] LGBT [person]. Things are changing now; there are so many avenues out there, and people need content. It’s a very exciting time right now for content creators, but you can’t just sit back and [wait for it to happen] and say, ‘This is hard.’ Change is hard, or people wouldn’t do it. Change is uncomfortable, but you have to push through it. [Personally], I’m not really a whiner; [I’m someone] who pushes through, who makes the difference and makes the change. You don’t think about how hard the change is—of course, it’s hard, or it wouldn’t be change.”

Longoria and Michael Peña in Dora and the Lost City of Gold

Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures

Her impassioned speech reminds us of a candidate running for political office so much that we wonder why she hasn’t. After all, Longoria might be tiny at 5’1”, but she’s a mighty force to be reckoned with. This isn’t something she hasn’t heard before, but the political office isn’t the right job for her—she thinks she can make much more impact as a citizen (although she did serve as a national co-chair for President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign). Not-so-secretly, we hope that she changes her mind. There’s power in passion, and she’s got that in spades. And as a Democratic, American-born Latina from Texas, she’s in a unique position to understand all Americans. 

“There is so much progress that we’ve made in the last 50 years that’s being rolled back right now—including women’s rights, voter rights and intolerance to different communities,” she points out. “It’s a sad time when we’ve made so much progress as a country, especially as a country that represents freedom. We’re the best country in the world. We represent the best of the best, so to see us not living up to the promise of the access of the American dream or with discrimination, we are denouncing the founding equality of this country. We need to figure out who we are as a nation and what we want to stand for.”

The first step, she says, is realizing that the world is a much bigger place than just America―we are not in a bubble. “You have to realize that we live in a global community. What happens in France affects us; what happens in Africa affects us. As global citizens, we have to learn how to accept and coexist with each other. We also have to embrace other cultures and people who are different than us—it makes us grow as human beings. We are one species living on this Earth. We’ve got to figure out how to coexist in a harmonious way,” she notes, adding, “The world is so big. You have to go out and see it and look at the beauty and differences we all have—but you’ll mostly find similarities.”

And this jet setter should know. Whether she’s flying to Sydney; going for a jog near the Seine as she does every time she lands in Paris; vacationing in Tahiti or Bora Bora; eating pizza in Capri; eating dream-inducing paella in Marbella; or making her annual jaunt to the Cannes Film Festival with L’Oréal (she’s a brand spokesperson), Longoria is the ultimate global citizen, embracing all that the world has to offer… and then some.

When we suggest an apt new nickname, Longoria just laughs and says, “I am Eva the Explorer!”