Reese Witherspoon is enjoying the fruits of her labor.
The Hollywood superstar and business woman sat down with Gayle King for a candid interview with InStyle, discussing the lessons she’s learned from her 30 years in the business, the power of asking for what she wants and how she’s helping her doppelgänger daughter, Ava Phillippe, forge her own path.
“My first, most important priority is my kids,” Witherspoon said. “If I told you how much space in my brain they take up every day — do you even think they know, Gayle? I don’t even think they know.”
Ava, 22, has gotten a lot of social media reactions in recent years due to the resemblance to her mom, which Witherspoon herself can’t help but enjoy.
“I love being mistaken for her because it makes me feel so young. I’m so proud of her,” said Witherspoon, who shares Ava and son Deacon, 18, with ex Ryan Phillippe. Her youngest, 9-year-old Tennessee, she shares with her husband, talent agent Jim Toth.
“She really rolls with it. I’m sure it’s not easy looking exactly like your mother,” she said of Ava, explaining that sometimes she recruits the help of another famous mother-daughter team. “We talk to Zoë Kravitz a lot. Because she and her mother [Lisa Bonet] look exactly alike, so whenever Ava is frustrated, I go, ‘Call Zoë, text Zoë, she knows what to talk about.’ I mean, that’s another mother-daughter combo that’s like identical twins.”
Though Witherspoon admits Ava is “living an experience” she didn’t have as a child, she continues to help Ava through figuring out the ups and downs of life.
“We are lucky enough to have friends who grew up in Hollywood and can help give them advice on how to navigate,” she said of her children, who have prospects of entering show business in their own ways. “Ava is so down-to-earth. She wants to do great things in the world. She’s studying and learning and trying to find herself. It’s a big thing in life to try different things and figure out what is really your path.”
Finding her own path was something she learned through immense trial and error, explained Witherspoon, who recently sold her production company, Hello Sunshine, for just shy of a billion dollars.
“Women have humility,” she said when explaining the difference between men and women business leaders. “I have no problem saying to people, ‘I don’t understand what you’re saying, can you please explain it to me?’ Self-doubt is a good tool. You shouldn’t know everything. Turn to somebody, but advocate to learn more and do better.”
“I’ve dealt with those types of biases for a long time in our business,” she continued. “Actresses, they’re infantilized. People don’t talk to them about money or deals; they say, ‘Oh, don’t worry about that, we have that.’ Not empowering someone with information is a form of control. So at a certain point in my career, I kind of took back the reins. I finally picked up the phone and said, ‘I’m not excited about this one part of my deal,’ and my agent was like, ‘Well, let’s change it.’ Sometimes you have to pick up the phone. Don’t assume. You don’t know the answers.”
That kind of mindset is beautifully woven in her character, Bradley Jackson, on Apple TV’s The Morning Show, who in the second season rakes enough courage to tell her boss what’s what when she realizes she isn’t being treated fairly.
“I think there’s people who have understood that they should not be treated poorly and have decided not to go to work because they didn’t want to be treated poorly,” she explained, later adding that with age, comes a greater understanding of the things she will and will not accept.
“Until fairly recently, no one was listening to anything a woman said, and then with the emergence of social media, women have a voice that is undeniable,” she said. “Women are also hyperaware that they are the buying majority. They hold the purse strings. They also consume much more media than men. When you’re talking in terms of my business, it only makes sense to cater to an audience that consumes more than anyone, right? The economics are just so empirical that you can’t not listen to women anymore. Enough is enough.”
“I’m 45,” she continued. “I know who I want to spend time with and who I don’t. And that is one of the great things about getting older — it just clears out so much space. I want to be with my mom, my kids, and the people who fill my tank. And everybody else, I wish them well.”