Eva Mendes comes clean

Entrepreneurs

She put Hollywood on hold a decade ago to raise a family with Ryan Gosling. Now the 50-year-old actress is reemerging as a cleaning-supplies entrepreneur, and dishes on why doing dishes is her happy place.
Actress and entrepreneur Eva Mendes. Image: Forbes

There’s Cuban music playing in the background with the scent of verbena in the air and a sink stacked with dirty dishes—Eva Mendes’ idea of a dream evening. Even after decades of Hollywood premieres and glamorous walks down the red carpet, the kitchen is where she feels the most joy.

“Cleaning for me and for my family, it’s not just cleaning. It’s an emotional bonding experience,” Mendes says of household chores. “When I found mindful meditation, I was like, this is my jam.”

To get to this blissful place in her life—where she spends most evenings finding happiness over that kitchen sink in her Southern California home, where she lives with 43-year-old actor Ryan Gosling and their two daughters—took years of hard work, a gene she says she got from her Cuban immigrant mother.

From the time Mendes was a little girl, her mom would explain that freedom is when you make your own money. She led by example: Mendes watched her mother work all sorts of jobs—everything from selling Easter baskets to neighbors to working as a house­keeper and later as a bank teller. Now 50, a decade removed from her career in Hollywood, Mendes has led a life of many acts as well.

Since performing in her last movie, 2014’s Lost River, Mendes has become a mother, fashion designer, children’s book author and the co-owner of a successful home cleaning goods startup, Skura Style.

After taking an ownership stake in 2022, Mendes has helped Skura—which was founded in 2017 by Linda Sawyer and Alison Matz—expand its marketing reach and has even dabbled in product design. Forbes estimates the business brought in $7 million in revenue last year and is on track for $20 million in 2024.

“I started using it and I loved it, so I got in contact with the founders and I loved their story,” she says. Much like Mendes, Sawyer and Matz left behind thriving careers—Sawyer was the longtime North America CEO of Deutsch Advertising, while Matz was the publisher of magazines at Meredith and Condé Nast, including Brides—to become entrepreneurs.

With her new ownership role, Mendes has become interes­ted in every aspect of the company. “I want to be on those investor calls, I want to talk about the boring stuff, like how high our box has to be in order to fit into a certain shelf. I’m in for all of it.”

Mendes was born in Miami and moved to Los Angeles as a child. Growing up, she didn’t have any plans to act. It wasn’t until her early twenties, when her photo was discovered by a Hollywood agent, that she considered the industry at all, recalling her mother’s advice about supporting herself.

“I just wanted to make money and be financially independent,” she says. “My goal was to buy my mother a house, to buy myself a house—and to just put money into the bank.

She began with roles in 1990s music videos—inclu­ding Will Smith’s “Miami”—and made her film debut in the Children of the Corn franchise in 1998. Then, in 2001, she got her big break: a role in Training Day with Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke.

“I loved studying about the background of the character and what they want in a scene and breaking down a scene,” Mendes says. “That’s all still exciting to me.”

The academic approach paid off: Mendes went on to star in hit films such as Hitch, 2 Fast 2 Furious and the movie that changed her life, The Place Beyond the Pines, in which she starred with Gosling in 2012. Despite her success, she says she never loved being in front of the camera. So when her first daughter, Esmeralda, was born in 2014, Mendes put Hollywood on hold and never looked back.

eva-mendes-product
The Kitchen Sink: Mendes’ Skrubby Sponge collection had many inspirations, including her Cuban heritage, architecture she loves, and photographs from her travels. Image: Forbes

“My ambition was still there. It just was suddenly directed toward something else,” she says. “All my focus became my home. That’s where I derived my joy.”

And while Mendes has paused acting, she never stopped working. In 2015 she launched a now-discontinued beauty brand, Circa Beauty. And from 2013 through 2020 she partnered with New York & Company to design collections of wrap dresses and pantsuits.

“It was a really ideal job for me, because I stayed creative and I love connecting with women,” she says. “I was really fulfilled while I was doing that.”

She doesn’t care that people think she sacrificed her film career for Gosling’s. “I don’t succumb to societal bullshit,” she says. Since she has taken on more responsibilities at home (she jokes that being a chauffeur is her day job), he has been nominated for two Academy Awards, including for his portrayal of Ken in 2023’s Barbie.

The decision to join Skura Style came to Mendes organically during her time at home with her daughters. She initially fell in love with the antibacterial Skrubby Sponge as a customer—she was hooked by its disappearing monogram design. “It actually fades with use, within one to two weeks, as a visual indicator when it’s time to throw it out,” Sawyer explains.

Mendes initially reached out to the cofoun­ders in 2021 to see how they could work together. The three first met over Zoom and immediately clicked, they say. Plus, Mendes was excited about a female-founded team. “The roles I found most challenging were when I was involved in a very male-heavy cast,” she says. “I’m such a girl’s girl, and I need that female energy around me.”

“My ambition was still there. It just was suddenly directed toward something else. All my focus became my home. That’s where I derived my joy.”

Eva Mendes

Since she became a co-owner in 2022, her involvement has led to TV appearances and greater retail interest in the brand. “She’s been an amazing partner in the conversations that we’ve been having with retailers,” Sawyer says. “They say, ‘You can tell she’s in the boots of an owner of this company and this brand.’ ”

She’s also an integral part of product design and development. The Skura Style x Eva Mendes collection, which includes her beloved Skrubby Sponge, was inspired by Cuba. The collection is available at more than 220 Target stores across the country and is the brand’s first step toward big-box expansion.

The co-founders say this heralds the start of attracting an entirely new market. Meanwhile, the company is continuing to produce microfiber wipes and kitchen towels, and Mendes is working on new products.

While Mendes knows sponges aren’t exactly sexy, that’s precisely the point. “I wanted to be the face of it. I wanted to take that chance and take that risk and be driven by people saying, ‘Why sponges?’ ” she says. “There was something about that that really appealed to me. I thought, ‘If we can make a sponge beautiful and fun and joyful and sexy, then cool.’ ”

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