‘Desperate Housewives’ dynamo Eva Longoria Parker fuels up on
her Latin heritage, an organic diet and earth-friendly living.
by Allan Richter
That familiar face you keep seeing as you flip channels probably belongs to actress Eva Longoria Parker.
Longoria Parker is in the sixth season of “Desperate Housewives.” She is a panelist on the Jerry Seinfeld-produced “The Marriage Ref.” And she has had her DNA examined for a special on genealogy. She also has opened her second restaurant and busted up a Las Vegas boys’ club by becoming the first female owner of a nightclub on the Vegas Strip. That was all just in the past few months. “I’m a compulsive achiever,” Longoria Parker tells Energy Times in an interview from the Los Angeles set of “Desperate Housewives.”
“For me, it’s just wanting to really accomplish more and more with my life and make a difference,” she says. “All of that is rooted in my education and being surrounded by strong women in my life—my mom, my aunt, my sisters. I have these amazing women to look up to who have always been in the work force and at the same time have balanced that with an amazing domestic life. My mom worked but always had dinner on the table at 6 p.m. for my dad, every day like clockwork.”
Longoria Parker’s energetic multitasking is defined by the many sources from which the wife, actress and entrepreneur fuels her vigorous health. In addition to following the example set by her family, she embraces her Latin heritage and an earth-friendly lifestyle. Equipped with a Bachelor of Science degree in kinesiology for a sports therapy career she once planned, Longoria Parker, who turns 35 this month, is attuned to her body.
She takes glucosamine for healthy joints and keeps a careful watch on her diet. Longoria Parker says she once spent two years as a vegetarian “to cleanse my system.” Though many performers derive therapeutic benefits from acting, Longoria Parker is quick to dismiss that idea. “No, no, that’s work,” she says of her craft. “Cooking is very therapeutic for me. I love cooking and I love sewing. Those are vegging out days for me.”
Wellness at Home, On Set
When she’s away from her Texas home, Longoria Parker maintains a strict diet of organic, seasonal and low-carb foods via a food delivery system under which calories are carefully measured. “It’s not so much doing it just for weight loss, but it’s so convenient. They prepare your meal, they count your calories and they deliver it in a bag. I have to run all over the city all day long, or I’m on set, so it’s easy for me because I just grab the bag and I go, and it has my breakfast, lunch and dinner. I eat very healthy,” she says.
“When I cook, it’s a different story,” she says with a laugh. “If I’m going to do a dinner I want the flavor to be amazing. But I always watch what I can substitute, especially food of Latin descents, specifically Mexican. There are a lot of oils and lard and butters, and there’s so much that you can substitute that with.” She also replaces the heavy sauces in the native cuisine favored by her French husband, San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker.
“There’s always a healthier way to present food without compromising the taste,” Longoria Parker says. “I use soy butter. For the lard I use oil. For ground beef, I’ll use ground turkey meat. There are a lot of things you can do creatively. Instead of frying in vegetable oil, I’ll fry something in olive oil. Or if it calls for frying, I’ll try to bake it. It’s important to do the work from the inside out. I find so many people who say, ‘I work out everyday, I run five miles, and I still have this gut.’ Well, that’s diet.”
If a single project personifies Longoria Parker’s toolkit of healthful approaches, it is her Las Vegas restaurant Beso, which opened in December. Above the restaurant is Longoria Parker’s nightclubEve, the first on the Strip owned by a woman and a reflection of the actress’ love of dance.
A steakhouse with a Latin flair, Beso has its share of comfort food but also touts Longoria Parker’s ethnic and health-savvy imprint in dishes like her tortilla soup, made to her guidelines, and her guacamole, an old family recipe. Unlike many sangrias, Beso’s white wine pear sangria uses no sugar.
Beso and Eve are set in the Crystals retail space that is a cornerstone of the new $8.5 billion CityCenter hotel and condo complex built by MGM Mirage. CityCenter is the largest private development to secure gold LEED environmental certifications from the US Green Building Council, and Longoria Parker says LEED-certified Beso takes a page from both CityCenter and her own concerns about the environment.
At Beso, a $350,000 stove hood and scrubber filter volatile organic kitchen compounds. Swarovski crystals used in curtains at the 2009 Academy Awards were reclaimed for use as chandeliers. Reclaimed woods and recycled wallpapers are used throughout the restaurant. Menus and to-go boxes are recycled, and Beso uses a green cleaning crew. Plenty of natural light saves power during the day, and locally sourced building materials save on shipping and reduce the transportation carbon footprint.
“It was very important for me to go the environmental route,” she says. “When you start researching it, we found more options with the environmental stuff—way more wallpaper options, way more floor options. They were actually more beautiful, they were sustainable, they lasted over time, and they were cheaper. It’s kind of a win-win-win.”
At home in Texas, Longoria Parker’s green practices are more low-key than reclaimed crystal chandeliers. Because she’s comfortable in the kitchen, Longoria Parker visits the grocery store often and favors recycled shopping bags—“I have stacks in my car,” she says—over paper and plastic. Nor will you find conventional bottled water at Longoria Parker’s house, which is equipped with a filtered water system.
“It took Tony a long time to buy into that because he’s used to his bottled water,” she says of her husband. “So I went and bought recyclable bottles, so it looked like bottled water, and I filled them all up and he would take one of those because he’s so used to grabbing a bottle of water. But at least now it’s in recycled glass.”
The appeal of natural ingredients is behind Longoria Parker’s release next month of her own perfume, with citrus, violet, freesia and sandalwood notes. “It’s definitely a lot of natural ingredients. I’m really highly allergic to a lot of perfumes so I’ve never worn perfume before. Everybody’s always come up to me to say, ‘You know you should use this perfume or that perfume,’ and I don’t care to.
So I created my own. It’s very light, subtle.”
Creative juices running full tilt, Longoria Parker, it might come as little surprise, has no affection for a workout from treadmills and step machines. “I get ADD with working out, so the more creative you can get the better,” she says with a giggle. She says she gets a more vigorous workout from dance classes developed by her friend Robin Antin, founder of the Pussycat Dolls girl group. Says Longoria Parker, “It’s really just a lot of fun and you don’t realize you’re working out.”
Longoria Parker, Antin says, can hold her own against professional dancers. “I worked with her showing her all my moves and she really responded to it,” says Antin, who met Longoria Parker when Antin opened her Pussycat Dolls Lounge in Las Vegas five years ago. “She can really dance, and many people don’t know that about her. She has the body of a dancer and she’s actually really good.”
A Multicultural Mix
Being attuned to her culture contributes perhaps as much to Longoria Parker’s overall wellness as her diet and fitness regimen. Though Longoria Parker was raised in Corpus Christi, Texas, she made an effort to learn Spanish and connect to her Mexican ancestry. This season on “Desperate Housewives,” art mirrored life somewhat when her character, Gabrielle Solis, explored her ethnicity.
Last month, Longoria Parker and viewers of “Faces of America,” a four-part PBS special tracing the genealogy of celebrities, found there is more to her ethnic mix than her Mexican background.
Through the show, she discovered that she is 70% European and 27% Asian. On the revelation that she shares roots with another show participant, the classical cellist Yo-Yo Ma, she jokes, “He’s Mexican?”
Like her multicultural background, many dynamics shape Longoria Parker’s approach to health, strength and independence.
Says celebrity chef Todd English, who collaborated with Longoria Parker on her restaurants: “She’s got high energy, is gregarious, enjoys the business and hospitality, and is very warm and engaging. She enjoys what tastes good but also eats fresh, organic and what’s grown locally. She has a nice balance in life. She believes in balance.”