Kristen Bell does not phone anything in. Not her sparkling wit, not her energy, not her dedication to living a sustainable lifestyle. This was obvious long before we ever met at Ysabel, a stylish open-air restaurant in West Hollywood, the location of the launch event for her philanthropic snack brand This Bar Saves Lives, a company that donates a life-saving nutritional packet to a child suffering from severe acute malnutrition for every snack bar sold (the products are available at places like Target and Starbucks, and they are genuinely delicious—our interview was in celebration of its two newest flavors, Dark Chocolate Coconut and PB&J).
If you’ve ever watched Bell’s iconic sloth interview on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, you already have an idea of her emotional authenticity (can’t fake tears like that), and after spending half an hour spellbound by the Frozen star, chatting about how to sniff out the bullshit when shopping for ethical products and managing America’s “outrage addiction” problem, I can confirm definitively: When Kristen Bell decides she cares about something, she goes all the way.
That’s clearer nowhere than in her commitment to This Bar Saves Lives, which she co-founded with fellow actors Ryan Devlin, Todd Grinnell, and Ravi Patel. “I had always been a bit preoccupied by the idea that charity is wonderful, but businesses can do better,” she explained of the company’s inception. “Why is no one doing a one-for-one giveback in the food space?” From the start, the company’s goal was to create a sustainable model that would visibly solve the problem of severe acute malnutrition, which Bell hadn’t seen done yet.
“The most frustrating thing about that problem is that the solution is like, no duh, feed them. Hello? It’s not rocket surgery,” she said, never stingy with that signature Kristen Bell charm. “Like everything else is so daunting. The earth is in such a bad mood, there are so many problems, but this is like, oh no, just give them food. So how do we that? And how do we do something that’s sustainable as opposed to a campaign?” That’s how the food donation concept began. “Every time someone purchases one of the [bars], we purchase one of the [nutritional packets] and send it to the charities who drop it [where it’s needed],” she said, inspiring simultaneous cravings for PB&J and saving the world.
Not only in business but also in her personal life, Bell is committed to living as consciously as possible, and that’s what we talked about under the beaming California sun at Ysabel the other week. Keep scrolling to read our conversation (and inevitably fall in love with Kristen Bell even more).
ON HOW TO SNIFF OUT BS WHEN SHOPPING "SUSTAINABLY"
“I try to do it right. I don’t always succeed. I cut corners like everybody does because you’re busy. But … I find that being knowledgeable is my best defense to not feel wasteful or unauthentic with the message that I’m delivering. It’s sort of like the word ‘natural’ in foods. It doesn’t really mean anything. So you have to have a strong BS detector. Because, look, we want to sell you [This Bar Saves Lives]. We tell you why we’d like to—because we’d like to provide a sustainable model to give these to charities.
“But everyone wants to sell you something. You have to recognize that and use your critical thinking and be discerning. You know, fashion is a big deal. I follow @ecoage on Instagram, which is about fashion waste and how not to be a part of the gigantic landfill of cheap clothes. Have I purchased cheap clothes? Of course. Do I need to sometimes for my kids because they ruin everything? Of course. But it’s still a priority for me. So it’s about not beating yourself up, having a good BS detector, and being knowledgeable.
“Things in the food space are particularly tricky because, I don’t know, sometimes the FDA is asleep? You’ve got to learn to read the packaging—on your clothes, on your food. You have to learn to read the nutritional information, as well as how it’s sourced. Food can be confusing. A calorie is not the same as what’s healthy. High or low calories is a different conversation than ethically sourced and what’s good for you. An avocado is good for you, but it’s a ton of calories, but that’s confusing to people. So breaking apart that conversation is vital. And it’s daunting because you asked me one question, and I’ve now given you a 45-minute rant. It’s just ‘slow and steady wins the race,’ I think.
“And talking to other people who are like-minded. Because I can’t do everything. I’m obsessive with food. Like I can tell you the origin story of everything I buy from my FarmBox … or the granola we buy. I’m like, It’s small-batch; it’s L.A.; it’s called Summer House; I love it so much. But then I have other friends who are really into fashion. Like Reformation uses recycled materials, and they tell you about the water waste that they save. And Everlane tells you about the employees who work for them. Yes, they make their clothes overseas, but they show you pictures of their factory workers. Just [looking for] more transparency and [having] people within your group of friends who have like-minded priorities. I once read about how we become dominant to the planet when we split up the labor.
“Like as opposed to all living separately where I had like a little bit of lettuce and one goat, we decided like, dude, you’re gonna do goats, you’re gonna do lettuce, you’re gonna do beef, you’re gonna do carrots, you’re gonna build the houses. And all the sudden we were like, whoa, we can do it. We don’t even realize, but we split up our cognitive labor as well. We split up our knowledge. So we need to be aware of that, and think like, You know what, I’m gonna ask Sally where she shops, because she’s on the up-and-up of fashion, or let me ask Joe where he gets his strawberries. Does that make sense?”
