Jenna Dewan Tatum has a life that is seriously enviable. Think about it: The 37-year-old has an impressive career as a dancer, actress, and host. Then there’s her adorable family, made up of sexy husband Channing Tatum and 4-year-old daughter Everly. On top of all that, Jenna is committed to staying healthy and fit. So, how the heck did she score it all? Simply put, she has worked her ass off for it.
Jenna’s hustle started at an early age. She moved around a lot as a little girl, but one constant was dance. No matter where her family landed, she would throw herself into her art and spend hours perfecting her technique—which paid off in a big way. While attending the University of Southern California, she got a job as a backup dancer for Janet Jackson. Gigs with *NSYNC and Sean Combs followed. But in 2006 her life really changed. That’s when she starred in Step Up. Not only did the movie become a hit that propelled her into stardom, it’s where she met and fell in love with Channing. The two got married in 2009 and welcomed Everly (or “Evie” as Jenna calls her) in 2013. Jenna’s family isn’t the only thing that’s grown in the years since her breakout role. She’s appeared in tons of movies and TV shows, including American Horror Story and Supergirl. And, most recently, she’s been hosting the Jennifer Lopez–backed dance competition show, World of Dance (season two is slated to premiere this summer). While managing her busy career and family, Jenna finds time to squeeze in workouts and meditation. “When I don’t take time for myself, I feel scattered,” she explains. “I don’t feel strong or centered.”
Jenna’s wearing: American Apparel Unisex Baseball T-Shirt ($28; americanapparel.com); American Apparel Interlock Running Short ($26; americanapparel.com); Moxi Roller Skates ($149; amazon.com) for similar.
Sounds like a perfect life, right? Just don’t say that to Jenna. “I despise the word ‘perfect,’” she says firmly. While she seems to have everything on lock, it doesn’t mean everything is flawless. Case in point: In the middle of telling a story about her sex life (more on that later), Jenna accidentally drags her sleeve through a bowl of guacamole. She says, “People always ask, ‘What would we be surprised to know about you?’ I’m not just messy, I’m messy. I actually can’t even have people ride in my car right now, it’s so bad.”
More than her amazing life, it’s this down-to-earth side that makes Jenna so endearing. Over healthy snacks, including cauliflower and shishito peppers—and guacamole!—at a West Hollywood restaurant, Jenna gets even more real about past insecurities, her fitness regime, and her passionate relationship.
How has being a dancer influenced the person you are today?
There’s a certain confidence that comes when you are performing on stage for an audience. I’m very comfortable with little clothing on because of this. My mom would always make me feel amazing about my body. She was very grounded, which translated into confidence in myself.
Hollywood can be a tough place to feel good about yourself. How do you combat the negative voice we all have inside of us?
I think that comes with maturity and age. When you’re younger there are definitely moments when you go through that comparing cycle. But you realize how miserable that makes you feel and that it’s easier to appreciate someone and be inspired, rather than be jealous or insecure.
You’ve praised your mom, Nancy, for teaching you a lot. What did you learn from her?
My mom was dealt some tough cards in life. My father left when I was one. It was shocking and unplanned. But she was like, ‘Okay, we’re going to move. I’m going to get a job.’ So my mom went from not working to having to work in a very short period of time in order to survive and raise me. We had to let go of our dog and move houses—we did that a couple times. Through it all, she made sure I was her first priority. She had a real sense of survival, and she passed that down to me. No matter what is thrown at me in life, I know I can handle it, and that’s because of her.
What makes you feel strongest?
Any time I get to use my body—whether it’s a role that requires stunts or something that allows me to dance. I also feel strong when I’m able to be my free, goofy self. I feel the least strong when I’m trying to fit into a mold or a role that isn’t authentic.
What’s your go-to workout?
I do dance-based workouts with Jennifer Johnson [in Los Angeles]. She’s a trainer who is also a dancer and she makes it fun for me. If it’s not fun, I won’t go. We dance, we do routines for 45 minutes to an hour, whatever time we have. It depends on the week, but if I get one or two workouts in, I’m happy.
Are there muscles or parts of your body you have to work really hard for?
I work my literal ass off for my ass! That’s the way it is. When you dance all the time, you’re constantly using that muscle. When you stop dancing that much, that’s the first thing that goes. So, we focus a lot on that because everyone likes a perky butt. Also, my stomach after baby is something I have to put a lot of extra effort into. So, for abs, Jennifer does these exercises where you’re in a plank and you move your legs all different ways and it engages you.
Jenna’s wearing: Urban Outfitters Out From Under Top (urbanoutfitters.com for similar).
Are you still a vegan-leaning vegetarian?
I eat mostly vegan, but I’m very accommodating, maybe because I’ve lived with a man for 11 years who’s not vegetarian. Evie is a vegetarian, mostly because I cook for her and it’s what I feel to be healthy for her and easiest. She loves it and wears it like a badge. She will tell everyone, ‘I’m a vegetarian. I don’t eat meat,’ and I tell her, ‘Ev, you can try anything you want,’ but she’s like, ‘Ugh’—very much a chip off the old block in that way. Chan will do meatless, and most of the time it’s what I’m cooking. He’ll do pasta, risottos, things that have a carb element.
Switching gears, how do you keep your marriage solid?
When people say you guys have such a perfect life, I want to scream and tell them no one’s perfect. I think there are such things as great fits. It is a great fit as long as you are growing together, and I think up until this point we’ve really grown together. Even if one starts to grow, the other catches up and vice versa. But I think a couple needs to be conscious and to want to do the work and be willing to look at the parts of you that need work. Both of us have been pretty aware and willing to do that. We’ve always had the same values. But we’re not perfect! Are you kidding? We fight like other couples, we disagree about things, we have days where we don’t really like each other.
On top of you both having successful careers, you are busy raising a daughter. How do you carve out time to be intimate?
A lot of people ask me that. We have not yet scheduled sex, but we do schedule time together, so maybe that is sort of scheduling sex. We will go away for a weekend to get time, but we have no real regimented schedule. I have friends who do this [schedule sex]; it’s on the calendar. We’ve never done that—it might actually be a good idea.
How does being so in-tune with yourself and your body play into your relationship?
I’m a very sensual person, same with Chan. It is just how we’re made up, and it’s a big part of how we connect. There’s a real tangible physical connection. You know when Oprah asks, ‘What do you know for sure?’ The body does not lie. You can convince your mind of things, think you’re in love, but your body doesn’t lie. If your stomach is clenching or you feel attracted, that’s all for a reason. You can’t convince your body to feel something it doesn’t.
Okay, last question. Any plans to expand your family?
I haven’t yet made my decision, and I’m leaving it to the universe to show me the way. I love the idea of another child, and it might be in the cards, but I’ll know when I know. A lot of women I know plan it, and that’s their decision, they want it within three years, but that was not a possibility for us. It felt too overwhelming. I’m so thrilled with one child. If the desire [for another child] comes around, it will happen, that’s the way I look at it.
Photography by Jeff Lipsky. Hairstyling by Kristin Ess using Kristin Ess Haircare. Makeup by Allan Avendano for Starworks Group. Manicure by Christina Aviles using Dermelect for Opus Beauty. Styling by Karen Shapiro.