Camila Alves McConaughey: Portrait of a Modern Woman
On a chilly, dreary day in Austin, Camila Alves McConaughey steps off a boat — piloted by her famous husband — onto the dock at Lake Austin Spa Resort, and the first thing I see is her welcoming smile. Both McConaugheys are dressed super casually, wearing hats and athletic gear, and that is how they are most comfortable. He dutifully follows her, carrying her outfits for the shoot as we head to hair and make-up and she begins her transformation for the cover shoot. On this day, he is a bystander and she is the star. McConaughey heads off to work out in the gym and make phone calls while she does her thing. The love and respect they share is obvious and inspiring.
There are so many words that apply to Camila Alves McConaughey — wife, mother, friend, daughter, philanthropist, model, business woman, and entrepreneur — but there is one title that encompasses everything and ties it all together: “nurturer in chief.” It is no mistake that McConaughey came to mind when I pondered cover subjects for our Nourish issue. She embodies the definition: to provide food or other substances for growth, health and good condition; to keep a feeling or belief in one’s mind typically for a long time; to cherish an idea; and, finally, to strengthen, build up, or promote.
Seeing McConaughey on the red carpet with her handsome husband makes her life look glamorous — and it is at times. But for her, the real fairy tale is her very down-to-earth life with her family and friends; having the ability to use her Women of Today platform to build a community that is all about nourishment in all senses of the word — food, health, style, crafts and decor, family and work life balance — and her ability to give back through the Just Keep Livin Foundation. Cofounder and Chief Brand Director of Yummy Spoonfuls, an organic and healthy line of frozen foods for toddlers, McConaughey also set out to fill a gap she discovered when searching for nutritious choices for her family. Her lifestyle website, Women of Today, is all about nourishing your life through connection and care.
On her way to becoming a modern role model and nurturer in chief, the road was not always easy for McConaughey, who came to Los Angeles from Brazil at age 15 speaking no English. Swearing that she was an “ugly duck” growing up, McConaughey recalls that her schoolmates laughed when she said she was going to the United States to become a model, and the road was not easy from there. She cleaned houses, lived on friend’s couches, and worked in restaurants while she hit the pavement going to open casting calls and modeling agencies. McConaughey found herself discouraged, alone, and broke in New York City when she learned the value of having just one person who believed in her and nurtured her dream. Encouraged to keep going by her agency’s owner, McConaughey landed a billboard in Times Square and her international modeling career was launched.
In 2006, in a club on Los Angeles’ Sunset Strip, lightning struck when Matthew McConaughey spotted the feisty Camila Alves across the room. For him, it was love at first sight, but it took awhile for her to warm up to the “very single” movie star with a reputation for dating high-profile actresses. As fairy tales go, he won her over. They are very much in love and are the parents of three beautiful children — Levi, 10; Vida, 9; and Livingston, 6 — and are happily making their home in the city and state close to their hearts, Austin, Texas, while maintaining ties with her Brazilian roots. Which leads back to her role as nurturer in chief.
“When I hear the word ‘nourish,’ it has a bigger meaning,” McConaughey says. “I believe that as human beings, if we can nourish one another and learn from one another, a lot of things would be different from the way we are dealing with our lives today. That is what I like to do — build people up. And that is why I started Women of Today: to build a community where we nourish, cherish each other, and learn from each other.
“I traveled all around the world and I saw that women have more of a community in other countries. They have cultures where they have conversations and learn from their neighbors, their aunts, and their family. Here we are so spread out that I saw a gap. I wanted that community — those things you learn from a small group — and that was the initial idea for the site.”
Initially her advisers wanted to name the site CamilaAlves.com, but McConaughey rejected the name saying that the purpose was to build a community and was not about her. Her mission statement reads, “Mothers, sisters, daughters, wives, leaders, entrepreneurs and angels … We’re all at least one, and some of us are all of these and more. The fact is we are all women, and I believe we need to support each other, share our stories, and find strength in numbers. A few years ago, I created Women of Today to do just that. To be an online home for all women to visit, to lend support, to pick up some guidance, to be mentors, to laugh together, to know we are not alone in this journey, to share our stories our learnings and create a community in our sisterhood.” McConaughey is also quick to point out that though her site is “for and about women,” it appeals to men too.
As for her entrepreneurial journey, Women of Today as well as her other entrepreneurial endeavors began with a desire to fill an unmet need and was fueled by McConaughey’s passion for nurturing, connecting and helping others. “When I first began Women of Today I didn’t have a business plan — it was just something I wanted to do and knew there was a need for. I let it grow organically and shared by word-of-mouth. I let the community tell me where it was going and what they needed and were interested in learning,” McConaughey recalls.
