Eva Mendes has emerged from a life-changing year more confident than ever. She talks to Elin Tough about bravery, body image and the secrets of self-belief

‘I’ve taken two words out of my vocabulary: regret and should.’

There aren’t many celebrities we would want to interview twice in one year, but then Eva Mendes isn’t your average celeb. OK, like many A-listers, she’s got the beauty, body and brains thing down, but this Hollywood hottie’s got self-belief sussed, too. And we’re not just talking professionally – though strutting your stuff on 50ft billboards in nothing but your Calvin Kleins definitely takes some balls. In the six months since we last met, she’s made some huge, life-changing decisions. Perhaps the biggest – certainly the most public – of all was ending her nine-year relationship with film-maker George Augusto.

Six months on, many women would still be shell-shocked and emotionally fragile, but Eva’s emerged more self-assured than ever – signing up for one of her biggest film roles to date, as a struggling single mother with a penchant for married men in Girl In Progress, released in the UK later this year, as well as embarking on a relationship with Ryan Gosling, who’s six years her junior. So, how does she stay so damn confident, event in difficult times?

Eva greets me with a big energetic handshake and a warm smile, before jumping cross-legged onto her armchair in her plush Hollywood hotel room. The famously ‘curvy’ star looks even slimmer and fitter than last time we met. For a split second, I wonder if these might be the physical signs of her emotional year, but she’s quick to rubbish that theory, telling me she feels ‘so satisfied’ with her health at the moment. ‘I’ve never taken such great care of myself. I’m seeing the results of exercising, eating well and drinking plenty of water and I feel healthier and more beautiful than ever,’ she says. Hardly surprising that she’s fronting Reebok EasyTone’s new ‘Satisfaction Guaranteed’ campaign, then. When it comes to health, fitness and happiness, there can’t be a better role model.

At 37, Eva has the sort of super-toned figure and smooth, unblemished skin women half her age would be proud of (not to mention that hot new toyboy), so it’s no surprise when she tells me she no longer suffers with body-confidence issues. ‘That’s something I’ve worked really hard at,’ she admits. ‘I went through my teenage years unhappy with what I was born with and complained about everything. But my older sisters and my amazing mum helped me realise I had to change my attitude towards myself. You have to learn to accept the things you can’t change and be brave enough to change the things you can. That was like an epiphany for me – I suddenly realised I had a lot of power over myself.’

It’s refreshing to see a woman so comfortable in her own skin, but how does she maintain that positivity? ‘I have this rule that when I look in the mirror, I won’t say something about myself I’d never say to a friend,’ she says. ‘Would I talk to a friend so negatively? Of course not, so why treat myself that way?’ In Eva’s world, self-acceptance is the first rule of confidence. ‘Never point out your flaws to anyone, ever, including yourself,’ she urges. ‘Accepting compliments is really important, too – even if you don’t agree with them. I’ve never understood why so many women struggle to accept compliments.’

That’s easy for someone so beautiful to say, though, right? ‘I prefer the term sexy to beautiful,’ she argues. ‘Because anyone can be sexy. What makes someone really sexy – and you can feel it when they talk to you or even just when they walk into a room – is the sense that they know they have something to contribute. They might be funny, smart or really kind, but they know it and when someone has that strong sense of self-worth, it’s really sexy.’

But sexiness and body image aside, how does Eva apply this sense of confidence to her private life and, more importantly, to those big life decisions? There’s no doubt that ending a nine-year relationship in her late 30s is an incredibly bold and courageous move. ‘But we’re still so young,’ she says. ‘Whatever are you’re at, do you want to look back in ten years’ time and say, “Oh, I was so young and so dumb,” and see the opportunities that passed you by? Flash-forwarding to the future really works for me – even if it’s just my tomorrow self telling my today self to get off the couch and do some exercise!’

And there’s another of Eva’s key confidence rules – focusing on the future. She has an unlikely person to thank for it, too – her high-school athletics coach. ‘He used to shout at me to stop looking behind when I ran,’ laughs Eva. ‘He showed me that even if I looked back for a millisecond, it would affect my performance – and since then, I’ve applied that theory to everything in my life. I really believe that when making decisions, you have to focus on looking forwards.’ It’s a courageous stance, but, honestly, does she never panic that she might live to regret some decisions? ‘I’ve taken two words out of my vocabulary – regret and should,’ she says firmly. ‘I don’t like them, I don’t agree with them, so I don’t allow myself to use them. Really, I don’t regret anything. When I look back at my life, even at decisions that could be considered mistakes, they’re usually the moments I’ve learned the most from.’

Perhaps much of Eva’s confidence can be attributed to that fact she has a great back-up team, especially her therapist, who she sees once a week. ‘You go to a personal trainer to feel strong and healthy, a hairdresser to make you look great, so why not have someone you can talk to occasionally who keeps you emotionally fit?’ she reasons. ‘As women, we get caught up in the idea that we’ll just talk to our sister, mother or girlfriends, and while that’s wonderful, they’re so emotionally involved, they always have an opinion and they’re biased because they love you.’ For Eva, prevention is definitely better than cure. ‘I think it’s important to have someone objective in your life who you can trust and discuss things with before they become a problem. I’m the only one in my family who sees a therapist, but I’m probably the one who needs to see one the least!’

Eva’s agent signals that my time’s almost up, but all this talk of bold decision-making and self-belief has got her on a roll; it’s clear that Eva’s personal and professional happiness genuinely depend upon it. I can’t help but feel inspired by her, and before I go she wants to share one final thought.

‘I read this amazing quote from the author Anais Nin last night that totally sums up how I feel, so emailed it to myself to keep,’ she says, excitedly reaching for her iPhone. ‘She said, “Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage”. Isn’t that wonderful? That is absolutely the sort of sentiment I live by.’ We don’t doubt it for a minute, Eva.

To be part of Reebok Easy Tone’s ‘Satisfaction Guaranteed’ campaign, visit facebook.com/reebokwomen. EasyTone is available from JD Sports and retailers nationwide. Find out more at reebok.com/easytone.

Eva’s fit body secrets

‘In my 20s and early 30s, I took being healthy and thin for granted,’ she admits. ‘a few years ago, I stopped feeling as healthy, so I changed my lifestyle.’ Here’s how:

She follows a meat free diet. ‘I haven’t eaten red meat or chicken for years. I do eat fish, though, it’s my main source of protein. I’m proud of my food choices, they make me feel good from the inside out. Although, on the flipside, I do get a lot of satisfaction from chocolate!’

She loves the great outdoors. ‘I word out best at night – I’m not a morning person at all. And I like to work out outside rather than in a gym. I love running, hiking, light weights and lots of stretching. And I do some sort of physical activity every day, even if it’s just walking my do Hugo.’

She makes exercise fun. ‘Find out what you like to do, then make exercise out of it on this shoot, we had a Hula Hoop and it was so much fun, I went and bought one this next day!’

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