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August 2, 2005

Reese Witherspoon: What You Don't Know About Her "Imperfect" Life

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Witherspoon is all passion, but she isn't fighting this alone. For the past six years, she's been married to actor Ryan Phillippe, a former soap star who has become a regular on the indie-film circuit, starring in such films as Crash, Gosford Park and Igby Goes Down. Witherspoon met Phillippe at her 21st birthday party, and by all accounts, she was positively smitten at first sight. "We both come from families in which our mothers worked, and we approach [our marriage] like a job: We work at it," she says, adding that it also helps that they have both made raising their two children, 6-year-old Ava and 2-year-old Deacon, their top priority.

Witherspoon and Phillippe take turns with their filming schedules so they can remain together as a family, whether on location or at home in L.A., where she takes her daughter to school and doctor's appointments and cooks dinner for the family. "I like to cook," she says, adding with a laugh, "I also have a few regular places I call for takeout a couple nights a week, and Ryan cooks, too. He's really amazing with the kids." She also hasn't ruled out the idea of having a third child, although at just 29, "I have the luxury of having some time to think about it."

Her devotion to family has led Witherspoon to the Children's Defense Fund. The organization, which fights child poverty by helping families access social services and benefits, is run by Marian Wright Edelman. Edelman's inspirational book, The Measure of Our Success, won Witherspoon over when she first read it during her year at Stanford University (she left college at the end of her freshman year to pursue her acting career). Then, as a new mother five years ago, she went through what she calls "a little bit of a rough patch." "It was before Legally Blonde, and I was having a hard time getting a job. There were all these questions about my weight, and I was asking myself, Why am I an actress? What is life about?" she recalls. "So I started reading the book again, and I called the Children's Defense Fund to see if I could help."

In addition to contributing financially, Witherspoon also meets with each year's college-scholarship winners. This year's scholarship party took place at a Los Angeles bowling alley, where Witherspoon spent hours eating pizza and chatting with the slightly starstruck high schoolers.

Her experiences with the charity, as well as her struggles to raise her own children amid privilege, have caused Witherspoon to start questioning the values she's encountered in Hollywood. "My kids are not just getting my values and morals but are getting outside influences," she says. "I feel like there's a race being run in Los Angeles for some unattainable goal ‑- to be the best, the skinniest, the most beautiful. I just admit that that's what I'll never be."

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