Blake Lively has no interest in slapping her name on projects she doesn’t have a hand in creating. But the multi-hyphenate says getting the courage to make her voice heard took time.
From her breakout role as Serena van der Woodsen on Gossip Girl to founding non-alcoholic mixer line Betty Buzz, Hollywood has watched Lively add new titles to her portfolio since her first big acting gig in The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants in 2005. Her latest role? Mom-of-four: Lively took to Forbes’ red carpet in New York on Thursday to show off her baby bump, revealing for the first time that she is expecting her fourth child. She and husband Ryan Reynolds have three girls together.
One of five kids herself, Lively, 35, says family drives all of her endeavors, from motherhood and acting to being a business owner.
“I love creating—and as women, you’re not often given authorship,” Lively said at the 2022 Forbes Power Women’s Summit in conversation with Moira Forbes, president and publisher of ForbesWomen.
Lively said one of the factors that drives is that men overwhelmingly create the everyday products used by women, who represent 85% of purchases in homes across all categories.
“It makes sense that [women] create things we want to consume,” she says, “whether that be physical products or stories.” And while Lively makes new movies, expands her beverage line and more, the entrepreneur said it’s just as critical to create opportunities for others.
Here’s the advice Lively shared at the Summit on building brands, and how to claim authorship along the way:
Believe in what you are creating, and stand behind it.
“It’s so much work to start a business, you have to really believe in it,” Lively says. “Then you have to be able to stand behind it when people tell you no.”
Create something that’s missing from the current market that speaks to your values, and invest in the quality in order to stand behind it, she said.
Prioritize quality and conviction.
Lively said it’s all about the details. When you go to business partners, retailers or consumers, the only thing you have to rely on, Lively says, is whether your product or service is of high quality. “I acknowledge I have a massive, unfair advantage by having the entertainment industry as sort of this microphone or boost to help promote my businesses with, but if the product isn’t great, I can only sell one bottle,” she says.
Since launching Betty Buzz in September 2021, the company has sold more than 4 million bottles to date.
Lively advises other entrepreneurs to learn from mistakes and failures and to address red flags and issues as they arise. It’s hard to catch up if you put a product out there that’s broken. Though focusing on the details can make women wrongly appear difficult or hard to work with, she says, “It comes down to quality and conviction, and that’s sometimes hard as a woman because you’re questioning if you’re being difficult or too in your head.”
Work with people you identify with.
A successful business requires collaboration. Lively’s advice? Don’t drain yourself with the “assholes.”
Choose people who feel like they have a voice to foster a collaborative environment, and people with values you want to model within yourself too. That doesn’t mean there aren’t challenges, confrontation or friction, “but when you work with people where there’s mutual respect, it frees up so much time emotionally.”
When Lively chooses a job, she said she asks herself if her time will be valued and well used, and the metric to measure that is by the people on the project. “I’m fortunate to be in that position because I haven’t always been,” she says.
Be your unapologetic self.
When it comes to new or potential jobs or projects, Lively advises it’s best to be upfront about your needs—though she also admitted that it can be tricky to balance getting the job and getting what you want out of it. “Sometimes you lose the job, but if you did it and weren’t fulfilled anyway, then it wasn’t worth it,” she says.
Her early acting days consisted of “showing up, looking cute and standing on a little pink sticker.” Now, she’s advocating for more authorship in her roles—something more fulfilling, she says.
Uplift others along the way.
Part of creating content, companies and products is also creating opportunities for others, Lively says. In one of her latest efforts, the multi-hyphenate said she is partnering with Grameen America, a nonprofit that gives microloans to women living below the poverty line to help them with their business.
“It’s not just incumbent upon women to pave that path for other women,” Lively said. “It’s incumbent upon men to help create those opportunities.”
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