The window into Eva Mendes' world closed just a bit tighter over the past few years.
The reliably private actress, designer and mother of two was already not one to post hardly anything about her longtime partner, Ryan Gosling, or their two daughters, Esmerelda, 8, and Amada, 7. But after a stretch that was rough for almost everyone, and which at times saw the troll crowd out in full force, she pared back considerably on the Instagram content.
Not usually one to wade into the fray, in early 2021 Mendes clapped back at a commenter who had speculated that she wasn't posting much because she'd had "work done" and was unhappy with the results.
"I'm posting less because I really want to be present for my family," the actress and designer chimed in. "My little ones need me and posting takes up too much time. As far as getting work done, I'll do that whenever I please. But no, that's not the reason. The reason is I personally cannot juggle family and social media."
As her daughters got a bit older, Mendes—who welcomed both children without any follow-my-journey fanfare whatsoever—had seemed increasingly comfortable sharing at least a few details about her private world, such as when she divulged on The Kelly Clarkson Show in October 2019 that Gosling knew his way around the kitchen.
Looking at a photo of the two of them from the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival, where they were promoting the movie that brought them together, Mendes amusingly recalled, "That's literally me going, like, 'I'm not in love with him! I'm not in love with him! What? I'm not in love.'"
And when Kelly Clarkson fawned over how great Mendes looked in the shot, Mendes leaned over the couch, rested her chin in her hand, and sighed, "Look at him, though."
Not that it was news that Mendes was sprung on the Oscar-nominated actor, but the first rule of their relationship for years was that they didn't talk about their relationship.
They did go out—to parties and restaurants, of course, and it's practically mandatory in Los Angeles that actors hike—but the couple's visible public life since they met on the set of The Place Beyond the Pines in 2011 takes up a very tiny portion of the Cloud.
Though they mixed business with pleasure early on, once they had moved beyond the Pines, Mendes and Gosling quickly reverted to being one of the most elusive pairs in Hollywood, giving up nothing about their romance.
Knowing the cat would be out of the bag the second she stepped outside, Mendes steered clear of cameras for months leading up to the births of Esmeralda in 2014 and Amada in 2016, meaning no one outside the family's inner circle even knew that she was pregnant until about seven months along, both times.
Throughout, while he was as affable and meme-able as always, and sweetly acknowledged his children's arrivals, Gosling was reluctant to go into detail about Mendes.
"I know that I'm with the person I'm supposed to be with," he tersely told ET Canada in 2015. Asked what it was that drew him to her, he replied, "That she's Eva Mendes. There's nothing else I'm looking for."
They were on the same page about what they were looking for in an S.O., meanwhile, because Mendes told Women's Health in April 2019 that having kids was "the furthest thing from my mind," until she met the one person who fit the bill. "Ryan Gosling happened," she explained. "I mean, falling in love with him. Then it made sense for me to have...not kids, but his kids. It was very specific to him."
Then, of course, she was happily all in.
Ironically, in 2011, Gosling told The Times in London that he'd actually like to be making babies, but wasn't, so he'd just keep doing movies for the time being. He had Crazy, Stupid, Love, Drive and The Ides of March all come out that year.
"When someone comes along, I don't think I'll be able to do both and I'm fine with that," he added. "I'll make movies until I make babies."
And yet somehow, while making babies he also made The Big Short, The Nice Guys and La La Land, while Mendes hasn't been in a movie since Gosling directed her in Lost River, which they made in 2013 and was released in 2015.
Make no mistake, though, that's what Mendes wanted, and she has relished being a mom first and foremost.
"I don't like saying 'take me away,' but essentially that's what work does," the Hitch star told Latina in the summer of 2016. "I think it can be very, very healthy if it's something that feels worthwhile."
But "right now I feel very fortunate to be home with my kids. I feel so lucky, and I'm just taking advantage of that."
Still, Gosling, close to the vest as he may play it, astutely thought to give credit where it was due in a very public setting.
"I would like to try and thank one person properly and say that while I was singing and dancing and playing piano, and having one of the best experiences I ever had on a film," Gosling said in January 2017 while accepting his Golden Globe for lead actor in a musical or comedy for La La Land, "my lady was raising our daughter, pregnant with our second and trying to help her brother fight his battle with cancer.
