Kris­ten Bell is so hon­est about ‘do­ing it all’ and find­ing true hap­pi­ness

If it seems like you’re con­stantly hear­ing KRIS­TEN BELL’S voice – in your kid’s favourite an­i­mated movie, singing the theme song of a buzzy doc­u­men­tary, as a char­ac­ter on that hit TV show – it’s true. But we think her voice should be in­side your head as w

Good Housekeeping (South Africa) - - CONTENTS -

IT’S MID­DAY ON A THURS­DAY IN SUNNY Los Angeles, and Kris­ten Bell is sprawled out on her bed ‘tak­ing a deep breath’, she says over the phone. For good rea­son: she’s been in mo­tion shut­tling be­tween At­lanta – where she filmed the se­quel to the hit movie Bad Moms – and Los Angeles (the daugh­ters she shares with hus­band Dax Shep­ard, Lincoln, 5, and Delta, 3, in tow), where she’s shoot­ing the new sea­son of her smart sit­com The Good Place. ‘Si­mul­ta­ne­ously’ – which is a word Kris­ten uses of­ten, and for good rea­son – she’s been do­ing voice-over work for a bunch of things, but mainly the much an­tic­i­pated se­quel to Frozen, in which she will reprise her role as Princess Anna. She was tap­ing lines for at­trac­tions at Dis­ney­land Tokyo this morn­ing be­fore she de­cided to rush home to lie down. ‘I was like, “I could sit in my car, or I could take the ex­tra 10 min­utes to drive home and lie in my bed,”’ she ex­plains. ‘Self­care,’ she says, her voice only slightly muf­fled by pil­lows. ‘I re­ally be­lieve in self-care.’

Which goes some way to­wards an­swer­ing the ques­tion of how she does it all. But this is not a ques­tion I’m go­ing to ask Kris­ten, be­cause she’s al­ready told me she hates it. ‘Well, I don’t hate it – I hate it and se­cretly love it, I sup­pose, be­cause it’s asked with the in­ten­tion of get­ting a clear an­swer, and the an­swer is, there is no clear an­swer. Like, “How do you do it?” im­plies that a) I am do­ing it, which I am not – I am do­ing what ev­ery­body else is do­ing, which is try­ing their best, and b) What is a bal­ance, any­way? A bal­ance teeter-tot­ters. A bal­ance is not sta­tion­ary – it moves, some­thing gives and other things take, and other days it might be the op­po­site.’

This kind of stream-of-con­scious­ness shar­ing is one of Kris­ten’s great charms, and it’s why the ac­tress has carved out a rep­u­ta­tion for be­ing as open as a 24-hour diner. ‘Hu­mans want noth­ing more than to be ac­cepted, and I’m no dif­fer­ent. That doesn’t hap­pen by pre­sent­ing per­fec­tion,’ she tells me. ‘I be­lieve in show­ing your dirty hands and your bumps and bruises and your faults, be­cause that’s what makes peo­ple feel con­nected – and isn’t that kind of the pur­pose of, you know, be­ing on Earth?’ For more of that kind of wis­dom, lis­ten in. Your char­ac­ters in The Good Place and Bad Moms are very dif­fer­ent, but im­per­fec­tion is a thing they have in com­mon. In Bad Moms, Kiki is a door­mat, and be­fore she gets to the Good Place, Eleanor is the kind of per­son who cheats the elderly. I am at­tracted to char­ac­ters who are in­her­ently un­lik­able, and I make it my mis­sion to get you to root for them. It’s fun, not only be­cause I’m chal­leng­ing my­self, but also be­cause that is hu­man. You have no idea what any­one else is go­ing through. My mom used to say to me when I was lit­tle, ‘Just be­cause you don’t see the chinks in a per­son’s ar­mour doesn’t mean you can treat them like you know their story.’ In real life, are you a per­son who has a lot of em­pa­thy for jerks? Yeah, I have re­ally got to a happy place the last five years or so, where I have so much sym­pa­thy to­wards peo­ple who are un­happy or jerky. Like, ‘Oh, man, we have one ride here – that’s how you are go­ing to spend it? What a bum­mer.’ An­other thing that struck me about those char­ac­ters is that they both go through a ma­jor trans­for­ma­tion – Kiki gets a spine, and Eleanor be­comes a good per­son. Have you ever gone through a sig­nif­i­cant change? Per­son­ally, I ex­pe­ri­enced my most dra­matic change when I met my hus­band.

