To say that Kristen Bell is one of the hardest-working women in Hollywood is not an exaggeration. The 42-year-old performer has been working in the film and TV industries for more than 20 years. Her TV credits include Veronica Mars and The Good Place, as well as her latest, the Netflix miniseries The Woman in the House Across the Street From the Girl in the Window. She’s starred in a number of films, including Bad Moms and Queenpins.
Since 2002, Bell has also been lending her voice to video games; both the original and the current reboot of Gossip Girl; and animated features, most memorably as Anna in Disney’s Frozen and Frozen II.
Which is why it’s so surprising — and yet utterly charming — that the überbusy actor, singer, activist, and entrepreneur chooses to do our Zoom interview while lying cozily in bed with her rescue dog, Whiskey. She is snuggling under the covers with the three-legged pooch (“our tripod,” as she affectionately calls him) and explains that “this little thing needs a lot of cuddles today,” which she happily provides during our conversation.
Bell has been giving animals much-needed love for most of her life. Born and raised in the Detroit suburb of Huntington Woods, she discovered her affinity for animals at an early age rusbank.net , became a vegetarian when she was just 11 years old, and is an advocate for animal rights, fostering, and adoption. (She also has another rescue dog, named Frank.)
When she’s not saving fur babies’ lives, she and three friends — Ravi Patel, Todd Grinnell, and fellow Veronica Mars actor Ryan Devlin — are helping human babies and children with This Saves Lives, the snack company they launched in 2013. It’s a line of nutritious snack bars, granola, and oatmeal, with an altruistic motive: to help end child hunger.
“Every time you buy a bar, This Saves Lives donates a Plumpy’Nut [a packet of peanut-based paste enriched with vitamins and minerals], which is a treatment for severe acute malnutrition for kids across the globe,” explains Bell. This Saves Lives has donated more than 30 million packets of food worldwide.
When Bell and her husband, Dax Shepard — actor and host of the Armchair Expert podcast — started their own family (they have two young daughters), they realized there was a huge need for a less expensive line of high-quality baby merchandise.
“We were buying premium products and not looking at the receipts,” she recalls. “The irony of growing up in Detroit and experiencing this as adults was not lost on us. We believe that all babies deserve the best, and all parents need access to affordable premium products. There were many great options out there that were either sustainable or inexpensive, but no one was offering both.”
Hence, their company Hello Bello was born, offering affordable, plant-based baby products, including diapers, wipes, cleansers, and personal-care items like baby powder and sunscreen.
Hello Bello has also established an online community of parents who can help each other financially. “We built something called the Diaper Registry Fund,” Bell explains. “Basically, you go to hellobello.com and you can either post a need or you can find a person in need and donate to friends and family or a random person.”
Hello Bello recently expanded its reach and created a Ukraine Relief Fund, supplying 200,000 products like diapers and other essentials to various organizations in the war-torn country.
As if she weren’t busy enough, Bell has also added “children’s-book author” to her résumé. In 2020, she and her longtime friend Benjamin Hart released The World Needs More Purple People, an instant New York Times bestseller that gives young readers a five-step road map to becoming a “purple person” — someone who sees similarities before they see differences.
“If you look at the map of the United States, it’s divided by blue and red states,” she says. “But really the whole country is those two colors combined, which makes it purple.”
They sought to encourage children to find common ground with others while accepting and celebrating their diversity and differences of opinion. This summer, Bell and Hart released a follow-up volume, The World Needs More Purple Schools, just in time for back-to-school season.
We curled up with Bell and Whiskey to talk about the book’s five simple yet profound steps to becoming a purple person and why these ideas are as useful and necessary for adults as they are for the children in our lives.
Q&A With Kristen Bell
Experience Life | What inspired you to write a children’s book?
Kristen Bell | In 2019, Ben Hart and my family were sitting around the table discussing the state of the world and, prepandemic, the only topic on the table was politics. For lack of a better description, everyone at the table was voting the same. The conversation was very much about “us” and “them,” and I don’t like how harmful these perspectives can be.
