Eva Longoria on failure: “It’s not me, it’s you”

How to blaze a trail: Eva Longoria joins Jane Fonda and Helen Mirren in helping empower women to be brave not perfect

Eva Longoria on the red carpet
(Image credit: Future)

Eva Longoria is an eternal optimist; she tells me it’s built into her DNA before adding, “Not everybody is; people need encouragement; people need to be empowered. Sometimes women just need permission to go and be great.” She’s speaking to me on the move; securing time with her is a difficult and logistically painstaking process. Since having her son six years ago, she says, “If it takes me away from my son and time for my family, it better be something I really wanna do or something worth being away from him.” No pressure, then.

Longoria is passionate about empowering women to embrace their failures. Fierce and determined, there’s not a shred of regret when she talks about what it’s taken to get to where she is. But that doesn’t mean her life has been without setbacks. She went on hundreds of auditions in her early career—including for Hitch (she narrowly missed out on the role to Eva Mendes)—and more recently, she’s struggled to break into directing.

So what does she do? She leans into it. “I’m like the eternal optimist, and I’m never risk-averse; I lean into this.” She hopes that sharing these experiences in a “failure resume” on LinkedIn will encourage other women to embrace their setbacks. She wants you to “seize that opportunity to learn from it and move on and build upon it.”

I learn more from my failures than my successes. I welcome falling down and getting back up because that means I’m learning something. It means I’m growing; it means that I’m figuring it out.

Eva Longoria

Longoria’s failure resume follows recent research, which found that 81% of women feel more pressure not to fail than men. Where boys are taught to be brave, girls are taught to be perfect. Jane Fonda knows this “good girl conditioning” all too well.

In 1959, Fonda lost out on a lead role because “when (Elia) Kazan asked if I was ambitious, I answered with a resounding “No!” Good girls—I was taught—were not supposed to be ambitious, or angry, or assertive.” Both women are part of a new campaign for L’Oréal Paris. By posting their “Worth It Resumes” online, Fonda and Longoria hope to challenge the assumption that women can’t afford to fail. “As a woman, have you ever felt this pressure that we don’t have the right to fail?” asks Longoria in a video introducing the initiative.

For Fonda, it took seven decades and three marriages to rid herself of the good girl cultural conditioning, as she calls it. “It was my marriages that taught me I have to stick up for myself and go for my dreams because even those who love you won’t necessarily help you become who you were meant to be.”

Girls and women were supposed to please. I was very good at it. At all costs, I wanted to be loved, and whatever I had to pretend to be, I would be that in order to fit in and be loved.”

Jane Fonda

Longoria, though, has always known who she is meant to be. “I was really lucky to grow up with strong, independent, educated women, so I didn’t have to look far for an example of what I wanted to be.” She’s always been with her tribe—which she credits her success to—and encourages women to find theirs. “Find your community that’s gonna cheer you on because you’re gonna need it,” she laughs.

I’m not risk averse. I’m not afraid to fail. I think that makes me bold in my moves, that makes me bold in my ambitions and in my drive.

Eva Longoria

In her “failure resume”, Helen Mirren, who, on top of being an actual Dame, has won—deep breath—an Oscar, four BAFTAs, three Golden Globes, five Emmy Awards, and one Tony Award, recalls being too scared to audition for drama school in the 1960s and being called “the weakest link” in her first major theatre role. “Instead of letting it destroy me, it drove me on.” She hopes her CV of setbacks, which include more recent failures like a decades-long attempt to maintain a fitness routine, will remind women that failure can be a step towards self-worth.

Jane Fonda never had trouble maintaining an exercise regime, but one of her sorest disappointments was having to turn back on Mount Lanín after ignoring her guide’s advice. She’s 86 now and still learning. She calls herself a late bloomer before adding, “Which is okay, as long as you don’t miss the flower show. I’m an elder now, but I’m at the flower show.”

And what about Eva Longoria - where is she looking to grow? She’s a wife and a mother, something she says she sacrificed in her early life, but Longoria has never cowered to societal pressure. “Society has told us that we expire by a certain age and certain opportunities are only for a certain age,” she says. Does she regret anything? “No, nothing.”

I don’t take jobs that overwhelm me. I don’t work with people that overwhelm me.

Eva Longoria

Longoria wants to dismantle the idea that there are only so many positions at the top for women, which she says is simply the patriarchy talking. She’s deconstructing the idea that there’s only room for one woman at the table. “We’re gonna build our own table - not only are we gonna need to put more on this one, but we’re gonna go build our own table,” she proclaims.

Getting out of that mindset has been vital in taking on male-dominated industries like directing, where she says women need to remind themselves that they are worthy of being there, too. “Just because it’s a male-dominated industry doesn’t mean it’s only for men.” And if there’s one thing she wants you to know? “I think every single woman right now, your greatest achievement is ahead of you, not behind you.”

If Jane Fonda is anything to go by, the best is yet to come.

Mischa Anouk Smith
News and Features Editor

Mischa Anouk Smith is the News and Features Editor of Marie Claire UK.

From personal essays to purpose-driven stories, reported studies, and interviews with celebrities like Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and designers including Dries Van Noten, Mischa has been featured in publications such as Refinery29, Stylist and Dazed. Her work explores what it means to be a woman today and sits at the intersection of culture and style, though, in the spirit of eclecticism, she has also written about NFTs, mental health and the rise of AI bands.