Ev­ery­thing I knew pre­vi­ous to him has sort of gone out the win­dow. Re­ally, how so? Oh, yeah. I thought I had ev­ery­thing fig­ured out, but Dax is an in­cred­i­ble crit­i­cal thinker, and he started to ask ques­tions about why I thought what I thought, why I be­lieved what I be­lieved, why I felt what I felt. I think my whole per­spec­tive on life changed when I started hav­ing deep talks with this man I fell in love with. Wow. You guys have been to­gether about 10 years, mar­ried for four. Do you still talk like that? Oh, yeah! That’s our whole re­la­tion­ship. Ask­ing ques­tions about ‘what is’ makes life so much richer and deeper and gives you such a bet­ter sense of un­der­stand­ing of your­self. He was an an­thro­pol­ogy ma­jor, and how apes’ be­hav­iour mir­rors hu­mans’ comes up more than you’d think. You grew up with sis­ters, and now you have two daugh­ters. Do you see any sim­i­lar­i­ties be­tween their sib­ling dy­namic and the one you had? First of all, I love hav­ing girls. The truest thing in life is that girls rule, boys drool. I love see­ing them re­late to each other. They are just at the point where they are start­ing to play to­gether, which is so fun to watch. I grew up, as one does, with love-hate re­la­tion­ships with my sis­ters. There were times they tor­tured me and times they sur­prised me and made my Madonna cos­tume at Hal­loween. I think when my daugh­ters have con­flict, it en­cour­ages re­silience, and I want to build those skills. I don’t want to make their lives easy at all times and then re­lease them into the world when they are 18. You’ve said some re­ally thought­ful things about par­ent­ing in the past. What’s the best par­ent­ing ad­vice you’ve got re­cently? The ‘How many min­utes?’ tech­nique our preschool uses is kind of epic. If one kid has a toy and the other kid wants it, the per­son who wants it says, ‘How many min­utes?’ The per­son who has it is al­lowed to say ‘One’ through ‘Five.’ The kid on the swing knows there’s a fore­see­able end, and the one wait­ing knows there’s a fore­see­able fu­ture. When I ask, ‘How many min­utes un­til you fin­ish your broc­coli?’ I’m say­ing it’s gonna

‘I be­lieve in show­ing your faults, be­cause that’s what makes peo­ple feel con­nected’

hap­pen, but you can weigh in on it. I hear them do it with each other – ‘How many min­utes till I get the ball?’ They ne­go­ti­ate. Do you ever have bad-mom mo­ments? For sure. I do not have a spot­less record. We’ve had times when we’ve all been sleep­ing in the same ho­tel room and my three­year-old will wake up in the crib at 5am be­cause she is hun­gry and I will throw a Pow­erBar into her cage so the five-year-old and my hus­band and I can go back to sleep. I know you’ve said you re­ally try not to feel guilt, but mom guilt is a pow­er­ful beast. Do you ever feel that, and if so, how do you deal with it? Guilt is for the toi­let bowl as far as I’m con­cerned. Here’s the thing: if you spend time feel­ing guilty, you are never re­ally fo­cused on get­ting work done or spend­ing time with your fam­ily. In my life, I am either work­ing a lot and get­ting it out of the way or not work­ing at all and be­ing 100% present with my fam­ily. When I come home, my phone goes away and we just play Candy Land. I said be­fore there was no clear an­swer to that work-life-bal­ance ques­tion, but there are def­i­nitely rules we never break or bend. Like, there would have to be a ma­jor up­set for me to sched­ule any work on the week­ends. It’s noth­ing but fam­ily time; it’s a line in the sand. Hol­ly­wood’s treat­ment of women is some­thing we hear a lot about. What has your ex­pe­ri­ence been? Do you ever look back and say, ‘Hmm, that was some sex­ism…’? Two things: I have a ter­ri­ble mem­ory, par­tic­u­larly for neg­a­tive events, which I am re­ally grate­ful for. If some­one says some­thing neg­a­tive to me, I’m pretty cool about let­ting it roll off my back. That said, those sit­u­a­tions ex­ist for sure. There are times I’ve been talked down to, but I re­ally live by the Eleanor Roo­sevelt quote: ‘No-one can make you feel in­fe­rior with­out your con­sent.’ I won’t stand for it, and if I saw it hap­pen­ing or if I ex­pe­ri­enced it, I wouldn’t tol­er­ate it. Have you ever ex­pe­ri­enced Hol­ly­wood’s leg­endary ageism, like been asked to play Robert Red­ford’s wife or Mar­got Rob­bie’s mother? I like chang­ing my­self; I like roles! So if I was able to play Robert Red­ford’s wife and Mar­got Rob­bie was our daugh­ter, I’d be thrilled be­cause I am an ac­tress. I’m not try­ing to min­imise the is­sue, but it’s not at the fore­front of my mind right now. And any­way, act­ing is not im­por­tant enough to be all un­der­wear-up-in-a-knot about it, in my opin­ion. I keep my un­der­wear nice and smooth and com­fort­able. If my un­der­wear is knot­ted, I take it off. When was the last time you felt re­ally badass? I feel badass a lot. Two nights ago, I got home at one in the morn­ing and said, ‘You know what? YOLO. I’m starv­ing. I’m go­ing to make this new mac­a­roni and cheese that I’m ob­sessed with called Banza.’ It’s made from chick­peas, so it has like 18g of protein per serv­ing, which is in­cred­i­ble be­cause I’m a veg­e­tar­ian. And I was like, ‘I’m go­ing to be re­ally glut­tonous,’ and I added two cheese pack­ets. I sat in bed and ate it with no guilt and thought, This is a good ride. Here’s the ques­tion, though: did you bring the bowl to the kitchen or leave it on the bed­side ta­ble? I left it on my bed­side ta­ble. Bad. Ass. I brought it down­stairs the next morn­ing, though. But you know what? Next time I do it, I think I’m just go­ing to chuck it out the win­dow.

LEFT: Kris­ten with hus­band Dax at the Golden Globe Awards last year BE­LOW: With her The Good Place co-stars (from left) Jameela Jamil, Wil­liam Jack­son Harper and Manny Jac­into BE­LOW LEFT: Kris­ten, Dax and their daugh­ters, Delta and Lincoln

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