We spoke with Kristen Bell about death, beauty, and outrage culture
When you’re in the same room as Kristen Bell, you’re fully aware that you’re in the same room as Kristen Bell. There’s something about the actress that draws in the eye and the ear. When she speaks, no matter how much distance is between you, she pulls you in. And when you first catch a glimpse of Kristen, she glows amongst the crowd. You suddenly want to be near her, to hear her, to know what perfume she wears on the daily. I got to experience this firsthand at a roundtable during an event for This Bar Saves Lives, an impact brand founded by Kristen Bell, Ryan Devlin, Todd Grinnell, and Ravi Patel.
Every time you buy one of their bars, This Bar Saves Lives gives a life-saving Plumpy’Nut nutrition packet to a child in need. Kristen told us, “I had always been a bit preoccupied with the idea that charity is wonderful but businesses can do better. It was sort of coinciding when Ryan was in my living room and he had been lamenting about this humanitarian trip he went on. He had seen some severe, acute malnutrition patients up-close and personal. It really sat with him and was sort of haunting him. He was like, ‘Why is no one doing a one-for-one in the food space? Why are no companies doing a give-back in the food space?’”
While she was pregnant, Kristen taste-tested all of Ryan’s recipes (considering that he began baking these bars in his kitchen with his wife). During this time, she not only learned that your taste buds can grow while you’re pregnant — she also learned how to create a sustainable business model that allows a company to give back. “The most frustrating thing about that problem is the solution is like, no duh, feed them. Hello? It’s not rocket surgery. Just feed them,” Kristen states.
To learn more about her charity work and other amazing projects, we sat down with Kristen Bell.
Question (Q): With kids taking part in movements such as March For Our Lives, how do you talk to your kids about making change?
Kristen Bell (KB): I’ll tell you how I talk to my kids. Then I’ll tell you what I’d say to those kids.
I talk to my kids at their brain level…When we get a toy into the house, they are responsible for picking a toy to go out of the house. We talk about the work I do at Baby2Baby because I’m one of their ambassadors. We have a Baby2Baby bin at their school…There’s a Paw Patrol toy at the top and they want it. I say, “You know how excited you are about your Paw Patrol toys? Some kids don’t have any, any Paw Patrol toys. What would that feel like if you had no Paw Patrol toys?”
I walk them through it at their level as opposed to saying, “No, you need to donate that.” That’s like saying that to a dog. A kid doesn’t understand that. But if you say to them, “What would it feel like if you had no toys?” They go, “I would feel sad.” You go, “Some kids don’t have any toys. That sucks and their parents work really hard and they still can’t afford toys. Look, we don’t play with this anymore. Let’s give it to a kid.”
To those [activist] kids who have a fire under their ass, I would say don’t ever let anyone discourage you about what speaks to your heart. Everyone’s heart is different. If you are tugged on your heart-strings by animal causes, do it…But don’t let anyone tell you that clean water is more important than animal rights, or that giving diapers away is more important than giving free lunches to a Title I school that qualifies. Everyone is different and everybody has a passion. Whatever your passion is, if it’s the environment, if it’s saving the tigers.
In the philanthropy space, there’s a ton of competition. To be honest, I’ve really never seen egos as big. And I am an actor, guys, to put it in perspective.
Understand that someone’s already doing what you’re doing and defend your piece. If you want to save the tigers, and somebody says, “Why don’t you do something for people in America?” You say, “Yeah. I can and maybe I will. But right now this is important to me.” Or squelch their argument immediately and do both. Say, “I feed kids overseas and I also feed kids here.”
Q: That’s a good point, the judgment people have about what organization you’re involved in. Does that seep into The Good Place a little bit?
KB: I’m sure we’ll touch on it. But people suffer from outrage addiction. That is truly what I think might sink us, as a human race, is outrage addiction. No matter what comes out, what article someone was vulnerable enough to write, what story someone was vulnerable enough to tell, people are…I want to use specific examples, but I don’t want to get in trouble…I’ll use a specific example. Please have my back here, guys.
I’ve heard that there has been backlash to I Feel Pretty. I find that to be very disheartening because, again, from what I’ve heard…Amy Shumer is not nearly as heavy enough or ugly enough to play [a woman like that]. I think, “How could you be angry about the plot line of a movie that simply tells a girl, that no matter what she looks like, that if she has ultimate confidence, her life will change. How on earth could you be mad at that plot line?”
I feel like we are so used to getting outraged. Don’t get me wrong. There’s a variety of things that we need to be pissed off about. I have not read these articles, and I’m the first to tell you that, [but I heard] that there was a little bit of backlash about the trans character in Love, Simon, because he was too feminine. [But] you can’t tell every story. I have friends who have transitioned and [have] become very feminine. That was that story. I’ve known people who’ve transitioned who have not been feminine or stayed exactly the same and just transitioned their body under their clothes. It doesn’t matter. It’s whatever you choose. But only one story can be told. I’m using the backlash of movies as an example of outrage addiction, when I believe the people behind the camera are trying to do the right thing.
Q: How do you balance your outrage?
