"I’ve always been business-minded," the 34-year-old actress and businesswoman told Self magazine's October issue. "I approached Hollywood like a business. I was very calculated. I wanted to be treated like a guy; I wanted to put asses in seats. I saved my money, invested wisely and marketed myself. I’ve been building my own personal brand over time."
That brand has expanded to include The Honest Company, which Alba launched less than four years ago and is now valued at $1.7 billion dollars.
The mother of two started the company out of necessity. While pregnant with older daughter Honor, 7, she broke out in hives after using baby laundry detergent.
"I was horrified by the realities around the use of chemicals, and also the link that these chemicals have to a lot of illnesses, from obesity to lung disease to cancer, allergies, eczema -- all of it," she explained to Self. "I was bringing this little person into the world and I thought, 'I want her to be healthy.'"
Alba approached Christopher Gavigan, former CEO of the eco-focused nonprofit Healthy Child Healthy World, about helping her find safer household essentials. Dismayed by the price and inaccessibility, the star set about creating her own affordable, easy-to-find products, eventually persuading Gavigan to join her as a co-founder.
Alba's determination goes way back to childhood, as a "sickly kid," afflicted by asthma and bouts of pneumonia, she said. But she never let illness stop her, she said, even carrying a breathing machine to her soccer games.
"I was on a swim team, and I was chubby and slow and dead last -- a full two laps last. I was crying and couldn’t breathe," she recalled to Self. "My mom and dad were like, ‘You started this, you’re going to finish it!’ My parents made me stick to stuff, pick myself up. It’s painful to go through, but I appreciate that tough love."