Jenna Dewan Tatum doesn’t beat around the bush, do mom guilt (anymore), or understand why women put their own needs last. Talking to her is like getting the best sort of pep talk — kind, smart, and no BS.
REDBOOK – Jenna Dewan Tatum prefers a warm hug over a swift introductory handshake, and leans in close to chat like she’s an old confidant. But don’t mistake all that niceness for compliance. “I always say that I have a fairy side and an edgy side,” she tells me over a late-afternoon lunch in Los Angeles. Drawing on a mix of girliness and grit has worked for the 36-year-old actress, who left college to be a backup dancer for Janet Jackson and then pirouetted onto the big screen alongside Channing Tatum in 2006’s Step Up. The film ignited a real-life romance between the two, who married in 2009 and now have a 3-year-old daughter, Everly.
Jenna’s since had splashy supporting roles on hit TV shows like American Horror Story and Supergirl, but has lately turned her focus to projects that allow her more control. Before signing on to host the new NBC competition series World of Dance, she says, “I told them, ‘If you want Ryan Seacrest, hire Ryan Seacrest.’ I love working with dancers. If there’s a way to incorporate that, then I’m excited.” She got her way, and when the show premieres this month, she’ll mentor contestants, or as she says, be their “mama bear and backstage cheerleader.” With Channing, she’s producing a web series based on Step Up — but their most important shared project hits even closer to home: “”We want our daughter to grow up confident and believing that she can go after whatever she wants.” So it’s no shocker that Jenna has great pointers on embracing independence, raising strong girls, and tapping your inner power at any age.
On finding time to connect with her husband, Channing Tatum:
“We are not sex schedulers – not yet! Give us a couple more years. Maybe with child number two. There’s a beauty in being two busy people because we get a lot of time to miss each other. To continue to miss someone after so many years is kind of a blessing in disguise.”
On her biggest relationship challenge:
“Communication. You change when you’re together from 25 to 35. I think maybe in my early 20s, I might have tiptoed around issues or didn’t want to make too many waves. Now it’s like, “This is how I’m feeling.” You have to be okay with the other person becoming defensive, to let them be emotional and accept that it won’t be okay for a while.”
On keeping her relationship exciting:
“I think all women should keep it exciting for themselves. People always ask, “Do you do anything to keep it fresh for your man?” I hate that question. I’m like, “No. Why is it for your man? I do things to keep it fresh for myself. The lingerie I buy is not for him necessarily. It’s for us and for myself. If you feel sexy, then it’s good for you.”
On being a feminist — and having a feminist husband:
“We should want equality for men and women. Men should want that too. Chan is for women’s rights and so am I. Women should have the right to be the best they can be and make their own choices for themselves. Our daughter is young, but I think as she gets older, she’s going to be all about the standard for women we keep at home — she’s going to be strong.”
For more from Jenna, pick up the May issue of Redbook on newsstands April 18.
On an unusually cool day in Los Angeles, we head to a downtown studio to meet up with Jenna Dewan Tatum, who greets us with a big hug and a hot cup of tea. She’s only just recovered from a bout with the flu, but she’s already back to normal and working hard: The 35-year-old currently stars as Lucy Lane on CBS’s Supergirl and is also the new face of the Reebok ZPrint sneaker, a collaboration she’s thrilled about.
“After becoming a mom—before I was a mom, to be honest—I just loved the idea of being comfortable, yet fashionable,” says Dewan Tatum, whose daughter, Everly, is nearly three years old. “These shoes are sleek, cool, and fun, and their initiative is really up my alley. I love being confident and strong, yet comfortable and approachable.” The adjectives that Dewan Tatum uses to describe the sneakers can easily be applied to the actress herself. She’s inviting, warm, and, well, a cool girl. When talking about life at home with husband Channing Tatum, she refers to him often as “Chan” and speaks openly about their daily routine and life. And she’s a mega star around the globe—but if Dewan Tatum realizes it, she doesn’t show it. Over the course of the next hour, we sat down exclusively with the actress to talk about her career, life in the spotlight, and what she wishes she could change about the entertainment industry.
Glamour: Which TV or movie role are you proudest of?
Jenna Dewan Tatum: All of the roles I’ve done sort of lead to the next. I like to think that I was thrown into acting from being a dancer, so every role I learn something. I feel the most fun I ever had was Witches of East End, and we became such good friends with everyone. That role was so my free-spirited self that I got to play everyday. I really liked doing that show. It was such a good, guilty pleasure, and it was the most fun I’ve had for sure. I think my most fulfilling role is still yet to come.
Glamour: It was so fun watching you on The Mindy Project.
Jenna: That was so fun! That was really, really fun. Mindy is really, really sweet.
Glamour: What role scared you the most?
Jenna: I’m always a little bit scared [of everything], but that’s a good feeling to have. The first day on set is always a little bit like having the butterflies and learning to get into the flow. American Horror Story—when I signed on to do that, I had no idea what I was doing. Some morning I got a script and some of the things I had to do were a little raunchy. I remember being like, “My dad is going to watch this. Cool. OK…” But we had so much fun, and we made it a really comfortable situation.
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.