Jenna Dewan-Tatum may be married to a guy who’s been declared the Sexiest Man Alive—that would be movie star Channing—but on this particular sundrenched afternoon, she’s hanging with another sort of beautiful creature.
Make that creatures. When the 33- year-old actress arrives at The Gentle Barn, a nonprofit animal sanctuary nestled on 6 idyllic acres north of Los Angeles, she heads straight to the pig–pen to say hello to Zeus, a 750-pound heifer she sponsors. After posing for a few shots with a chicken named Norma Jeane, she gently parades the rescue animal around in her arms, jokingly campaigning to make the bird a star: “Norma Jeane needs her cover!” And when the old country tune “Wagon Wheel” comes on the photographer’s playlist, she kicks up her cowboy boots, dancing for the camera. “This is the happiest place on earth,” says Dewan-Tatum, who’s been involved with The Gentle Barn for two years. “It’s really calming and peaceful, and you can feel that it’s not only good for the animals but good for you as well.”
Dewan-Tatum’s passion for animals can be traced back to her childhood, when, as a 10-year-old in Texas, she decided to become a vegetarian. “I remember very clearly the day my mom made chicken fingers,” she says. “I was like, ‘Wait, this was alive? This had parents? I’m not eating it anymore.’” The actress—a former backup dancer for Janet Jackson who scored her first hit film with 2006’s Step Up, co-starring her husband—has only become more committed to animal rights and following a healthy lifestyle since becoming a parent herself. (Daughter Everly turned 1 in May.) “My number-one priority became this baby and because of that, everything else fell into place in a really natural way,” she says the week after the shoot over lunch at a vegan Mexican restaurant near her L.A. home. While heartily munching on shared plates of sweet potato flautas and butternut squash quesadillas, the warm and open star spoke honestly about how she maintains her enviable physique, the sweet way Channing helps her decompress and why her role as free-spirited Freya on Lifetime’s Witches of East End is such a perfect fit.
Natural Health: You’re vegan now. When did you switch from vegetarianism? Jenna Dewan-Tatum: About two or three years ago. My nutritionist did an allergy test and found I was lactose-intolerant. Then I saw a video of horrible abuse that was happening to dairy cows, and it was like, “OK, the universe is trying to tell me something.” After going vegan, I felt so much better. My skin cleared up, I had a ton more energy and I just felt clearer in the head.
NH: Channing isn’t vegan, is he? JDT: Not at all. He’s a meat-eating Southern boy from Alabama! We’re very opposites-attract in that way. But he respects that I am. He comes with me to vegan restaurants, politely eats and goes, “That’s kind of good.” [laughs]
NH: How will you feel if Everly’s diet takes after her dad’s, not yours? JDT: I don’t believe in forcing anyone into anything, but I’ll do my best to introduce her to healthy eating habits. We have a little garden so I’ll say, “Let’s go pick the vegetables we’re going to eat tonight.” My pediatrician believes it’s completely healthy and possible to have a vegan child, and I think that’s amazing. But when Everly gets older, I think we should allow her to be her own person.
NH: What’s your daily diet like? JDT: I swear by a green smoothie every morning with spinach, romaine, kale, apples and banana. I’ve gotten Chan into those, too. For lunch, I’ll make a salad with chickpeas, tomatoes, black beans, corn, cucumbers, edamame and a veggie burger, dressed with lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. And for dinner, I love a Mexican bowl with black beans, rice, tomatoes, tempeh, avocado, grilled veggies, lettuce and pico de gallo. I try to be good, but I’m not a robot. I indulge here and there.
The 33-year-old actress and mother offers a glimpse into her private life with husband Channing Tatum
When I agreed to take an exercise class on a Sunday morning in Los Angeles with Jenna Dewan-Tatum, I admit it was a momentary lapse in judgment. For those not familiar with her, Dewan-Tatum—wife of the millennial sex symbol, actor Channing Tatum—spent the years preceding her acting career as a professional backup dancer. She grew up in Grapevine, Texas before heading to the West Coast to attend the University of Southern California. It was there that she was discovered by a dance agent, catapulting her childhood passion into a successful career.
During her early 20’s, Dewan-Tatum toured with the likes Janet Jackson, *N Sync and Puff Daddy before eventually landed a breakout role in the 2006 romantic dance film Step Up, where she starred opposite her now-husband. The two married three years after meeting on set and had their first child, Everly, in May of 2013.
The information about her professional dancer pedigree had apparently escaped me when I consented to the class, and before I knew it I was strapping on cycling shoes at a West Hollywood spin studio. I barely recognized Dewan-Tatum when she settled into the seat next to me, her natural olive complexion unburdened by heavy on-screen makeup and the smoky eyes she sports at award shows. “I almost made us go to a dance class, but everybody I bring gets so nervous,” she says. Given her A-list status, her perfect post-baby body and the fact that she’s married to People’s 2012 Sexiest Man Alive, there’s something refreshingly real about her. “This spin class is just as hard as a dance class but it’s quicker,” she says. “With the baby, it’s all about how I can maximize my time.”
Known for her starring roles in the popular dance film Step Up (where she met husband Channing Tatum) and more recently in Lifetime channel’s Witches of East End, Jenna Dewan-Tatum has a long history of stepping up for animals. “I happened to see some documentary on slaughterhouses when I was really young …” she says. “I was really disturbed and stopped eating meat. I think that was when it all began for me.”
With her stunning looks and commitment to compassionate living, Dewan-Tatum is an ideal spokesperson for The HSUS’s Be Cruelty-Free Campaign to end cosmetics testing on animals. “It was mind-blowing to me that so many cosmetic companies are still testing on animals,” she says. “I wanted to get involved to hopefully bring awareness to this situation … and to also urge people to buy from cruelty-free companies.”
In this edited interview with staff writer Ruthanne Johnson, Dewan-Tatum shares her secrets for staying beautiful and cruelty-free in Hollywood.
How do you fit your love for animals into looking so fabulous?
I definitely check to see if the treatments and products I use are humane. I also make it clear to wardrobe on any show or movie that I won’t wear fur. I follow a clean vegetarian diet. That helps my skin out a lot, and I feel more energy as a result, too. Lots of green smoothies!
What are some of your favorite cruelty-free cosmetics?
I love Tarte, Urban Decay and Josie Maran.
Why is speaking out for animals important to you?
?I have always felt it was important for animals to have a voice. We must speak up for them and fight for them to be treated fairly. From rescuing animals to addressing mistreatment of animals in slaughterhouses to protecting our wild animals, it’s all important to me.
What have been the biggest challenges?
?It’s often hard for people to see beyond what they’ve been taught their whole lives. When something challenges their comfort zone, they want to stick their heels in the mud or turn their eyes away from how animals are really being treated. But everyone is on their own journey, and you have to respect that, too.
I’d like to start my own charity and work toward better animal cruelty laws, for slaughterhouses in particular. I also dream of a well-balanced life between family and working on satisfying creative opportunities. Who says you can’t have it all?
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