"If she hadn't taken all that on so that I could have this experience, it would surely be someone else up here other than me today—so," he looked intently into the camera, "sweetheart, thank you. To my daughters, Amada and Esmeralda, I love you." (And then he dedicated his award to the memory of Eva's brother, Juan Carlos Méndez Jr., who died in April 2016, 12 days before Amada was born.)
In the moment, that was an unprecedented glimpse behind closed doors from Gosling, who since he got together with Mendes has usually preferred to talk about literally anything other than his private life in interviews. Asked about Christmas presents for Mendes and the kids in 2016 on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Gosling charmingly pivoted to saying he wanted to get a new Roomba to help out his existing Roomba, because he felt so bad that the first one was always tirelessly cleaning.
So for the most part, they can rest assured that their love story remains all their own.
Mendes has seemingly been inclined to talk about family life a little more than she did when she was a brand-new mom.
In 2020, she took to Instagram to share a candid selfie of what "full on mom mode" really looked like mid-COVID-19 pandemic. "I've graduated from my man's sweats to a robe. All day. File under: stopped caring for now," she captioned the shot. "These days my kids are getting my full on attention. It's challenging for sure but they need me now more than ever."
That was still the case in 2023 when Mendes joked she'd become "a chauffeur, a water girl" and "a wiper-downer" when her two girls become "sweaty all over each other." Initially, she confided on a July 5 Instagram Story, "this summer was supposed to be easy. I was like, 'Bring boredom back.'"
The urge to connect with other moms is the real deal.
Though Mendes' Instagram has largely remained a Gosling-and-kids-free zone, she was inspired to crack the window into her home life open—because what mom can keep from sharing anecdotes about the gamut of child-raising experiences, from spit-ups and sleep schedules to Halloween and birthday parties, for long?
Clarkson asked Mendes when she realized, since pressing pause on acting, that she had picked "the way harder job?"
"Every day," Mendes replied. "And people are so sweet, they really try to, like warn you, prep you when you're pregnant—but nobody can prep you. Nobody. And nobody told me it was really going to be a job. And a job that I needed an incredible amount of skills for—like in different areas! A chauffeur, a cook, a personal assistant to an abusive boss," she deadpanned. "And they're not grateful! Oh my god," she turned to the audience, "do they get grateful? Does it happen at some point?"
And so Mendes and Clarkson, also a mother of two, had a good laugh about the joys and bittersweet hilarity of parenting. "And any other profession you would need to take a test, or pass tests," Mendes added. "The only test I had to pass was a pregnancy test."
Asked what was the most difficult part of it all, she said with a smile, "The amount of snacks I have to carry with me all day long...I even need to take food in the car to go to the market!"
Clarkson was feeling all of this. "We are going to get along so well on this playdate," she marveled.
But, as the ladies apologized to each other profusely for the reason why they had yet to have that playdate, they're both super busy.
In November 2019, Mendes celebrated the launch of her New York & Company Holiday Collection, the latest offering from her signature line, which she is also the face of—and E! News wanted to know if her daughters have inherited their mom's interest in fashion yet.
Clothing-wise, "I kind of let them do anything," Mendes told E! News during a sneak peek at her collection held at La Descarga, a Cuban-themed nightspot in Los Angeles.
"If they want to wear jammies to dinner, I let them do that," she shared, "as long as its appropriate to the weather outside. I kind of let them do whatever they want when it comes to how they're dressed. I never force them into a dress, I never do that. I just don't."
"Because," Mendes continued, "I remember that feeling and I didn't like it! And my mother forced me into dresses all the time—I mean, not physically forced." She laughed. "But she'd always be like, 'you have to wear a dress for this!' And I was like, 'I don't want to wear a dress for that!' So I don't push the dress, I just kind of go, 'What do you guys want to wear? Great.' Or, 'no it's too cold you can't wear that.' That's where I get strict."
Mendes' mom (who is also Eva) remains one of her closest confidantes, meanwhile, and in hindsight the designer appreciates the style aesthetic that Eva Pérez Suárez was trying to pass on to her as a child. (Though she openly wished the elder Eva had saved more of her on-point pieces from back in the day.)
