The Stunning Transformation Of Eva Mendes

Eva Mendes (née de la Caridad Mendez) is known for her movie appearances in cult classic films like "2 Fast 2 Furious," "Hitch," and "The Other Guys," among many others. While she rose to fame as an actor and sex symbol in the early 2000s, Mendes didn't always have her sights set on becoming a movie star. Even so, the unexpected passion she felt for acting turned into a hugely successful career and even led her to her soulmate. 

The first-generation Cuban-American has also dabbled in creative endeavors outside of Hollywood — and she took a decade-long break from acting to focus on motherhood. While she's hinted at a return, Mendes has expressed nothing but contentment for the path she's chosen to walk since welcoming her first child. And she's just as fulfilled by the trajectory her life took before she started a family with fellow actor Ryan Gosling.

Here's a look at how Mendes became one of the biggest names in Tinseltown.

Eva Mendes' parents immigrated from Cuba to the United States

Eva Mendes' parents, Eva Perez Suarez and Carlos Mendez, hail from Cuba, Mendes confirmed to Women's Health. Before Mendes was born, the couple immigrated to the United States, initially settling in Miami, Florida, and later moving to Los Angeles.

The actor revealed her admiration for her mom because of her journey as a Cuban émigré. "She was the mom in Cuba who had to walk however many miles to fetch water from the well," Mendes shared with the publication. "That was her reality for a while, so the level of respect and appreciation I have for her now is incredible." Mendes is the youngest of her parents' four children — her sisters, Janet and Becky, and her brother, Juan Carlos, came before her. She also has a younger half-brother on her father's side, Carlo.

When Mendes was a little girl, her mother worked at a movie theater while her father was a meat distributor. Some of her early memories are of accompanying each of her parents to their respective jobs. In an interview with W Magazine, Mendes fondly recalled seeing the newest releases with her mom after her shifts ended and revealed that her diet was heavily influenced by an experience she had while at her father's job. Mendes explained, "He'd put me in a room to draw. I couldn't see what was going on, but then my dad would come out, full of blood. So now I don't eat anything from a slaughterhouse."

Though she was born in Miami, she considers herself a Los Angeles native

Eva Mendes was just a month old when her parents decided to leave Miami, Florida, for Los Angeles, California. And so she considers L.A. her hometown, for all intents and purposes. "I grew up in L.A., so I'm an L.A. girl," Mendes told Interview back in 2008.

She went on to explain that her childhood was pretty average, despite being raised in Tinseltown. The actor's parents divorced when she was still young, and she shared a one-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment with her mom and siblings. "I basically come from a single-parent household," Mendes told Women's Health. "Although I love my dad, my mom mostly raised four of us on her own."

Through the years, the star has reflected on her humble childhood. In an interview with Marie Claire, Mendes shared, "I was raised by parents who didn't have much. We didn't use whole pieces of paper towel. We shared, or used rags. Mom didn't even want us flushing all the time." Though the family had to be strategic to make ends meet, Mendes recalled her mother routinely talking about how lucky the family was to make do with what they had, as other people are less fortunate. "She made me appreciate that from an early age," Mendes shared with Women's Health.

Eva Mendes began acting as a way to earn money while she was in college

Eva Mendes didn't dream of becoming a movie star when she was a child — acting sort of fell in her lap when she was a college student. When attending California State University, Northridge, she wasn't quite sure of what she wanted to do professionally.

An agent, who saw photos of Mendes taken by a neighbor, suggested she try her hand at acting as a side gig, according to W Magazine. Considering her status as a broke college kid and the industry being in her backyard, Mendes decided to give it a go. One of her first gigs was an appearance in an Aerosmith music video, followed by "Children of the Corn V: Fields of Terror," a direct-to-video horror film.

Although she initially thought acting would be nothing more than a way to make a little extra money, she quickly discovered she felt surprisingly passionate about the endeavor. "I did ['Children of the Corn V'] and I ended up being really awful," Mendes confessed to Cinema in 2007. "But I got bitten by the bug and I was like, 'Okay, I found something I want to pursue and that challenges me,' so I quit school and started acting." She even went as far as approaching famed acting coach Ivana Chubbuck to help develop her skills.

