Q&A With Maria Bello

The actress talks about social justice, health, and women's rights.

Medically Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD on June 01, 2013

Born in Norristown, Pa., Maria Bello planned on becoming a lawyer -- until she took an acting class during college and fell in love with the craft. After appearing in several off-Broadway plays, she played guest roles on several TV series (including The Commish, Nowhere Man, and Misery Loves Company), and regular roles on ER and Prime Suspect. She has also starred in The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, The Jane Austen Book Club, Coyote Ugly, A History of Violence, Beautiful Boy, Abduction,Grown Ups, and Grown Ups 2. She sat down with WebMD Magazine to talk about her acting career, her work on social justice and women's rights issues, her life as a mom, and what she thinks is the best part of her life (her answer may surprise you!).

1. Are you satisfied with your career now?

I'm so lucky because my career has been such an adventure -- Third Person was filmed in Rome. I find joy in art, acting and writing, telling stories, and especially in working with women, which I've done since I was 18. I've been so fortunate to marry all those things, plus I'm busy carpooling my 12-year-old son, Jackson Blue McDermott.

2. After Haiti's 2010 earthquake, you co-founded We Advance, a community-based empowerment movement dedicated to advancing women's health, safety, and well-being. What was your motivation?

I've always championed social justice and women's rights, and in Haiti and elsewhere, I believe women should have full political, economic, and social participation. Now I'm constantly working on new projects, raising money, and speaking about international women's issues.

3. What health messages do you share with Haitian women?

It's all about education, education, education. So we also started We Advance University, an online educational web site with short videos and networking opportunities so women can access resources and services from local organizations.

4. Before the acting bug bit you and you planned to be a lawyer, you majored in peace and justice education at Villanova University. How have those courses helped your career and your causes?

Politics and diplomacy are not in my repertoire. Still, my education has served me well, especially in international women's rights as I meet remarkable women from so many places who share their hopes, lives, and dreams with me.

5. What is your best health habit? Your worst?

My best is that I see a nutritionist and I've used a line of vitamins and supplements for 14 years now -- every single day. If I miss, I can feel a difference. My worst habit is smoking -- I do think about quitting, maybe one day.

6. Has a health condition ever altered your daily living?

Three years ago on New Year's Day, I broke my coccyx -- my tailbone -- snowboarding in Sun Valley. I was towed down the mountain on a little sled. For 6 weeks, it was hard to sit or stand up without hurting.

7. In your late 40s now, how has your personal health philosophy evolved?

I really believe mental and emotional health dictate physical health. Some of the sickest people may get better because of a positive attitude; they live in joy and gratitude.

8. Do you ever recommend a healthy personal practice to your friends?

I have a green juice most mornings. It's a jolt of energy that's better than caffeine. I mix kale, cucumber, celery, apple, and jalapeno pepper for a sweet and savory flavor.

9. What could you have done better health-wise growing up?

Taken better care of my teeth -- I have so many fake teeth. We didn't know how important flossing was.

10. What disease or condition would you most like to see wiped out in your lifetime?

My mom is a cancer survivor of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, and I care deeply about that. But from working in developing countries, I want to eliminate diarrhea and the common cold -- "simpler” illnesses that cause big problems.

11. What do you do to relax?

Real relaxation is very rare, but about twice a week in my beautiful new Santa Monica home I host dinner parties for international people who share fascinating stories around the table, like a salon. Love is in the food.

12. How has being a parent changed you?

I'm a lioness who worried that I'd never be able to protect my son from all the lessons he needs to learn in this life. He always comes first, and he takes me to a place of deep love that changed my acting -- I've gained more depth. 

13. What's your favorite part of your body?

My heart! I don't think about physical body, but I'm very grateful for my face. It's been a big benefit and I don't criticize myself, like "My nose is too big, or my lips are too small." I'm liking my face more as I get older, even with its lines. They're really interesting.

14. How do you feel about aging?

For 20 years I've collected black and white photos of extraordinary women and role models, like artist Georgia O'Keeffe, feminist Gloria Steinem, and more. These women were in possession of themselves in a way that only comes with age. They weren't defined by anyone else and they never stopped creating.

15. What physical task do you want to tackle?

I want to find time to learn the Argentine tango. I love partner dancing.

17. Is the best part of your life in front of you or behind you?

It's right now!

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