Then Ben said, “I’ve had an idea for a book called The World Needs More Purple People,” and I knew instantly what he was talking about. The book came together quickly and easily because it was a topic he and I had been thinking about in our social circle for quite some time.
EL | How did you decide what the five rules would be?
KB | We wanted verbiage to share with our kids that taught about commonalities and our collective humanity. So we created these five pillars that really no one could disagree with. I dare you to find someone who thinks working hard is bad or laughing a lot is terrible.
EL | The first step is “Ask (Really Great) Questions.” How do you encourage your daughters to be inquisitive?
KB | Asking questions has always been the smartest thing that I do. I teach my kids that by modeling that behavior.
We also talk about finding an expert. If you want to learn how to do a cartwheel, find an expert. “Which one of Mommy’s friends was a cheerleader? Oh, Monica! Let’s ask Monica how to do a cartwheel.” You find someone with more information than you, and you make that cool.
EL | One of the things we love about you and Dax is how funny you are. No shocker, then, that the second step is “Laugh (a Lot).” Why is that important?
KB | Hands down, laughter is the most fulfilling outlet for connecting with others. It signals to both parties that you see the world in the same way. It’s connective tissue between you and even a stranger. Any shared experiences bring us closer together, but laughter is one of the easiest to accomplish. Shared laughter is a great unifier.
It’s also stress-reducing, and there’s nothing bad about that! Dax and I make fun of each other all the time. But there’s a safety net and trust there. We laugh at each other constantly because we try not to take ourselves too seriously.
EL | The third rule in your book is “Use Your Voice (and Don’t Lose Your Voice).” This can be especially challenging for women. How do you encourage your daughters to speak up?
KB | Well, it’s not like pulling teeth, because they are just like their daddy — born on the debate team. How I work on that is when they make a case, like wanting to have chocolate, I encourage them to hone their argument skills, because I am open to listening to anything. If they say they should get chocolate because “I really want it,” that’s not a good argument. But if they say, “Here’s how many vegetables I ate yesterday and here’s how many I plan to eat tomorrow,” then we can talk about having a chocolate bar.
EL | We’ve already established how hard you work, so the fourth step, “Work Hard (Super-Duper Hard),” is in your wheelhouse. Do you ever say no to new projects?
KB | I say no a lot more now. In fact, when we get off this call, I may never find another project that I want to do again. Who knows? I think I’m industrious and hardworking. I want to work with people I like on something that’s stimulating, to bounce ideas off people, to work on a great final product. Being a good team player is fun to me.
But my main goal now is to help others achieve their dreams. I’ve had a lot of success in my life. Now’s the time when I start to be of service. It makes me feel so much better.
EL | The final rule, “Just Be (the Real) You,” is about being true to yourself, but it’s also about accepting other people’s authenticity and their differences. Is that something we can learn?
KB | I think so. We are prone to go toward things that are familiar or similar. Much like eating broccoli isn’t your first thought in the morning, sometimes things that are good for you aren’t your first choice. There’s a saying I like: “You’re not responsible for your first thought, but you are responsible for your second thought and first action.”
Diversity betters everyone, but you do have to fight your evolution to figure out why it’s important. Once you start to identify what authenticity means to you — your sense of self, who you are, what you value — then you have a much easier time encouraging others to do the same.
I am a people pleaser. I came out of the womb looking at the doctor asking, “Was that OK for you?” I constantly have to remind myself to be authentic, and to not get angry at myself for thinking about the other person’s perspective, because I think that’s a superpower!
But I will remind myself that my perspective matters as well, and that I can bring my most authentic self to whatever interaction I’m having.
EL | Your new book, The World Needs More Purple Schools, has just been released. Why a focus on schools?
KB | The classroom was the next logical place to share the message. School is a place for kids to explore their differences, and we hope it teaches educators that kids will do just that. We can build anything good with these five pillars: being curious, working hard, using your voice, laughing a lot, and, the ultimate one, being authentic. The best way to sum it up is, you’re the only you we’ve got.