KB: I bitch to my husband at night, he bitches to me, and we keep each other in check. If he starts complaining about something, I will call him on it and vice versa. We have a very healthy center of debate at our kitchen table. It involves a lot of friends, too. They call us on everything. We have a very open dialogue about a lot of things. A lot of vulnerable topics. We call each other on it because I don’t think many other types of communication are that healthy when they’re strictly abiding by these taboo rules.
Q: What is that like with your kids? How are you trying to give them the tools to navigate this outrage culture?
KB: We talk very bluntly, in some people’s opinion, to our children about everything. They asked about sex. We said there’s a penis. There’s a vagina. There’s an ovum. There’s ejaculate. They combine. There’s DNA. Then you grow in my belly. Side note: Best advice ever was given to me by Michelle Monaghan. She said, “When you explain to your kids about sex, boys or girls, don’t say the man puts his penis inside the woman’s vagina. Change one word. Say the woman takes the man’s penis and puts it in her vagina.” You’ve re-written the story. You say it to boys. You say it to girls.
We talk to our kids very bluntly about everything because I also believe… A hundred years ago, everyone lived in a studio apartment with their whole family. When Grandma died, you’re laying next to Grandma’s dead body. That is what is happening. Your parents have sex on the bed next to you. That is your life. You understand it. You’re aware of it. It’s not shocking. Then we started separating. This idea of living in separate rooms, which is great. But we’ve also changed our culture based on that. We’re not as open with each other. It was never a big deal to see a dead body. Now it can give a child a panic attack because they’re never aware of it.
We’re dealing with that right now because my father-in-law’s passing away of prostate cancer. It’s been a long time coming and it’s very hard, but our family’s in the best place possible. We talked to our kids about it. We say Poppa won’t be around for much longer. We won’t be able to talk to him. So it’s important that we call him and draw him pictures. His body’s failing because he didn’t go to the doctor as much. We give her the scientific facts [behind] why his organs are failing.
Then, yesterday in the car, she says to me, my five-year-old old, “Mom, when Poppa dies and you bury him, will Delta and I be there?” I said, “Yeah, you’ll be there.” Then I explained to her what a casket was, what an open casket was. I said you’ll probably see his body and he won’t be in it anymore and what burying someone was. She said, “Okay we’ll be there. Do I need to bring my gardening tools? Because I have shovel. Where do we do it? Do we do it on the side of the house?”
I was like, “Oh my god. Her frontal lobe is firing. Her frontal lobe is trying to come online and go, ‘How do I prepare for this? Do I need to be involved?’”
Q: On a lighter note, have you seen Frozen on Broadway yet? Can you talk a little about the songs from Frozen 2?
KB: I cannot wrap my head around our writers, both musically and…Jen and Chris, our directors. They just can’t stop making hits. I’ve heard the music. It’s still in my head. I’ve recorded one song. I’ve recorded the whole movie, although that will change depending on if things are rewritten over the next year before it comes out…I haven’t seen the Broadway show yet. I’ve heard the new music and performed one of the songs at a Disney benefit a couple months ago.
Q: What’s the one beauty product that you can’t live without?
KB: I have really sensitive skin. Harsher things like peels or even at-home exfoliators don’t really work for me. But if I use that tiny bit of exfoliation every night, that Clarisonic, no matter what I use it with…I’ve flown to New York and forgotten it and been like, before a press tour, “I literally cannot do hair and makeup before I have that Clarisonic.” I’m such a devotee.
[Also], coconut oil. I sometimes take my makeup off with it, my eye makeup mostly. But I use it as an all-over body moisturizer. Just like food grade coconut oil. I love it.
I also really, really like the Hydro Boost that Neutrogena has. It’s the one in the blue container and it’s got lactic acid in it and hyaluronic acid, which are the ones that plump you. Hyaluronic acid is apparently what actually plumps your skin from the inside out. I have such moisture issues. I’ve always used cold creams because I can’t use any twenty-something products. It doesn’t work.
I really like the Hydro Boost. The extra dry. Coconut oil. My routine is pretty minimal.
Q: Do you have any personal tips for shopping sustainably?
KB: It’s a tough question because I try to do it right. I don’t always succeed. I cut corners like everybody does because you’re busy…I find being knowledgeable is my best defense to not feel wasteful or inauthentic with the message that I’m delivering.
You know, fashion is a big deal. I follow on Instagram…Eco-Age, it’s about fashion waste and how to not be a part of the gigantic landfill of cheap clothes that are ending up everywhere. Have I purchased cheap clothes? Of course. Do I need to sometimes for my kids because they ruin everything? Of course. But it’s still a priority for me. I think not beating yourself up, having a good BS detector, and being knowledgeable [are helpful].
Things in the food space are particularly tricky because sometimes the FDA is asleep. You’ve got to learn to read the packaging…You have to learn to read the nutritional value as well as what’s sourced because food in particular can be confusing. Calories are not the same thing as healthy. “High or low calories” is a different conversation than “ethically sourced” and “good for you.” Avocado is good for you, but it’s a ton of calories. That’s confusing to people, so breaking apart that conversation is vital. It’s daunting…I’m obsessed with food. I can tell you the origin story of everything I buy from my farm box or in my fridge or the granola we buy. It’s small batch. It’s in L.A. It’s called Sommer House. I love it so much.