One minute and six seconds into meeting Kristen Bell, she asks me if I have a system for peeing in the car on long road trips. "I ask to pee in the car a lot, especially during COVID, because I'm not messing with public restrooms right now, OK?" she says to me in her signature chipper deadpan. "And my husband is like, 'Honey, please don't.' So I recently bought a couple of devices off Amazon, one of them is called a Shenis, and you cup them around you so you can aim better. They’re amazing."
That kind of unfiltered candor has come to define Bell's unique brand of celebrity. No topics are off limits for the star, who doesn't shy away from sharing her challenges as a parent or what it's like to live with anxiety and depression. "I live by this mantra, a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt, that no one can make you feel inferior without your consent. I say it to myself every morning, and it works throughout the day. I don't have to feel inferior unless I'm consenting. Not for my kids or my husband or my friends or the media or the industry or anything," she says. When critics slammed her for admitting to occasionally using recreational marijuana in 2018, for example, Bell tells me that she didn't even look at the news. "I literally don't even care. It's legal in California — so maybe take it up with California if you have a problem with it?"
Bell — who just unveiled her CBD-based brand, Happy Dance, this week — is brutally honest about her decision to dive into the beauty industry, too. "I'm gonna be real clear with you. I don't need another paycheck," she says. "I make enough money that I don't need to do something I don't believe in." But Bell, who fell in love with the very chic, but very pricy Lord Jones line of CBD products, did believe in sharing its benefits with a bigger audience. "I grew up in Michigan and it's not lost on me that I have the ability to go to an L.A. boutique and buy a great product and not look at the price," she says. "But the majority of my friends don't have that ability, and the majority of Americans don't have that ability, and that doesn't sit well with me."
Bell, who was using the Lord Jones CBD Body Lotion and CBD Tinctures to help manage her anxiety and depression (in addition to taking an SSRI antidepressant and attending therapy), called the brand to pitch her idea. "I said, 'Listen, you guys make the best products. Can we work together to figure out how to make a product that is aligned with all of our values and that has an accessibility factor? I don't want anyone sweating when they look at the receipt.'"
After two and a half years, Bell's vision came to life with three debut products that are as cheery as the star herself. "I thought, What would I look like if I was sitting in your medicine cabinet every morning being like, 'HEYYYY,' and this is it," she says of the CBD Body Butter ($30), CBD Coconut Melt ($25), and CBD Bath Bomb ($15), which are all sourced from Premium Full Spectrum Hemp Extract. From the sunshine-y colour palette to the cheeky branding, Bell hopes Happy Dance will appeal to overworked moms who deserve more than 15 minutes of self care a day. "Even prior to the pandemic, I took issue with the current definition of self care — that it was an event and those two hours for your monthly manicure are all that you got to yourself," she says. "That just doesn't work for me. I need something that is manageable and daily and sometimes hourly."
Bell admits that she, like many others, was skeptical about CBD at first — but stuck with it at the recommendation of her friends. "I took the Lord Jones tincture every morning for two weeks and I realized on my way home from The Good Place that instead of going through my frantic to-do list — I gotta get more apples, and the kids need vegetables in their lunch, and one of the lunch pails need to be thrown away because they spilled milk and it smells bad — I was just listening to the radio," she tells me. "When I got home, I wasn't any less efficient. I felt no discernible difference because CBD doesn't get you high in any way; if it did, I wouldn't be using it around my children." For the record, that's also the reason Bell tells me she hasn't ingested any form of marijuana in two years. "Because I'm always around my children, I don't have the opportunity to. But I will say sincerely if given the choice, I would certainly rather use marijuana in any form than have a shot of something. I'm just not an alcohol person."
Instead, Bell says that CBD helps her mentally "feel like the thermostat in the room is at the exact right temperature," which has become even more crucial during COVID. "A lot of mental rituals have changed for me because the level of patience required during a pandemic when your family can't leave the house is astronomical," she says. "My mental self care has been reshaped because I realized during COVID that I have to give everyone, including myself, a lot more grace. You're going to see everyone's proclivities when you're spending this much time together, so you gotta make time for the things that calm you down and make you feel good."
For Bell, that also includes investing her time and energy into causes she believes in. "You know, I like sleeping well at night. I really like it. It's so peaceful when you know you're doing the right thing," she deadpans. From the beginning, she knew Happy Dance would give at least 1% of the profits of every product sold to A New Way of Life Re-Entry Project, which was founded by Susan Burton to provide housing, case management, pro bono legal services, advocacy, and leadership development for women rebuilding their lives after prison. "It seemed like the perfect partnership given the fact that many of the women she helps are women incarcerated for low-level marijuana charges, sometimes more," Bell says. "I'm going to make my mission to make Happy Dance survive and hopefully give her more than 1%."
At the end of the day, Bell hopes these products — and a portion of the profits from them — find people where they need it most. "My main goal in life is to promote happiness and reduce suffering," she says. "I felt a responsibility with my voice and platform to share good information with other people who might need it. Happy Dance is a mindset and a mantra that reminds you that you are important."
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