ON HOW TO KNOW WHAT CAUSES TO GET INVOLVED WITH WHEN THERE ARE JUST SO MANY
“Don’t ever let anyone discourage you about what speaks to your heart. Because everyone’s heart is different. If you are tugged on your heartstrings by animal causes, do it. If you’re tugged by 0- to 12-year-old baby needs, get involved with Baby2Baby. If you’re thinking about the food on your table, get involved with No Kid Hungry. If it’s clean water, get involved with Charity Water.
“[Also], somebody is doing what you want to do already. Don’t start an organization—that’s the first thing I’d say. They already exist. You’re gonna waste your time, and you’re gonna waste infrastructure. But don’t let anyone tell you that clean water is more important than animal rights. … Everyone’s different, and everybody has a passion, and whatever your passion is—if it’s the environment, if it’s saving the tigers, whatever—[do it].
“In the philanthropy space, there’s a ton of competition. And to be honest, I’ve really never seen egos as big, and I am an actor, guys, to put it in perspective. So understand that someone’s already doing what you’re doing. And defend your piece. If you want to save the tigers, and someone says, ‘Why don’t you do something for people in America?’ You say, ‘Yeah, I can, and maybe I will, but right now, this is important to me.’ Or squelch their argument immediately and do both. And say, ‘Oh, I feed kids overseas, and I also feed kids here.’”
ON AMERICA'S "OUTRAGE ADDICTION" PROBLEM
“People suffer from outrage addiction. That is truly what I think might sink us, as a human race, is outrage addiction. Because no matter what comes out, what article someone was vulnerable enough to write, what story someone was vulnerable enough to tell, people are… I want to use specific examples, but I don’t want to get in trouble… I’ll use a specific example. Please have my back here, guys.
“I’ve heard that there has been backlash to I Feel Pretty. I find that to be very disheartening because, again, from what I’ve heard, from the cognitive labor I’ve split up among my group of friends, Amy Schumer is not nearly as heavy enough or ugly enough to play [a woman like that]. I think, how could you be angry about the plotline of a movie that simply tells a girl, no matter what she looks like, that if she has ultimate confidence, her life will change? How on earth could you be mad at that plotline?
“I feel like we are so used to getting outraged. Don’t get me wrong. There’s a variety of things that we need to be pissed off about. But I’ve also heard—and I have not read these articles; I’m the first to tell you that—that there was a little bit of backlash about the transitioning character in Love, Simon because he was too feminine. Well, you can’t tell every story. I have friends who have transitioned and become very feminine. That was that story. I’ve known people who’ve transitioned who have not been feminine or stayed exactly the same and just transitioned their body under their clothes. It doesn’t matter. It’s whatever you choose. But only one story can be told. I’m using the backlash of movies as an example of outrage addiction when I believe the people behind the camera are trying to do the right thing.”
ON HOW SHE BALANCES HER PERSONAL OUTRAGE
“I bitch to my husband at night—he bitches to me, and we keep each other in check. Like, if he starts complaining about something, I will call him on it and vice versa. We have a very healthy center of debate at our kitchen table. It involves a lot of friends, too. They call us on everything. We have a very open dialogue about a lot of things. A lot of vulnerable topics. And we call each other on it because I don’t think many other types of communication are that healthy when they’re strictly abiding by these taboo rules. … Wow, guys, I’m going so deep with you today. I’m glad I had caffeine.”
AND FOR SOMETHING A LITTLE LIGHTER: WHAT'S ON HER CURRENT BEAUTY PLAYLIST
“I have really sensitive skin. Harsher things like peels or even at-home exfoliators don’t really work for me. But if I use that tiny bit of exfoliation every night, that Clarisonic, no matter what I use it with…I’ve flown to New York and forgotten it and been like, before a press tour, ‘I literally cannot do hair and makeup before I have that Clarisonic.’ I’m such a devotee. [Also], coconut oil. I sometimes take my makeup off with it, my eye makeup mostly. But I use it as an all-over body moisturizer. Just like food grade coconut oil. I love it.
“I also really, really like the Hydro Boost ($15) that Neutrogena has. It’s the one in the blue container and it’s got lactic acid in it and hyaluronic acid, which are the ones that plump you. Hyaluronic acid is apparently what actually plumps your skin from the inside out. I have moisture issues. I’ve always used cold creams because I can’t use any 20-something products. It doesn’t work. I really like the Hydro Boost. The extra dry. Coconut oil. My routine is pretty minimal.”
If you still can't get enough of Kristen Bell, we understand. In that case, get another small dose of her in this story about 10 things women with perfect skin always do.