Members of the community of Women of Today are encouraged to share — to share their stories, experiences, recipes, and tips on style and decor — which McConaughey says helps them to heal, grow, and nourish themselves, their families, and their ambitions. “I am always trying a 360 approach, and my goal for the website is to be the ‘essence’ of things that all women want to share whether they are single, stay-at-home moms, working moms. It’s all about learning from each other and figuring it out.” McConaughey and Women of Today plan to host pop-up shops and events, such as a recent workshop in the antiquing capital of Texas, Round Top, where she joined a panel of entrepreneurs for a day of social media and content creation discussions.
Women of Today is not McConaughey’s only entrepreneurial foray. Each venture has had its genesis in meeting an unmet need. As she traveled, she found that there were not any bags that were exactly what she was looking for. She wanted something strong but fashionable. Something not too big and not too small and something made from quality leather. Together with her mother, she launched MUXO, a line of designer handbags and clothing that also included a successful partnership with QVC. After McConaughey had children, she even used the sturdy and fashionable bags for multiple purposes including as a stylish diaper bag.
Healthy eating and cooking nutritious food for her family was always a priority for nurturer in chief, McConaughey. It pleased her when her family loved her culinary creations. From the beginning, she made her own baby food, but it wasn’t until she was living on location in Calgary in a trailer in the middle of nowhere with three children in tow that she realized that maybe she should consider finding a healthy store-bought option, and her research began. “This is ridiculous”, she recalls thinking, “Someone must have come up with a solution.” But there was little available, and what she found was, even if it was available, it was too expensive and not accessible to ordinary families.
Fueled by her belief that a company could be created to serve and help busy parents, McConaughey started asking friends if they knew anyone in the food industry, which led to an introduction to her partner in Yummy Spoonfuls, Agatha Achindu. The pair hit it off right away. Both shared a mission of providing affordable organic food for babies and toddlers that was free of preservatives and additives. “We are both farmers’ daughters. She is from Cameroon, and we understood the difference in eating fresh food and the American industrialized food. We didn’t want to compromise either quality or purity of the food for profit.”
Although Agatha had been in business for several years prior to McConaughey joining the company, she had not been able to scale on the level McConaughey envisioned. “I was not afraid to dream big and not afraid to scale, but I really didn’t know what we were getting into. “I was very nervous when I met with my first buyer — more nervous than talking to the presidents of the United States that I met. I knew we had a great concept and product, but it wasn’t a smooth process. It was difficult. There were several challenges because we found ourselves in 15,000 Target stores with 33 products. We definitely had our ups and downs. We had a recall of one product and weren’t able to deliver. The company went through a tough time, but we learned, corrected, and were able to bring the company back up. You have to keep looking for opportunities and learning from them. Now our organic frozen foods are sold in Walmarts across the country.”
McConaughey says that in the life of an entrepreneur there are opportunities to learn every day and that being flexible and persistent are qualities that really pay off. Because she had a product that she believed in, she didn’t consider giving up when things got difficult. Instead she asked “What did we do that didn’t work? How can we improve and make it better?” Never one to let something stand in her way, McConaughey believes that the ability to learn, adapt, and keep moving forward are part of her success.
When I ask McConaughey how she nourishes herself and what brings her joy she replies with a laugh, “My family is what brings me the most joy. My kids, my husband — that is really what brings me the most joy. Outside of that, spending time with friends and doing little things like making a flower arrangement, decorating a house, and cooking a meal. Cooking a meal that really worked — that brings me joy.” Mothering is a big part of her life, and she draws her sustenance from Mother Nature. “Being in nature is a big thing for me. I like to go outside, even for a few quiet minutes, and take some time just for myself, where I can connect with my body and my feelings. I put my foot in the grass and listen to the birds. I feel the weather. I feel grounded, and it’s a good way to start the day.”
And how does an entrepreneur who also happens to be a nurturer in chief make plans both short term and long term? McConaughey says, “Everything I do in my life has a purpose. If you have a purpose behind something, you can walk in a room at any time and talk about it, sell it and speak from your heart. If you don’t know your purpose for what you are doing, it becomes very challenging. Purpose will trump passion a lot of the time.”
Written by: Deborah Hamilton-lynne
Photography by: Leslie Hodge
Shot on location at Lake Austin Spa Resort