Her breakout role established her as an A-list actor and a sex symbol

A few years after her very first film appearance, Eva Mendes was cast to act alongside Denzel Washington as his mistress in "Training Day." The movie not only put her on the map as an A-list actor, but it also launched Mendes' reputation as a sex symbol. One scene in which she's completely naked came to fruition because Mendes proposed the idea to the director, Antoine Fuqua. 

In an interview with W Magazine, she explained her stance on participating in nude scenes. "I'm not an exhibitionist," Mendes asserted. "But, honestly, for my art, I'll do anything, almost. I'll go there." She recognized the delicate balance of baring her body and maintaining a positive reputation. "I've never felt objectified. ... I'm incredibly calculated when it comes to my career," she said. Later, in 2008, she appeared in a Calvin Klein TV ad that controversially featured a nip slip.

Mendes spoke about the suggestive ad with Interview, opining, "It's flattering that people think I'm sexy, but it's not the end-all, be-all." The actor expressed an unwillingness to base her worth on the public's perception of her looks because people are likely to stop regarding her as sexy at some point, and she'd rather be content with her own view of herself. "So, although I'm grateful, I take it with a grain of salt," she added.

She's starred alongside household names

Eva Mendes has dozens of acting credits to her name in projects like "2 Fast 2 Furious," "Hitch," "We Own the Night," and "The Other Guys." She's collaborated with countless major stars, including Carrie Fisher, Bette Middler, Will Smith, Joaquin Phoenix, Will Ferrell, Ryan Gosling, and Annette Bening — to name just a few.

Mendes found particular inspiration on- and off-screen when working with Bening in "The Women." As Mendes told Marie Claire back in 2008, "Annette's got taste and class. She reminds me of one of those women back in the '40s and '50s. She's a broad, and I want to be a broad ... to have femininity and a voice, to play the Hollywood game without getting pushed around."

Mendes has also famously heralded Gosling's acting skills, piggybacking off of Greta Gerwig's high praise of the "Barbie" actor in a 2023 interview with Rolling Stone. Quoting the director's comparison of Gosling to iconic actors like Gene Wilder and Marlon Brando, Mendes wrote on Instagram, "To say he's the greatest actor I've ever worked with is an understatement."

She's always embraced both her Cuban heritage and American nationality

Though Eva Mendes described her childhood as having "Cuban food and music and loud singing and yelling around the house all the time" during a 2020 interview with the Sydney Morning Herald, she has long maintained that she's just as much American as she is Cuban.

"I don't consider myself a Latin American actress," Mendes told W Magazine back in 2010. She continued, explaining, "I was born and raised here, and I have Cuban parents, but for me, I am the new American girl. It's not only Drew Barrymore and the blond Midwestern girl." Pointing at her face, she powerfully asserted, "This is also what we look like now."

That's not to say she's never faced any obstacles due to her ethnicity — Mendes told the Sydney Morning Herald that in the early days of her career, a casting director told her she looked "too ethnic" to land a role in America. However, she once told Interview that she "would never call it a challenge" to be a Latin American working in Hollywood. "I think being a woman in Hollywood is a big enough challenge," she admitted. 

She once went to rehab and has defended fellow celebrities who've sought professional help

In 2008, Eva Mendes quietly checked in to Cirque Lodge rehab center in Utah, and she's kept her lips mostly sealed on what her management team deemed "professional support" in response to "personal issues."

Although the actor has been asked about the brief visit several times throughout the years, Mendes has shut down the conversation as quickly as it's broached. However, in 2008, a journalist for Interview struck a nerve after making an insensitive comment to Mendes. While the "Hitch" star still didn't give away any details about her experience, she passionately spoke about the public's dismissal of major hardships celebrities face regarding substance abuse and mental health. "Because celebrities' lives are so visible, I think it makes it look lighter than it is," Mendes opined. She recalled reading a quote from a fellow actor saying how proud they were to have never gone to rehab. "I thought, that's such a negative twist on it," Mendes recalled. "I'm proud of people who have the determination and the fearlessness to actually go and face their demons and get better. ... I want to support people for their decisions when they do go in and get help." 

