When Elizabeth Chambers arrived to her sit-down with E! News, she had a little something extra tucked inside her intentionally white top.
"I totally have a blue crystal in my bra right now," she confessed to Francesca Amiker about the healing stone—meant to enhance clarity—as they met up in the middle of a brutal Los Angeles heat wave. "I want to call in all the goods! Bring me all the good vibes, all the good energy and all the love."
Who could blame her? After the end of her 10-year marriage to Armie Hammer, she preferred to keep everything to herself, safely ensconced with daughter Harper, 7, and son, Ford, 5, in the Cayman Islands, an idyllic bubble where paparazzi aren't an issue and her local grocery store doesn't even carry tabloids.
But what she called her necessary "incubation period" is now drawing to a close, with the BIRD Bakery founder emerging healed, hopeful and ready to talk.
"For a very long time we've said, 'No comment, no comment, no comment,'" she noted. "Part of me felt like it was taking the high road and part of me was like, just let us process."
And yet another part of her thought, "It's none of your business."
That certainly didn't stop people's avid curiosity about her and Hammer's breakup, which they announced in July 2020. Chambers initiated the split, but, as she told E!, "A divorce is a death...It was the last thing I ever wanted."
Multiple women later came forward with allegations of emotional abuse, manipulation, and sexual violence against Hammer. (Calling the descriptions of his alleged behavior "vicious and spurious," he denied engaging in any nonconsensual activity. In 2021, his attorney also denied an "outrageous" rape accusation on his behalf. Authorities confirmed Sept. 1 that the investigation is ongoing, but Hammer has not been charged.)
House of Hammer, a docuseries delving into the actor's alleged behavior—and the history of his scandal-plagued family—premiered earlier this month.
"I consider myself a feminist and stand in solidarity with anyone who has been a victim of any sort and hope they find healing," Chambers said. "I'm not being here, like, 'My life is amazing,' because it's been hell for a long time."
Nowadays the 40-year-old finds strength in staying in the moment, a decided change from when she was "trying to do everything, trying to be everywhere," which included weekly flights to New York for work, only to go right back to L.A. to put the kids to bed. Life slowing down during the pandemic helped her realize she was "spread very thinly," Chambers noted, and reprioritizing was in order even before she found her world imploding.
"They say, 'When you're going through hell, keep on going,'" she reflected. "It's so cliché, but you have to work through it. You can't numb it and you can't pretend it doesn't exist. Call in every resource, ask for help, tell people what you need. And if they're not going to be there for you, then they're not your people."
In her first interview in more than two years, the culinary entrepreneur and TV host opened up exclusively to E! News about processing pain, where she stands with her ex, finding love again and so much more.
E! News: How would you define this new chapter in your life?
Elizabeth Chambers: Big life changes really force you to shift. And to me, nothing would be more boring if you know exactly where you're going to be in five years or 10 years. I truly believe that everything happens for a reason. You can't just say that when things are good, you have to believe that when things are challenging. My faith has completely gotten me through everything in my life, but it does feel like a new chapter. A dear friend told me recently that this is my renaissance—and I love a renaissance!
E!: Describe the woman you are today compared to before.
EC: I describe myself as very focused and very clear—and healed, honestly. I feel like I'm in a really good space and the best mom I could be. The best I could be in work, the best leader I can be. That hasn't always been the case over the last year. It's a good moment.
E!: How are your divorce proceedings going?
EC: Our divorce is not finalized. But we are in a really great place. We talk all the time. We're committed fully and wholly to our children, and to being together as much as possible in a non-romantic way for our kids. Kids need their mom; kids need their dad. So there's nothing we won't do.
E!: Have there been any co-parenting challenges along the way?
EC: Definitely. Armie has been focused on his healing. There's the oxygen mask theory: You can't really take care of someone until you are taken care of. There's a reason on the plane they say, "Secure your own mask before helping others." He has been very busy securing his own mask. My mask has been secured, [the kids'] masks are on, so right now it's really been a lot about focusing on them, protecting them.
E!: How are you helping him put that mask on?
EC: I'm here to support that process. It's going to make him the best father, the best person he can be. At the end of the day, that's the goal. We're in constant communication and all that matters is that he is the best dad for our children. Obviously he processes everything else that he's dealing with personally—and that's his own journey now.
E!: Did you ever think this would be his journey?
EC: No, but I don't think any of us actually ever know. I go back to childhood and why it's so important to be a good parent, because you don't want things coming up later that affected a human when they were little and they didn't know how to process it. So, all we can do is look forward and protect the future.
E!: In the past two years, do you feel like you have sat down and processed everything that has occurred?
EC: Definitely. I don't think it was as clearly defined as sitting down. It was sound healing. A breakthrough with writing intentions. Burning things, putting them in the ocean, having prayer by myself, having beach walks with my kids, having too much wine with my friends—all of that. It's whatever you need at that time and realizing you're going to honor that. And it was setting boundaries with people who I thought I could trust. It's not always pretty and it's not always peaceful, and it takes on many forms.
E!: How does it feel to be on the other side of that processing?
