Blake Lively is midsentence in the dining room of a chic Vancouver hotel when her hand darts inside her shirt. “Why is my bra so lumpy?” she asks, rummaging around. “Ah, there’s a big fold. I’m going to unfold it.” She grins at me. “I’m gonna look like I’m feeling myself up.”
Turns out the lumpy bra is for a good cause: Lively breastfed her baby girl, Inez, before arriving today. Sitting in her frayed blue jeans and noshing on ceviche, she looks exactly like the laid-back L.A. golden girl we first came to love in The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and Gossip Girl. But the decade that has passed has been transformative for the actress, who turns 30 in August. She married her Green Lantern costar Ryan Reynolds, with whom she now has two daughters—Inez, who will turn one in September, and James, two. Professionally, she graduated into more complex roles: a drug-addled single mom in Ben Affleck’s The Town, a 1930s divorcée in Woody Allen’s Café Society, and a blind woman who sees her marriage differently once she regains her sight in All I See Is You, out September 15. Now she’s making her next big career move: producing The Husband’s Secret, an upcoming movie based on a book by Liane Moriarty, the author of Big Little Lies. Lively will also star in the film, but as executive producer she’ll have more creative control, a bigger financial stake, and the ability to plan her schedule around her family. It’s a savvy move, and one that could earn her a new kind of cred in an industry where women are learning the power of telling their own stories.
Lively sounds a decade wiser too. She talks about sexist stage direction in scripts and how the election “awakened” her; she’s deeply educated on issues of child exploitation like sex trafficking and child pornography. Lively might still have Serena van der Woodsen’s glorious hair, but she’s developed the kind of thoughtful feminist attitude that comes only with experience. Bra in check, we discussed it all.
GLAMOUR: How long are you in Vancouver?
BLAKE LIVELY: My husband’s shooting Deadpool, and I’m here for the full shoot. We don’t work at the same time. We’re here as a family, then we’ll pack up, and I’ll go do a couple movies.
GLAMOUR: How does that work, when you have two people with amazing careers? It must require some careful negotiation.
BL: I admire people who find that what fulfills them is their art or their work, but what fulfills both me and my husband is our family. Knowing that, everything else comes second. We’ve each given up stuff we loved in order to not work at the same time. I’m fortunate to be in a place now where I get to find the material—a book or script—early and develop it. So I know ahead of time that I’m going to be working on this job at this time. And we can plan around it.
GLAMOUR: One thing you found early is The Husband’s Secret. What about it made you say, “I want to produce this one”?
BL: It’s a little bit pulpy; that makes it really fun. And there are a bunch of women at the center of it—strong women, flawed women. Any day you employ women, to me, is a good day.
GLAMOUR: You’ve said before that you are drawn to characters who are complicated, but not just complicated because
BL: I think that onscreen—at least in the mainstream—complicated women are black-and-white. They’re villains, or they’re heroic. And that’s just not real life…. We all have a lightness, and we all have darkness, and we all have plenty of shades in between.
GLAMOUR: Do you agree with Reese Witherspoon that, to achieve parity in the industry, women need to produce their own stuff?
BL: I think it helps a lot. Nobody’s going to fight for you as much as you fight for yourself. That said, I know a lot of great men—directors, producers, studio heads—looking to tell stories about women, some because they’re drawn to those stories, some because they’re husbands or fathers and want to see the women in their life represented more accurately, and some just because they look at the numbers. They see, “Wonder Woman has replaced religion in America. We should probably invest in female summer movies.”
GLAMOUR: Newsflash: Women buy tickets to movies! Let’s talk about All I See Is You. You play Gina, a blind woman whose relationship with her husband changes after her sight is restored. It’s a pretty harrowing movie in its depiction of dependency
and codependency. Gina starts out barely letting go of her husband’s arm. He says her need for him makes him feel special.
BL: Gina’s husband appreciates her. It seems like he doesn’t mind that she has this condition that makes her rely on him. But what you learn is it goes beyond the fact that he doesn’t mind. It becomes an obsessive love story. You realize it’s a codependency. And when the codependency no longer exists [when she can see again], it can create fractures. It’s an exploration of relationships.
GLAMOUR: Do you think of Gina as a singular character, or as a metaphor for certain power dynamics between women and men?
BL: I saw her as a singular character. But I wasn’t as awakened at that point—it was before the election. I felt like women had a long way to go, but not as far as I realize now. I don’t know if I would read it differently [now]. I saw her as someone who experienced the trauma of losing her sight at a young age, which arrested her [emotional] development…. So when she regains her sight, it’s as if she is experiencing adolescence. She’s changing when she’s in a relationship with an established dynamic.
GLAMOUR: How do you feel the election changed your mind-set?
BL: It made me more aware, more conscious, more sensitive. Not just of sexism but of discrimination in all areas—class, gender, race. I had realized that there were problems [before]. You know, I do a lot of work against sex trafficking: There are hundreds of thousands of missing-children reports in the United States each year; some of those children are sex-trafficked. But that’s not reported. You see [stories about] only the wealthy, middle-class white girls who’ve been kidnapped. There are people missing all the time, and because they’re minorities, because they come from impoverished neighborhoods, they don’t make the news. That is so devastating.
GLAMOUR: You investigated sex trafficking for the documentary A Path Appears. You’re working with Child Rescue Coalition, which provides law enforcement with technology to track and prosecute child predators. You seem drawn to issues of child exploitation.
BL: I so appreciate the purity of my own childhood, and the idea that a child doesn’t have the opportunity to be a child is devastating. With Child Rescue Coalition, I asked a law enforcement agent, “How young are kids in child pornography?” He said the youngest he’d seen still had the umbilical cord attached.
