The sound of a baby crying fills the suite of the swish Four Seasons hotel, blankets and baby paraphernalia are strewn everywhere and the interview is taking place between breastfeeding sessions. Stylist is meeting Blake Lively as she prepares for the release of her new film, The Age Of Adaline although three-and-a-half-month- old daughter James with actor husband Ryan Reynolds, is fast becoming the main event.
As you’d expect for a new mother, Lively, 27, is sleep deprived. “I am definitely getting sleepless nights,” she explains. “But you get a little more used to it as time goes on.” Although, you’d have no idea. The blonde hair that spawned a million, “Can you just make my hair look like that please?” conversations with put-upon hairdressers is just as super-powered as when she played Serena van der Woodsen in Gossip Girl. She’s wearing a pink patterned dress she co-designed with fashion label, Amour Vert, for her lifestyle website, Preserve, with her Charlotte Olympia kitty flats lying on the floor next to her.
Preserve, launched last summer, is part lifestyle blog, part online store selling artisan clothes and homeware (in a similar vein to Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop). Running a business – Lively is involved in everything from photography to raising capital for the site – while maintaining her day job as an actress is a bold move and proof she can’t be pigeonholed. In fact, she’s recently been named the most powerful Hollywood & Entertainment star in the prestigious Forbes Under 30 list. There’s definitely something of the Martha Stewart – who Lively idolised as a child – about her.
Born and raised in LA, Lively now lives with Reynolds in New York, the setting, of course, of Gossip Girl. Since the cult teen series, there’s been serious film parts in Ben Affleck’s drama The Town and Oliver Stone’s Savages. Right now Lively takes the lead in The Age Of Adaline, playing a widowed mother born in 1908 who becomes immortal after a freak accident in the Thirties. The film is a Pinterest board’s dream as Lively moves through the decades.
With James now asleep, Lively diverts her full attention to Stylist. And she talks about Hillary Clinton, truffle pasta and her plans to go to Harvard…
What has surprised you the most about motherhood? Just realising that it is all going to be OK. I remember leaving the hospital thinking: ‘I have no idea what I am doing. I have a life in my hands and I’m not equipped to do this, because I don’t have the knowledge I need to take care of the most precious, fragile thing in the world.’ It felt like being a passenger on a plane and being told: “By the way, now you are going to be piloting the plane.” But then you take her home and you figure it out. Sometimes you don’t figure it out and even that is a whole new experience.
What is the most important lesson you want your daughter to learn? A love of family. My family has kept me steady, whatever has happened in my life. They’ve been the constant in my life and when that love is constant, the highs and lows don’t derail you.
How do you get anything done when your daughter is so small? It is tough because when you are looking at your child and she’s laughing, it’s hard to do anything else. And it means making people wait while you feed your baby. That sucks, because everyone thinks you are just being a diva. My parents [Ernie and Elain] are pretty much the nannies. They raised five kids, so they know what they are doing. They haven’t moved in, but they visit for long periods of time and then they’ll go away and make us beg them to come back [laughs].
You were pregnant when filming The Age Of Adaline. What did that bring to the experience? I had her in my tummy then and it was significant for me shooting this film and thinking of the mother/daughter relationship. Adaline’s husband has died; her daughter is 80-something and is about to die. There’s so much pain that she has experienced by being young forever, and you realise that life happens exactly as it should. Time is only valuable because of love, and without it, time is a trap.
The Age Of Adaline looks at ageing and holding on to youth, is that pertinent to you? Right now I am really looking forward to getting older. The older I’ve got, the more enriched my life has become, from a great childhood with my family, to moving to New York, getting married and having a baby. But ask me in 10 years when I get my crow’s feet… or maybe two years, oh my god! [Laughs]. I have learned that until you experience something, it’s hard to get on your soapbox and talk about it.
Your website Preserve is very traditional, would you consider yourself quite old fashioned? Yes I am. I only listen to old music. I love Billie Holiday, Chet Baker, Edith Piaf and Josephine Baker. I love fashion of times past, I like modern trends too, but I’m not good about keeping up with them.
Do you think there’s been a sea change, where it’s OK to admit you want to stay at home now? It is great to be a mother and a professional and a wife and a daughter, but to choose only one of those things is also incredible. I love being with my niece and baking with her; I also love it when my niece wants to get out there and take the boys down. We’ll take them down together in a game of soccer or go-kart racing. I like being a woman and everything that means for me.
So opportunities are changing for women? Look at what is happening with Hillary Clinton, it’s something to be very proud of. It’s so uplifting. But the fact that we have to be proud of this advancement is a bit upsetting. I think whatever side you stand on, the fact that there’s never been a woman leading this country where there are women leading households and leading companies, is a bit upsetting. What makes people think a man is more equipped to do that than a woman? Nothing.
As a woman in business do you think there’s a similar lack of representation? There are a lot of women in business, but they don’t get enough opportunities. If you look at the facts, women spend the most on e-commerce sites, yet less than 30% of the companies that venture capitalists fund are female-driven, even though female-run companies are the most successful. Women connect with other women. So why are we are not looking at the numbers?
Would you say you are naturally business-brained? I love it but I think it’s more innate for me; it’s not something I went to college for. My mum is someone who faced a lot of obstacles but never took no for an answer and she showed me the only person who can limit you is yourself. Business is also about generosity. Entrepreneurs helping each other out. People starting their own companies who could be competitors are actually saying to me, “This is a mistake I made and this is how you can do it better. Meet my technology officer who can teach you how to build your technology platform.” You realise there is room for everyone, as long as you work hard enough.
Are you much of a reader? At the moment it’s mainly babycentre.com [laughs]. But also I read Half The Sky [by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn] and if you haven’t read it you should, because it will change your life. The authors talk about how more women have died in the past 50 years just for being women, than men in all the world wars. It’s startling, describing the state of women’s roles in society.
We know you’re a devoted foodie, what’s your favourite thing to cook for your family? For something special I love going to Mario Batali’s market, Eataly in New York. You find the best produce there: homemade pasta, creamy truffle concoctions and hand-stuffed ravioli. I love getting fresh meat, vegetables and pasta and making a buffet out of it all at home. But I’ll also do those ‘MacGyver meals’ using anything I have in the fridge, like a cheese pasta and vegetables.
You’re also into baking, what appeals about it? I really enjoy decorating cakes. I appreciate not only the texture of food but the temperatures. I love making something really chocolatey and hot like a soufflé and then I’ll add something cool like a fresh mint ice cream.
Do you have any favourite chefs? Gosh, there are so many, but I do love Nigella Lawson and Heston Blumenthal.
Finally, what else is left to achieve? I have a dream to go to Harvard Business School and one of these days I will do that… in my spare time!