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Camila Alves in the scuba dickey jacket, slate dickey, Keiko button-down and Renzo pant, photographed by Natalie Chitwood

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#MAKEITHAPPEN

Camila Alves McConaughey, Author & Entrepreneur

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Camila Alves McConaughey is a woman on a mission. "If it involves helping others, that's my drive right there!" says the former model-turned-health advocate. "To ease someone’s burden is what inspires me the most." It's what led to her online platform Women of Today, which brings together a diverse community of women who are dedicated to sharing recipes and wellness resources. And it's what sparked the nonprofit she co-founded with husband Matthew McConaughey, the just keep livin Foundationa former #VBGIVESBACK partner—which empowers high school students with the tools they need to live active and healthy lifestyles.

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Then there's her latest project, which targets the youngest demographic of all: a children's book, Just Try One Bite. The premise is Freaky Friday meets picky eaters/junk-food lovers—and was actually inspired by Alves' own kids. "For my entire life, I steered away from mushrooms," she explains. "One day my kids said to me, 'C’mon, mama, just try one bite.' With those big eyes and cute little faces looking at me, how could I say no?" Her co-writer was Adam Mansbach, author of the brilliant Go the **** to Sleep, which means this read is one both parents and kids will love. It's already a New York Times Best Seller—and just a few weeks after the release, too.

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Here, our one-on-one with the author, entrepreneur and mother of three—learn her top wellness hacks, how she makes it all happen and why a gratitude circle, inspired by her husband's own childhood, is a nightly must chez McConaughey.

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Q&A

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What are the driving passions that set you on your path?
Doing better! Learning and helping others.

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Women of Today, just keep livin—what do you love about building community?
Building a community that is diverse, in which everyone’s hearts are open to understanding differences and similarities, along with the openness to learn from each other and see different perspectives, allows us to grow in ways we didn’t even know.

What does #MAKEITHAPPEN mean to you?
It means when people come up with scenarios and say, “This isn't possible!" that’s where I start questioning, 'Why not?'

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And who or what inspires you to make it happen? 
If it involves helping others, that's my drive right there! To ease someone’s burden is what inspires me the most.

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Top essential work/life hacks to make it happen?
The ability to be flexible and resilient with each situation. 

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3 must-haves to make it happen?
1. Flexibility 
2. Patience 
3. Ability to question the status quo.

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Top 3 beauty hacks?
1. Face lymphatic massage 
2. Clean makeup with face oil and a warm towel.
3. Mix two different colors of foundation and concealer to make a natural color that matches your skin tone throughout the year.

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Top 3 wellness hacks?
1. Make your own teas with different spices.
2. Body lymphatic massage 
3. Walk as much as you can.

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And the wardrobe MVPs that help you make it happen?
A great hat makes everything a little more special.

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Share one example of how you made it happen through adversity...
Before the pandemic, we were ready to shoot an entire program subscription for Women of Today. Once the pandemic hit, I saw how much people were struggling and I felt it didn’t serve the community to create a paid subscription model. I met with the Women of Today team and we quickly pivoted to a simpler format with content that everyone could acccess. This pivot completely changed the relationship of our community and seeing the stories of the impact was incredibly powerful! 

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Advice you lean into during challenging times?
“This too shall pass…”

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Tell us about the one thing or person who changed your POV?
A fun story—my kids changed my point of view on mushrooms! For my entire life, I steered away from mushrooms, until one day my kids said to me, “C’mon, mama, just try one bite.” With those big eyes and cute little faces looking at me, how could I say no? So I tried one bite and couldn’t believe what I had been missing. This story was part of the inspiration for my children's book, Just Try One Bite, a fun book about food and role reversal where the kids have all the power. Establishing better-for-you habits starts early and has been a passion of mine ever since I started making homemade baby food.  

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Advice to others to make it happen?
Things will get hard but not as hard as you may think! 

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Tell us about just keep living—how did it begin?
Matthew and I established the just keep livin Foundation in 2006, with the goal of empowering high school students by providing them with the tools to lead active lives and make healthy choices for a better future. We wanted to create an incentive-based program that not only provides these kids with a safe place to go after school but also helps them change their habits before it’s too late. In other words, we wanted to “prevent so we don’t have to cure” later in life. We have 40 after-school fitness and wellness programs in 14 cities throughout the country, focusing on fitness, wellness, community service, and gratitude.

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Why is this cause an important one to you? 
I love being a part of all aspects of our program and being involved as much as I possibly can, but I do feel especially connected to the mission of empowering the girls in our program and providing them with the opportunity to learn more about women’s health. For example, I was able to host a day to educate the girls in our program on breast cancer awareness and preventative measures that they can start at a young age. Giving back to the breast cancer cause is something that many of our jkl programs continue to actively support today, like participating in Breast Cancer 5k’s within their communities, as many of our students have had family members or loved ones affected by breast cancer.
And this past Mother’s Day, I hosted a virtual “Mother’s Day Tea” for our jkl students in Texas and their moms or mother figures. We shipped special personalized self-care boxes to each student/mom in advance which included hand-picked items for a custom collection I did with a woman named Rachel Miriam. Everyone received items like candles, mugs, and a tea blend I helped create. We had a friend of mine who’s a mixologist come on and teach us all how to make fun “mocktails” to toast the special women in our lives!
Rachel Miriam sent us this testimonial from our work: “In my senior year on a field trip where Camila and Matthew McConaughey were able to join us, I approached Camila and the jkl team and asked for a letter of recommendation for college. A week later I received an email saying they would give me my letter by the end of the week. They are always there to help us!"

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What's one thing you love about it?
I love being a part of what we call our “Gratitude Circle,” where everyone in the program goes around and says one thing they’re grateful for that day. It’s something Matthew grew up doing with his family and now it’s something our family does at every meal. It helps create community. Being able to hear these kids express just how much the foundation has kept them out of trouble—from gangs, drugs abuse, etc.—and helped them see the power of a healthier life, better grades, better relationships with their family, and a safe place to go after school… I cry every time! Gratitude really does improve the mood and evokes positive emotions. I’m proud to say that we currently serve about 2,500 students and we’ve impacted over 10,000 since our inception!

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