GLAMOUR: That’s astounding.
BL: There’s not a diaper change that goes by that I’m not just like, “My baby.” [Her voice breaks.] The Child Rescue Coalition tracks the trade of 30 to 50 million files of child pornography every single day.
GLAMOUR: What can we do about it?
BL: If everybody would write to their Internet service providers and say, “I demand that you start blocking the trade of child pornography images,” then they would do something about it. If it was hard to show these files, someone would be less likely to say, “Hey, I’m going to take advantage of this child and film it.” It just takes us making some noise.
GLAMOUR: I have a boy now, but I’m having a girl. And you have two girls. In this day and age, having a girl feels like a political act to me. What’s the message you want your daughters to receive from you?
BL: Sarah Silverman does a great bit that I’m going to butcher: “Stop telling little girls that they can do anything. They already believe they can do anything. It opens the door for questions….” We’re all born feeling perfect until somebody tells us we’re not. So there’s nothing I can teach my daughter [James]. She already has all of it. The only thing I can do is protect what she already feels.
GLAMOUR: And how do you protect that?
BL: I have no idea! I do know that I have to watch her and listen to her and not project any of my own insecurities or struggles on her.
GLAMOUR: When I’m reading my son a story, I’ll give the mom a job—“and she’s an astrophysicist”—even if the book doesn’t.
BL: I’m more conscious of language too: I was reading a script, and this woman, who’s very tough, did something where she took control of her life. And so she’s sitting, gripping the wheel, “a look of empowerment on her face.” And I thought, Hmm, they don’t point that out about men: “Look how empowered he is.” It’s just innate.
GLAMOUR: You’d have to point out if he weren’t empowered.
BL: Exactly. But with my husband, I’m lucky to have someone who is so conscious. My husband was like, “Why do I always say he?” And I said, “That’s what we’re taught.” So he’ll pick up, like a caterpillar, and instead of saying, “What’s his name?” he’ll say, “What’s her name?” Or we’ve joked that my daughter is bossy. But my husband said, “I don’t ever want to use that word again. You’ve never heard a man called bossy.”
GLAMOUR: That is true.
BL: There would never be any negative connotation for a man being a boss, so to add a negative connotation on a woman being bossy? It’s belittling. And it doesn’t encourage them to be a boss. So do I know how to be the best parent for a daughter? No, I have no idea. All I can do is share what I’m thinking—and learn from others.
GLAMOUR: I feel like articles always talk about this perfect life you have: perfect body, perfect clothes, perfect husband, perfect family, perfect career. How do you feel when you read that stuff?
BL: It’s nonsense. It simplifies people. Not all men, but a subsection of men, have a desire to understand and control women. To do that, you have to paint them into this thing you can wrap your head around. But women are complex. It also is [a reminder] that what you see in the media is not real life. The night before an interview, I have complete anxiety: How is this person going to spin me? So when you read, “Oh, she’s got a perfect life,” or “Her life is crumbling”—they pick narratives for everyone. And the narratives stick.
GLAMOUR: Well, I think this interview is going well.
BL: Oh, thank you! I feel that too. My husband and I are really shy people who express ourselves best when we’re acting, when we’re hiding as someone else. So the fact that very shy people have to share that shy person with the world—and are sometimes hurt by it—it’s very weird emotionally. Anyway, champagne problems.
GLAMOUR: Well, let’s talk about writing your own narratives. Ryan’s tweets about your family are amazing. [One example: “My daughter gets so pumped watching Disney films. She loves that they all have singing, dancing and a part when the parents die.”]
BL: [Laughs.] He may as well work for the Enquirer. When he says “my daughter,” he’s never, ever talking about her. Everything is a completely made-up scenario. He’ll run them by me sometimes just to make me laugh. But oh, I’m so in love with him when he writes that stuff. I mean, I’m in love with him most of the time, but especially with that.
GLAMOUR: You said “most of the time”? [Laughs.]
BL: I said, “Most of the time,” because if I say, “I’m so in love with him all the time,” then you get that eye-rolling, “Oh, her life is so great, she’s so perfect.” So it’s, like, my defense mechanism.
GLAMOUR: Well, I love my husband all of the time. But I don’t feel butterflies and rainbows all the time.
BL: But you love him all the time. There’s never a time when I’m like, “I don’t really love you.” Still, in a sound bite? It can be eye-roll-y. I have to learn to stop being defensive.
GLAMOUR: How do you guys deal with conflicts in your marriage?
BL: In other relationships, if something came up, I would call my girlfriends or my sister, and say, “Hey, this is what he did—what should I do?” Where with him, we were friends for two years before we were ever dating. And I treat him like my girlfriend. I’m like, “Hey, this happened. It upset me. This is how I feel. What do I do?” And he does the same for me. He treats me like his best buddy.
GLAMOUR: Speaking of girlfriends, while filming The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, did you imagine you’d be friends
with America Ferrera, Amber Tamblyn, and Alexis Bledel a decade later?
BL: Yes, and I’m grateful we are still friends. They’re three of my very best friends and role models. They’re so artistic, and they’re activists. They’re wives, and most of us are mothers. They’re producers, directors, and writers. They’re not limited. They’re unlimited.
GLAMOUR: Finally—do you have any words you live by?
BL: “This too shall pass.” It’s a reminder—if something is painful, it will pass. But also, if something is beautiful, knowing that this too shall pass makes you hold on to the moment. Savor it.
Alex Morris is a contributing editor at New York magazine and Rolling Stone.
This article originally appeared in the September 2017 issue of Glamour. For more personal stories, celeb content, and news about women who inspire us, subscribe to Glamour for just $5.
Photographs by Nathaniel Goldberg
Fashion editor: Jillian Davison