Mendes also asserted that some of the stories detailing her stay at Cirque Lodge were false but said she'd "neither confirm nor deny" specifics.

Eva Mendes fell in love with one of her co-stars

For a long time, many people believed Eva Mendes and Ryan Gosling fell in love after meeting on the set of "The Place Beyond the Pines." However, in 2023, Mendes confessed that she and her former co-star had known each other long before the 2011 movie. "We did not meet on set," she wrote in an Instagram post. Mendes illusively added, "The magic started way before." In 2013, Vulture asked how she and Gosling met, but Mendes declined to elaborate. "That's where I start to shut down, because it gets into personal territory that I don't feel comfortable talking about," she asserted.

What we do know about Mendes and Gosling is that they publicly debuted their romantic relationship toward the end of 2011 — they were spotted holding hands at Disneyland. Their sole joint red carpet appearance was in 2012 at the Toronto International Film Festival, which Mendes later revealed to be a challenging event to navigate because she and Gosling wanted to be professional while promoting "The Place Beyond the Pines."

The duo collaborated on another film, "Lost River," in 2014, and by the end of that year, they welcomed their first child — a daughter named Esmeralda. In 2016, Mendes and Gosling added another daughter, Amada, to their family after keeping the pregnancy under wraps. And though they're notoriously private, Mendes hinted in 2022 that their long-term relationship may be more official than they've led the world to believe.

She likes to keep the world guessing about whether or not she's married

Having been together since 2011, Eva Mendes and Ryan Gosling's relationship is considered impressively long-lasting by Hollywood's standards. Because of their decade-plus partnership, there have been years of public speculation as to why the two stars haven't made their union legally binding by tying the knot. With cheeky evasive flair, Mendes quipped, "Who says we weren't already?" when she was asked about marriage rumors during a November 2022 appearance on "The Kyle & Jackie O Show." The mom of two teased, "I like to keep it all mysterious. I'm a very mysterious woman." 

Mendes also referenced a photo she posted on Instagram two days before the podcast interview, in which she showed off a cursive script tattoo on her wrist that reads "de Gosling." In Spanish-speaking cultures, a woman adds her husband's surname to the end of her maiden name with a preceding "de." In this instance, the actor could be revealing her updated name to be Eva Mendes de Gosling if she is indeed married to "The Notebook" star. Mendes coyly told the podcast hosts, "I got it years ago. I posted a picture, and I've gotten a lot of funny questions." 

Just a few days after alluding to her relationship status on the podcast, Mendes appeared on Australia's "Today" show where she notably said, "Everyone is so welcoming here, and my husband Ryan is here, and we are having the best time" (via Daily Mail). 

Motherhood was something she was unsure about until she and Ryan Gosling became serious

Before she fell in love with Ryan Gosling, Eva Mendes wasn't sure if motherhood was in the cards for her. As early as 2010, she spoke on the record about her indecision, telling W Magazine she'd never felt it was her calling to become a mother, and she wasn't sure if it was a journey she wanted to embark on at that point in her life. However, when she and the "Crazy Stupid Love" actor became serious, her thoughts on starting a family became crystal clear.

During a 2019 interview with Women's Health, Mendes reflected, "It was the furthest thing from my mind. [Then] Ryan Gosling happened." She explained, "I mean, falling in love with him. Then it made sense for me to have ... not kids, but his kids. It was very specific to him."

Gosling expressed a similar sentiment during a 2023 conversation with GQ, telling the outlet, "After I met Eva, I realized that I just didn't want to have kids without her," the actor confessed. "There were moments on 'The Place Beyond the Pines' where we were pretending to be a family, and I didn't really want it to be pretend anymore. I realized that this would be a life I would be really lucky to have."

She shields her relationship and family from the public eye

Long before she became romantically involved with Ryan Gosling, Eva Mendes made a habit of guarding her personal life. During a 2008 interview with Marie Claire, she opined that the unprecedented amount of access to celebrities eliminates the intrigue that previously got people excited to see movie stars on the big screen. She didn't care for fans to know everything about her life — she just wanted them to see her work.

