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Ali Landry: Mama Bella
Ali Landry takes on the new roles of mom and child advocate
Ali with her daughter, Estela, in their LA home.
They say having a child changes your life forever, and for beauty queen/model turned actress Ali Landry and filmmaker husband Alejandro Monteverde that couldn’t be more true. Since the birth of daughter Estela Ines in 2007, Ali and her family have been on a quest: To live out faith and family in a life of celebrity and giving. To restore to childhood a timeless sense of innocence and to make sure no child ever rides in an unsafe car seat. When Healthy Mom&Baby met with Ali, she was preparing to take her heirloom-inspired children’s line, Belle Parish, nationwide.
On family . . .
How has the place where you’re from shaped the mom that you are today?
I was raised with pretty much my entire extended family; there are 10 children on my dad’s side and 8 on my mom’s: 18 aunts and uncles. And they live on 2 big patches of land in Louisiana. It was so great to constantly be around family, to always be around people that we trusted and that loved me. Now, in Los Angeles, it’s the one thing I really wish I could give Estela. Once you have a child, those are the people you want to be around.
And that connection to family inspired your heirloom children’s clothing line, Belle Parish?
After I had Estela, my mom started to send me boxes of clothes that she had kept from when I was little. Beautiful clothes that I had worn when I was young that people in my hometown had made. And she started sewing for Estela; beautiful dresses with pinched pleats and inlays.
I’m in a city that’s very trendy but when I looked at my baby and realized that she’s only going to be this age for such a short time, I decided that I wanted to celebrate that. For me, it became dressing her like a baby when she was a baby. That’s where the clothing line started: age-appropriate clothing for children and celebrating each phase of their life.
And that spilled over into everyday parenting?
My husband, Alejandro, and I have very similar parenting styles. We were both raised in really healthy family environments, and we have had incredible examples in our parents. So we really make a conscious effort to spend time with Estela. Sundays are definitely family day. We go to church every Sunday as a family, and we drop everything to do something with Estela. Then we have our daily thing: We read books and we pray together before we go to sleep.
On celebrity parenting . . .
Are the celebrity moms you interview on your Yahoo show Spotlight to Nightlight really any different than your typical mom who lives in a subdivision near her kids’ school? Except perhaps for the $120,000 per year nanny?
The only difference I find is that our schedules are a bit all over the place. But like any mom, it’s a challenge to balance it all. The media is always looking at your life and certain things are printed that aren’t always true. But all of the issues that we’re dealing with our kids are the same: The daily struggle to balance it all brings on the same guilt we all feel as moms.
LA is a weird place at times; everyone knows who everyone else is but no one really talks to one another. So, I put together a supper club where once a month it’s all celebrity moms and we do a potluck at someone’s house. We come in our sweats, we support each other as women, as moms, which is very important. It’s so needed for women to show up for other women.
So, with Spotlight to Nightlight, I just began asking the questions that I was curious about as a new mom, such as whether someone is breastfeeding.
Did you breastfeed Estela?
Yes. My mom didn’t breastfeed me. She was of the generation that was all about the formula; they didn’t even give her that option. So, it became my dream. I heard about the struggles that other women had, and I thought “if I can’t do this I’ll be devastated because I really want to.”
And it was the most incredible experience as far as bonding with my baby; I wouldn’t trade that for the world. I did it for 10 months. So many of my girlfriends were determined not to breastfeed their child. I heard everything: “I’ll feel like a cow, I’ll lose my body and it’s not going to be my own.”
There was one girlfriend who was just determined not to breastfeed. I said “listen, you’re in the hospital, all I’m asking is just try it for 2 days so at least you’ll know what your experience is.” She didn’t stop nursing her child until she was 1½, almost 2. She loved it; we couldn’t get her to stop.
I strongly encourage women to breastfeed—no judgment absolutely because everyone has their own journey—but from my own personal experience, it was absolutely incredible.
How did you get back into shape post-pregnancy?
I did not put any pressure on myself to lose the baby weight after my pregnancy but ironically it dropped off pretty fast because I was making healthy eating choices before, during and after my pregnancy. I used Chef’s Diet and the pre-made meals took the guess work out of what I was going to eat so I wasn’t skipping meals or snacks and always had a healthy meal choice. I was able to spend my time focused on my new baby and not on what to make for dinner, she is the greatest blessing in my life and so is my time with her.
And the best advice you’ve been given so far?
It’s something very powerful someone said to me right after I had Estela. I was sitting in a recliner and someone told me: “Right now, your only responsibility is to sit in that recliner and feed that baby. You don’t worry about anything else.” It gave me the freedom to say, “Everything else can wait. My baby is brand new. I’m still adjusting to being a mom. I don’t have to have it all figured out.” It was a struggle for me until I put all of my focus on caring for this child, and I gave myself the time to settle in to being a mom.
You have a long list of charity work associated with your name, where do you find the drive to give to others?
Here in LA, I work with PATH, People Assisting the Homeless. I’m part of Women Helping Others, the WHO Foundation, where we give grants to different organizations to do the things that they’re passionate about. And I’m about to do a huge project associated with hunger relief through the Yum! brand. My philosophy is simply to stand in whatever space you’re in. Our family lives this way. We just look around and see who needs a helping hand.
This spring, I’m doing a big car seat safety awareness event where celebs will be raising awareness for car seat safety. I met a woman who lost her child because he was supposed to be in a 5-point harness and he was in a booster seat instead. He was ejected from the car in an accident. I thought, “I could have been exactly like this woman; she really thought she was doing the right thing."
I realized I didn’t know things like the right ages and weights for when a baby should move to a booster seat. Or that car seats have an expiration date. Because it’s a high-priced item, so many people pass them along to friends or family members. I’m getting certified in a 40-hour program on car seat safety. We’re planning a day where parents can go to make sure their car seats are installed safely. We’re going to do “car seat ambushes” where I’m going to go to celebrity friend’s houses to see if their car seats are installed safely.
How do you balance it all? A family, a career and philanthropy?
No one has the secret of balance; you just try your best every single day. You have to have your priorities in order. For me, it’s my husband, the baby, family, work and our other obligations.
But every single day there’s something that lags behind, something that doesn’t get done. That’s part of the guilt we carry as women. I always try to give myself a break saying “tomorrow is a new day and I’m going to try to do better tomorrow.” And that’s all you can do.
Will you have more children?
We would love to and we’re trying; it’s taking a little longer this time. Everything has a time and if God blesses us with more children we will be so grateful, and if not, we’re very open to adoption.
Carolyn Davis Cockey, MLS, is editor-in-chief of Healthy Mom&Baby magazine and director of publications for the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric & Neonatal Nurses.
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