Eva Longoria on Her Devotion to Philanthropy and the Best Use of a Famous Name

"There’s no feeling like it," she says.

This week, the Eva Longoria Foundation—actress, director, producer, and philanthropist Eva Longoria’s six-year-old organization devoted to bettering the lives of Latinas through education and entrepreneurship—will hold its star-studded annual gala in Beverly Hills. In addition to celebrating its own successes, like a recently announced partnership with Best Buy, the evening will honor Gina Rodriguez and Zoe Saldana for their dedication to humanitarian causes.

Here, Longoria discusses what inspires her philanthropic work, which has brought thousands of young women to new opportunities in education, paired them with mentors, provided their parents with methods to support them, and offered scholarships to cover higher education and the associated costs.

What was your inspiration to start your foundation?

I come from a very philanthropic family. I have a sister who has special needs, and my mom was a special-education teacher for 30 years, so we always lived with the idea of giving back because we always needed those community resources. I remember that “volunteer” was a big word in our family, and I thought it was an actual job—like, “when I grow up, I want to be a volunteer!”—and my mom taught be about that very early in life. I remember wondering, who are all of these people helping us, and they were just community philanthropic organizations. To me, it was important to continue that and give back, with or without fame.

Eva Longoria at the ELF Gala in 2017

How did your success impact what you were able to do?

When Desperate Housewives was a hit, I was able to use that platform and redirect the attention to causes that were important to me and needed the awareness. My specific foundation began when I was getting my master’s degree in Chicano studies and I did my thesis on the lack of Latinas in STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics] fields. Because of that, I used my thesis as the basis for the work of my foundation, which gets young women prepared for STEM jobs and getting them through college and into the work force. That’s how it began, but it’s constantly evolving.

How has the foundation changed since it began?

The philanthropic world is constantly evolving, and the more work we do, the more people we meet with different needs. So, finding partners like Best Buy or Target, who was our partner for a very long time, or anyone who understands corporate responsibility, has been so important for the organization. To be able to grow the programs we have thanks to these partners is awesome, and very necessary for us and for them, in order to recognize the communities who buy their products and give back to them.

You’re involved with a variety of causes. How do you decide where to focus your attention?

I get a lot of requests every week for all sorts of different things. There’s a lot out there that needs to be done, and all of it is really important and urgent. What I had to do was do something really well. I couldn’t do everything, so I had to really think about where I wanted to focus my energy. I decided that I’m a woman, so women’s issues matter to me, and I’m Latina, so Latina issues matter to me, so I married those two things to help women in the Latina community.

And even that wasn’t specific enough; there are a lot of issues for women in our community and I decided I wanted to focus on education and the common denominator of what makes people successful in school. It’s a process and you really have to cut through the noise of everyone who wants you everywhere to take the view that you’re doing something that can help one person, and then you replicate that to help two people, then four people, and you move on from there.

Mario Lopez an Eva Longoria

What’s the significance to you of a big gala celebration?

It’s our main revenue source, so that makes it really important. You can’t have the staff and programs we have without an operating budget. It’s also important for raising awareness, to have friends sharing their light on our community and making sure to honor other people—this year we’re celebrating Gina Rodriguez and Zoe Saldana—who are doing amazing things that people need to know about and amplifying what they’re doing. It’s also great to hear from the participants in our programs, like the recurring donors and the kids we’re helping. My favorite part of the whole night is hearing the stories from the kids whose lives we’re changing; those stories fill you with hope and there’s no feeling like it.

This story originally appeared on
* Minor edits have been made by the editors.

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