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July 5, 2005

Jessica Alba: "Things I Can't Live Without!"

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Jessica Alba's childhood wasn't nearly as dreamy. Born into an Air Force family in the L.A. suburb of Pomona, CA, she made the first of many moves when she was just an infant. Being a military brat meant Alba attended 12 different schools before graduating; always being the new girl in town was a reality she couldn't shake. Learning how to fit in was the key to survival, especially growing up biracial. Alba is French-Danish on her mother's side and Mexican-Indian and Spanish on her father's. "I was never accepted into the Latin community as a Latina girl, and I was never accepted into the white community as an all-American girl," she reveals. "Hopefully, I can be an example to other people who feel like outcasts."

At 12, Alba discovered acting, and she immediately loved it. "I took classes at Beverly Hills Studios," she says. "Driving into Beverly Hills was a big deal. We had a Ford Probe and a Buick Regal, neither of which ran very well. And gas was expensive." Through the school's "showcases," Alba got an agent ‑- and her first commercial. "It was for Froot Loops or something," she says with a laugh.

Two months later she got her first film, Camp Nowhere. "But I wasn't just lucky," she says. "We hustled. My mom gave up working and drove me to auditions, and my dad put the 'never quit' thing in my head." Downstairs again, Alba picks up a favorite picture of her with her dad propped up on a table that's covered with family photos. "My dad is so dark, and my mom is so light," she says. Has her mixed ethnicity ever come into play in terms of casting? "It was definitely something that made it a struggle at the beginning," she admits. "I fell into the 'We don't know what you are' category. Now, it's more open." Case in point: In Fantastic Four, Alba plays Susan Storm, a scientist who happens to be fair-skinned, blue-eyed and blonde. "I play a role everyone said I could never play. It's funny now, with Angelina Jolie and people who are a little bit different-looking starring in movies. Like audiences can finally wrap their heads around the idea that not all American women look like Kate Bosworth."


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