EC: I'll be working at the bakery and a customer is like, "How are you, really?" And I'm like, "I'm really well right now, thank you." If you asked me that a year and a half ago, you would have a different answer—or I'd be lying to you. [Laughs]
Time does heal, but time alone doesn't heal. You need to work through it. People are flawed. People make horrible mistakes. People change, by the way. For me the whole time it has been about, "These are my boundaries. If you can meet them, then we can take the next step." That's with everyone in my life, but also with myself.
E!: Looking back, how do you view the 10 years you spent married?
EC: Again, if you'd asked me this a year and a half ago, it would be different. I look back and truly I have the most beautiful, wonderful children in the world. I love my jobs, I love my restaurants, I love my work in television—at the end of the day I love my life. It hasn't been perfect. I think there was a time when I was so focused on the perfect Christmas card—and, honestly, perfect is so overrated. It's not interesting and I think it has taken my processing period to let go.
E!: Do you identify with the phrase "starting over"?
EC: I think starting over is a fair thing to say if you've had a drastic life change. I think sometimes people get married and it's not really serious for them, but, in my particular situation, we were together since we were 19. We grew up together and we have so many memories. We traveled the world and that is so beautiful. I do feel like I look back at it as a different phase in my life, but I don't necessarily think we're starting over. I think we're just continuing on our path, with a shifted perspective.
E!: What are you teaching your daughter about what it means to be a strong woman?
EC: That is at the core of every decision I make. That's the core of staying in a situation or relationship that you wouldn't let your daughter stay in. So, for me, it's being truthful to an extent that's appropriate for her age. Our parents and our grandparents, if something was happening in our family, it was brushed under the rug. But sunshine is the best disinfectant. It's about acknowledging things, owning things. I'm processing in a different way, but setting her and my son up in a way that...they're going to be empowered. They're going to know feelings are good. And accountability is huge in our family.
E!: Did you watch the docuseries House of Hammer?
EC: I did not plan on seeing it, but I did drop the kids off at school one day and came home and watched it with my support system around me. It was obviously heartbreaking on so many levels and very painful. But at the same time, it exists. The past is the past and all we can do is take this as a moment to learn and listen, and hopefully process and heal in every capacity.
E!: Were you surprised by anything you saw?
EC: I definitely was surprised, but I think that's to be expected.
E!: And in the past couple of years, were you surprised by anything you heard?
EC: There were definitely some surprises, and it didn't feel great, especially when you feel like you have done that work, but the moral of the story is that work is never done.
E!: Do you think you'll let Ford and Harper watch the docuseries?
EC: It's not appropriate for them at this time.
E!: Were you asked to participate in the docuseries?
EC: They reached out, but, in this process, all that's mattered and does matter is the kids and our family, and that was not something that was going to be in line with my goals for them.
E!: What would be your advice to women who are going through a low point in their lives?
EC: I would love to have a dating advice column. So many women have reached out to me who had the death of 9 million expectations, asking me how to handle it. They thought they knew somebody or they thought that they had their life figured out, only to find that it was very different.
For me, the answer to that is you. I am so grateful that I started my company and I don't need anyone. You cannot let someone else's choices affect you in terms of your self-worth. And we have one chance to do this right with our kids. We may be experiencing trauma, but that is not a reason for your children to experience trauma. Process what you have to, cry in the shower, but you cannot drag that heartache, that pain and put it on kids.
E!: Could you see yourself falling in love again?
EC: You go from feeling your heart is shattered in 9 million pieces, and it's wrapped in every kind of cast and gauze, and nothing can touch it, to being like, "OK, I think I can love and be loved again." So [laughs], I am very happy.
E!: Now that you're dating again, would you call it casual or serious?
EC: I feel like casual dating is a very important process to that journey. I am in a committed relationship now.
E!: Would you be open to getting married again? Do you see yourself having more children?
EC: I think if there is one thing the last few years has taught us, it's that you have be open to everything. I am such a traditional person. I love family. I would have seven babies if I could. But I'm just living in the moment and happy. My friends and I always joke, "The juicy-juicy is the best." I'm not in any rush to get through the juicy-juicy. We don't need to overthink anything. Whatever happens is beautiful.
E!: How has living in the Cayman Islands benefited your family?
EC: It has been heaven. I love L.A., it will always be my home—but I think for the last few years, the Caymans has been so healing.
Katie Couric and my mom, both women I admire, always say you're only as happy as your least happy child. And my children are happy, they're protected. It's a little bit of a beautiful, serendipitous moment in time that will probably never be the same again, so I really try to appreciate that.
E!: What's next for you?
EC: We're ready to come back to L.A. We're ready to get back to our grind—but not the hamster wheel, a more thoughtful version of whatever existed before. There are so many exciting projects coming, a couple shows that are in development. And I just love being at my restaurants—if I could clone myself and be at each location [in San Antonio, Dallas and Denver] every day, I would.
E!: How do you plan to keep moving forward?
EC: All we can do is be responsible for ourselves, and all we can do is react with compassion, with love, with understanding, with listening to everything around us and then be the best we can be.
(This interview has been edited for length and clarity.)