"We didn't have any money, so she was very limited," Mendes recalled. "But she never left the house without her hair set, lipstick—old school, you know? Always looked put together but really it was a hand-me-down or something she had for 20 years already, so she'd make it work by accessorizing it."
And now Mendes' business is helping women look—and, perhaps even more importantly, feel—put together.
She said that she and her mom were teaching her girls Spanish, and since her dad, Juan Carlos Méndez, "still doesn't even speak English," Esmeralda and Amada would also practice their español with their abuelo.
"He's been here for so long!" Mendes, whose parents emigrated from Cuba to Miami, where she was born, told E! News. "I remember thinking it was uncool when I was in high school and now I've totally crossed over and I'm like, 'Dad, this is so cool. This is pretty badass!'"
They usually celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas locally, and the Gosling family visits from Canada.
"And it's just a big fun party," Mendes described a typical Gosling-Mendes holiday extravaganza. "It kind of always feels like a holiday because we get together so often...but the traditions are pretty basic. It's just a lot of food, maybe someone gets mad at someone else, maybe someone ends up crying—and definitely ends up making up—and then we're celebrating."
She laughed at the thought. "That's pretty much it. And usually it's me and my sisters that fall into that category. Or me and my mom—I'll tell my mom she can't have a second serving and then she'll get mad at me...She can't have certain things for health reasons so I'll let her have a little bit and then that'll start something. But it's fun, it's what I call 'fun fighting.'"
It's more "like bickering," Mendes added. "There's always some kind of that, or someone shows up super late and someone gets mad at them because they missed the first portion of dinner, but it's so fun. It's just part of the holiday drama."
So that was the sort of stuff going on behind closed doors. But there's no need to hold your breath for a glowing Father's Day tribute to Gosling or the whole family wearing matching pajamas next to the Christmas tree. (Besides, Mendes told E! that, while matching for the holidays was adorable, she hadn't yet tried it at home.)
"I have always had a clear boundary when it comes to my man and my kids," Mendes explained to an Instagram commenter in April 2020 when asked, if she was so uncertain of what to post with the world gone haywire, why not just share some family photos? "I'll talk about them of course, with limits, but I won't post pictures of our daily life. And since my children are still so little and don't understand what posting their image really means, I don't have their consent. And I won't post their image until they're old enough to give me consent. As far as Ryan and I, it just works for us this way, to stay private."
Mendes and Gosling can't help that they simply like being at home with each other and their children.
"My kids are growing up so fast I need to keep an eye on the clock in a way I never used to," Gosling told British GQ in late 2021, time on his mind at a Tag Heuer event. (Fitting that Mendes gave him a watch for his first Father's Day.)
Mendes has talked about how agonizing it could be just leaving for work for the day because, as much as she enjoys producing her clothing line, those are hours spent away from the kids. "Oh my God, nobody warns you about the guilt that you feel when you do work!" she told E! News back in 2017. "I'm all for, obviously, taking care of myself—that's how I can take care of them, of course—but that guilt that's just kind of always there..." She sighed. "It's like, 'Ugh, this is going to be there forever now.'"
At least she and Gosling feel less as if they're just frantically trying to keep two humans clean and fed, rinse, repeat—but it's a process.
"We're just starting to get out of survival mode," Mendes told Women's Health in 2019.
In 2021, Gosling admitted to GQ that the girls' formative ages made it a "tough time" for them to be away from other kids and most family members during quarantine. "So, we did our best to entertain them. I think Eva and I did more acting in quarantine than we have in our whole careers."
Well, Mendes had told E! News pre-pandemic that she was open to getting back into the game, if she found the right project.
"I just think now that I'm older and that I'm a mother, I would obviously choose my roles differently," she said. "I'm just a walking example for these girls and I take that very seriously, so it would have to be something that feels appropriate and that would still be fun for me. It's a lot of parameters, you know? But yes, I would be very excited."
And though she couldn't predict that she'd one day be co-starring with her in-house leading man in a 24/7 production of "The Pandemic Chronicles," at the time Mendes was 100-percent down to work with Gosling again.
"My most fun experience was being on set with him when he was directing," she said. "It was really so creatively satisfying being in it together, and he's such an amazing director. I would love that experience again, for sure."
Still wants to be around him all the time after a decade...
(Originally published Nov. 9, 2019, at 4 a.m. PT)