Sitting across from me is a much more shy and demure woman than the tough kick-ass babe that I came to know through her hit TV series, Dark Angel, which gave us a glimpse of her sultry, exotic looks and her powerful charisma. This beauty is a lot more than meets the eye – albeit in my pick for movie of the year, Sin City, our lucky eyes got to see a whole lot more.
Do any search on Google and you’ll find thousands of fansites with pics of Alba as the stripper Nancy in Frank Miller’s noir thriller. Not such a stretch for an actress with an amazing body who admittedly loves to dance – but probably a far cry from the women who, as a teen, was a devout born-again Christian.
According to an interview with GQ Magazine’s Dave Gardetta, Alba attended church three times a week as a young girl, woke each morning at 5 a.m. to pray, and abstained from all things evil, which even included watching secular television.
Nicknamed Sky Angel as a child, she was born in Pomona, California. Her father, a military pilot, moved her family to Biloxi, Mississippi when she was an infant, but she eventually moved back to California, nine years later.
She says her parents weren’t religious, just young and liberal, but at age 12, she began questioning her way in life after hooking up with some born-again Christians while taking acting lessons, where her exotic Mexican and French/Danish looks landed her an agent just nine months later.
She was very happy with the changes in her life and the security of her friends in Christ, but things began to change. She started to develop curves in all the right places, making her friends uncomfortable. She shares that her Christian friends began making her feel ashamed of her newly developing body, with her youth pastor even asking her to wrap a sweater around her derriere to “hide her sin.”
So she turned away from them. “One of the reasons why I chose not to be a devout Christian is because a lot of people gave me a lot of grief for just being a woman and made me feel ashamed for having a body because it tempted men. I didn’t understand what that meant because I was like, ‘God created this…’ That was a hard time in my life.”
So she focused on her art instead, getting a start in television, with appearances on shows like Beverly Hills 90210 and Flipper, with a film debut in the 1994 kids comedy Camp Nowhere. Originally cast in a minor role in the film, she got her first big break when the principal actress dropped out and she was asked to take over. By 1999 she shot to fame playing one of the snooty girls terrorising Drew Barrymore in the romantic comedy Never Been Kissed.
Bursting onto the Prime Time national scene in James Cameron’s made for TV action drama Dark Angel, one of the most expensive series ever aired, Alba has no trouble appreciating her body these days.
She indulged fans outside the Late Show with David Letterman studio in New York City in April, thrilling the crowd by showing off a little of the striptease tidbits she fine-tuned for Sin City by practicing in gentlemen’s clubs across America, like dancing around with a lasso.
While she thrives in the spotlight, the director of Sin City, Robert Rodriguez, says Alba has a dark side to her personality. “She’s kind of quiet and mysterious, but when she does a performance she’s great at making it accessible.”
But traditional “pole dancing” holds no appeal for Alba. “She didn’t do anything like the dancers,” Rodriguez says. “Her dancing was so much sexier – sensual and confident and not very showy.”
Alba says the stripper she plays in the movie is “a totally innocent and doe-eyed stripper who doesn’t think of what she does as a bad thing, just a way to make money. She is like an angel in a world of darkness – exactly like being in Hollywood. She is the only one who is completely forthright and noble and true and honest, and she believes in love and soul mates.”
Her latest release finds her as the Invisible Girl (a.k.a. Sue Richards) the wife of team leader Mr. Fantastic, and the wise, steady matriarch of the Fantastic Four clan. At just 23, Alba looks little like the comic book character, a blonde soccer mom, but her fetching screen presence and familiarity with comic-book-style action (she WAS Dark Angel!) should overcome any doubts.