Over a decade later, after becoming a mom to her two girls, Mendes asserted her beliefs to be unchanged. If anything, she only feels more protective of her personal world now that children are in the picture. In 2019, she lamented to Women's Health about how difficult it is to do something as mundane as taking her daughters to a playground because paparazzi are so relentless.

Mendes has also been outspoken about her boundaries on Instagram, occasionally answering questions from her followers about why she doesn't share more about her private life. "Since my children are still so little and don't understand what posting their image really means, I don't have their consent. And I won't post their image until they're old enough to give me consent," she explained to a fan in 2020 (via Hola!). Mendes added, "As far as Ryan, I'll only post flashbacks of things that are already out there (like pics from movies we did or stuff like that). My man and kids are private."

She took a step back from acting after becoming a mother

When Eva Mendes and Ryan Gosling welcomed their eldest daughter, Esmeralda, in 2014, followed by their youngest, Amada, in 2016, the "Ghost Rider" actor's career goals shifted. While she once felt drawn to the film industry and even considered becoming a producer as a way to carve out more opportunities for women in Hollywood, her desire to fully immerse herself in motherhood took precedence over her professional drive.

In 2020, she told the Sydney Morning Herald, "I feel like, as far as my ambition, it didn't go away, it just shifted onto the children. I applaud and look up to those women who can do it all, but I'm not one of them." Mendes also recognized that she is privileged to afford the choice to be a stay-at-home mom. However, she revealed that as her daughters are getting older, she feels more drawn to returning to her acting career.

While Mendes told Variety in 2022 that she was still focused on showing up for her kids at home, she expressed excitement for what the future holds because the landscape is quite different today compared to what it was at the beginning of her acting hiatus. "There are more opportunities for Latina actresses now, but when I bowed out 10 years ago I wasn't being offered things that weren't specifically Latina," Mendes said. "It is exciting that things are different now."

Eva Mendes was devastated by her older brother's death

In 2016, Eva Mendes' older brother, Juan Carlos Mendes, died as a result of throat cancer when he was just 53 years old. "Losing my brother was incredibly difficult," she told Women's Health in 2019. She reflected on Ryan Gosling's 2017 Golden Globe acceptance speech for his performance in "La La Land," during which he commended Mendes for taking care of their eldest daughter while pregnant with their second and caring for her brother. "If she hadn't taken all that on so that I could have this experience, [there] would surely be someone else up here other than me today," Gosling said from the stage. He proceeded to dedicate his best actor win to his late brother-in-law, which Mendes did not know he'd planned to do. 

She recalled the touching surprise during a 2020 interview with the Sydney Morning Herald, explaining she was at home with their infant daughter at the time of the awards show. "I was in the other room when my sister started screaming for me to come in and she was crying," Mendes recounted. "So we rewound and watched and it was such a beautiful, surreal moment, especially for my family to hear Ryan say my brother's name."

Also helping her to heal was welcoming her daughter, Amada, who was born the week after Juan Carlos died. "There was poetry to it all," Mendes told People.

She enjoyed years of success in fashion

Eva Mendes spent six years designing fashion collections for her collaboration with New York & Company. Sadly, the line was discontinued when the retailer became a casualty of the pandemic and filed for bankruptcy in July 2020.

Mendes' line touted chic and sophisticated pieces that were wearable and affordable for the everyday woman. At the beginning of 2020, Mendes opened up to People about the inspiration behind her designs. "I use my own memories and photographs of my family to create clothes. I'll randomly text or email [NY & Co.] at four in the morning and say, 'We need to recreate this silk jogger pant with this silk bow blouse, please! My mom wore something like this in the '80s.'"

Mendes' family was involved in more than just the ideation stage. She said Ryan Gosling was her biggest cheerleader, and the women in her family — on her side and his — would offer unfiltered feedback on her designs. "Nobody is going to be more honest than family, and our family is very honest," Mendes said. "It's something I really appreciate because when designing something, you need real feedback." She added that it felt incredibly rewarding when a family member would wear a piece from her line because she knows them well enough to know they wouldn't dress in something they didn't like just to flatter her; rather, it was a sign that they genuinely loved the clothing.

In May 2023, Mendes revealed on Instagram that she's "looking to collab with a cool designer that has a reasonable price point." Perhaps we'll see more of her designs in the near future!