Sometimes the most successful people hide in plain sight, not necessarily underestimated—they have serious achievements,
after all—but definitely thought of as successful only in a certain way. That’s Eva Longoria Parker.
Most folks think of her as Gabrielle Solis on ABC’s Desperate Housewives, one of the funniest and sauciest
in a show full of them. (A choice quote from Gaby: “It’s an elevator, silly. It has an emergency stop button.
And I don’t.”) After that, what else? Yes, people might see her in celeb magazines with her husband, NBA star
Tony Parker, or in her L’Oreal commercials.
That’s about, oh, half of her story.
Using Housewives as her foundation, Longoria Parker, 34, has leveraged her notoriety and growing wealth in areas
the acting realm, becoming a legitimate businesswoman and philanthropist and positioning herself to become the equivalent
of the CEO of a multi-industry conglomerate. She’s started a production company, UnbeliEVAble Entertainment, to develop
projects. She co-owns Beso, a 150-seat Hollywood restaurant that includes some of her own recipes on the menu (try the tortilla
soup), and just opened a second lo-cation in Las Vegas along with a nightclub called Eve.
She is also part of The GreenVille Project, a real estate development initiative dedicated to building environ-mentally
retail spaces. She’s working on a fragrance. She’s a spokesperson for L’Oreal, Pepsi and Heineken Light.
She has also founded Eva’s Heroes, a charity that provides an after-school program for children with developmental
disabilities and support for their families. Longoria Parker is also national spokes-person for PADRES Contra El Cáncer,
a charity dedicated to improving the lives of Latino children with can-cer.
Building upon Success
She sums all this up with one word: ambition. Longoria Parker decided a long time ago that any success she had in show
would simply be a foundation. “Building on success is a conscious approach,” she says.
“Whenever I do something, I want it to be a tent pole for many other businesses. My production company is all about
writing, creating, developing film and TV projects. With the restaurants, I’ve always known it was going to be a franchise,
with the tent pole based in Hollywood, but expanded into both big restaurants and smaller venues, and later with food items
in stores, a cookbook and other things. And I want my perfume to be my tent pole for a clothing line, home line, bedding,
shoes or accessories.”
"Ambition drives a lot more success than talent and intellect."
This woman, clearly, is not your typical Hollywood star. One of her advantages is that acting wasn’t her primary
grew up on a ranch outside Corpus Christi, Texas, and has a kinesiology degree from Texas A&M-Kingsville. “I was
a total athlete,” she says. “I wanted to work at a college, be a fitness director or recreational director. After
I got my bachelor’s, I was going to go for my master’s in sports medicine, and I wanted to do sports injuries.”
She laughs. “I mean, I couldn’t be further from what I had intended to do.”
A talent contest led her to L.A., where the acting itch developed into a full-blown bug. She landed roles on some daytime
dramas, including one on The Young and the Restless that netted her a 2002 ALMA Award (true to her ambition, she is
award show’s executive producer). Then came Housewives, and the rest is history, or, at least it would be for
Not Longoria Parker.
See, here’s the thing: Initial success in (insert your personal dream here) sometimes ends up holding us back. We achieve
something admirable and continue with that as long as we can because, hey, we’re livin’ the dream, right?
How many actresses in Hollywood would have been just fine getting a gig like Housewives and working on it until the
its course? Take some film roles during the summer when the show is on hiatus, and then work toward the next gig? For a lot
of women, that success would be enough. But what if that left an awful lot of potential on the table?
That leads to Longoria Parker’s second advantage. Many aspiring actors work the famed “service industry”
jobs while trying to establish themselves, creating an army of L.A. bartenders and waitstaff. Not Longoria Parker. When she
landed in L.A., she went to a temp agency to find a job and they ended up hiring her.
“I was a headhunter for four years while I was auditioning,” she says. “It turned out that I was really
good at it and it gave me a taste of corporate America. I loved it. I love the business side of my business, and I love anything
that has a measurable success. In acting, there’s no rhyme or reason, no measurement that says, ‘OK, you succeeded.’
It’s luck and talent combined into one. Whereas I’ve always liked business, because if you have a clear, well-thought-out
business plan and execute it, you know when you succeed.”
So while thousands of actors work tirelessly to escape their restaurant jobs to work on film sets, Longoria Parker’s
pre-stardom background has her running restaurants from film sets.
Leveraging the Fame
Skeptics in the audience would say, “Oh, she’s just using her name to sell all these other things.” And
after laughing at that for a second, Longoria Parker replies, “Leveraging the fame is the point. Everybody does
called a marketing plan. If you’re AT&T, you’re going to use AT&T’s name power in your marketing
plan. Celebrities just happen to have a built-in marketing tool—themselves.”
That, however, leaves one very important factor exposed, and Longoria Parker knows it: “Celebrity names can only
awareness,” she says. “It’s still always going to be about the product. That’s one thing I’m
very proud of about Beso. I may have gotten the restaurant’s name out there, but the food keeps people coming back.
You can be the celebrity owner of anything, a restaurant, a clothing line, a perfume, but that can only carry you so far.
The product has to carry you the rest of the way.”
That’s why she’s so personally immersed in her businesses and charities, as opposed to just slapping her name
on a label and heading back to the Housewives set. She is also savvy enough to know one of business’s more useful
“an amazing team.” She has worked hard to make sure the people she partners with, and the managers she hires,
give her what every CEO dreams of: “I’m involved in every aspect, but I don’t have to micromanage,”
she says. “You stumble a lot trying to put the right team around you, but that’s one thing I’ve done really
well. At Eva’s Heroes, my executive director is an amazing manager. The CEO at The GreenVille Project is probably
No. 1 contractor in green buildings of the moment.”
Ambition Is No. 1
So where does she find the time for all of this? Frankly, she doesn’t have to find time at all. “People have more
time than they realize. There is so much wasted time in people’s lives. Just plan. And stick to the plan. My lifestyle
requires a lot of planning—I wake up with 10,000 things to do. You just go over that hump and you get them done.”
If you need extra motivation, or an external force to help you prioritize, Longoria Parker suggests you volunteer for
that helps disadvantaged people. “When you visit with them and see a cause that’s greater than you, it pushes
you. When I get out of bed in the morning, my motivation is never ‘not there.’ ”
It’s funny, in a way, but Longoria Parker and her husband are really just like any other driven, dual-income couple
in America. They just work on bigger stages with bigger numbers thrown around. Everything else is the same—especially
that question about ambition. Achieve a dream and roll with it? Or achieve a dream and use it to launch a half-dozen others?
“Ambition drives a lot more success than talent and intellect,” she says. “You have to have a little bit
of those things as well, but ambition drives the hard work, your need to get educated, and your need to learn more about
your business plan and your market. Ambition’s No. 1.”