In the current edition of Word magazine, various writers are asked to name their Hottie of the Year. Contrarian Julie Burchill choses US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice because, as well as "the sheer appropriateness of her appearance that makes her beautiful", you know Condi, unlike fellow politicians, wrote Burchill, "never looks in the mirror at the start of a working day and thinks: 'Does my bum look big in this?' or 'Look at the knockers on me.'" Writer Stephen Armstrong, however, had a far more sensible choice . . .
"The sad truth about interviewing screen beauties is that they always -- but always -- look worse in real life. Except Eva Longoria," he wrote.
"If you see her in the soft, warm, giggling flesh, breathing becomes difficult. Then she starts to explain her work with trades unions, her days in the orange fields helping illegal immigrants, her film biography of a civil- rights activist, her career in stand-up comedy . . . and don't even mention her free and frank disclosures on imaginative sexual practices. Smart, funny, committed, gorgeous and adventurous in bed -- now really, is that fair?"
Most readers will think it far from fair perhaps that it is your LIFE magazine correspondent, and not them, sitting in the sunshine on the veranda of a sumptuous villa in the south of France with Eva Longoria. I, however, am not complaining.
For my further enjoyment and possible elucidation, the world-famous actress has even been persuaded to read aloud the above lines, as if she were at a casting. I should have known that Hollywood stars on $5m just to front Desperate Housewives don't audition. But she did it anyway.
"Is this meant to be good or what?" the Dolce e Gabbana-clad international glamourpuss superpower asks, padding about her room in the Villa Tatiana at 137 avenue du Cactus, high up in the hills in Vallaurius looking down over Cannes at noon on Monday.
"But yes, I am giggly!" she laughs, sipping on an Evian.
Two minutes later, she is sitting by the sun-warmed pool eating a dark ice cream. To see Eva Longoria seductively lick an ice cream in the heat of the Cote d'Azur had me feeling like Paul Newman when, as a chain-gang member breaking rocks in the hot Deep South sun, he watches a voluptuously attractive woman in a T-shirt wash a car window with a soapy cloth in Cool Hand Luke.
The new face of Magnum, Cool Hand Eva doesn't look like she is on the brink of starvation, unlike most of the international glamourpuss superpowers in the media spotlight. Despite being a skinny size 6, she has a relatively normal figure (relatively normal for an A-list superstar), albeit one that has been on the cover of practically every magazine in modern publishing.
When you talk to the diminutive non-diva, you can't but be overwhelmed by the thought that you're talking to Wisteria Lane's she-cat-in-heat (and in fuck-moi heels) Gabrielle Solis. According to People magazine, the precise moment Eva Longoria became America's -- and, by extension, the world's -- hot watercooler topic can be easily pinpointed: when her Gabrielle deflowered her teenage gardener, played by Jesse Metcalfe, in the first season.
I interrupt her session with the ice cream to ask her what advice she would give her character, the manipulative, coquettish, man-eating Gabrielle, about men.
"Pick one! Pick one already!" she hoots. She has a raspy, throaty laugh that echoes around the pool.
"That's what I'd say to her: 'Pick one and stay with him.'"
What do you think is Gabrielle's problem?
"I think she's not happy with herself," Eva adds, "and I think she tries to seek that happiness in others as opposed to seeking it within herself."
What age did you find the happiness in yourself?
"Me? Oh, early, early on. It was high school. No, actually, younger. I was the ugly duckling growing up. My sisters were very beautiful and I was the ugly dark one or la prieta faya as a child. I was the only one with black hair. I was the only one with dark skin. So I learned to develop a personality and learned not to rely on my superficial looks because I didn't have them. And so I became very happy. I was always the funny one, you know. I was always the class clown. I never really thought about image or appearance until now in my career. It is kind of ironic that I'm on people's lips as 'the most beautiful' or 'the sexiest', etc."
What would ugly-duckling Eva have thought of World Famous Hottie Eva?
"I don't think she'd recognise me."
She says she doesn't have low points. "I definitely have reality checks. Reality checks doesn't necessarily mean you're in a deep depression. I think it's just: 'Oh, I'm here in Cannes. It's amazing. It's beautiful. I can't believe this is happening.' I have those kinds of things, but never really, 'Oh my God, my life . . .' Not those kind of things."
There are some women for whom the end of Desperate Housewives would bring about universal social collapse. It seems to tap into something deep in the female psyche. I ask her to define her character in Desperate Housewives.
"Oh, cheeky. Gabrielle is a troublemaker."
Are you a troublemaker?
"I'm a peacemaker," she smiles as the Cote d'Azur's powerful April sunshine bounces straight off the Latino hottie's Gucci sunglasses.
In any event, there are enough important-looking people with mobiles and computers around Eva in Nice today to man a small peacekeeping force. It is a mark of Eva's cultural reach that everyone from Spain's Hola and France's Vogue to Holland's Glamour and Italy's Vanity Fair, among a dozen others, is here in this mansion in the south of France.
The house becomes an ab-fab Babel in the sweltering heat, where TV presenters from London rub Prada shoulderpads with agents from Los Angeles (Liz Anderson, Eva's anointed publicist) and the like. They've all come all this way for a few moments with the exalted one. I get 25 minutes one on one with the delicately shaped uberbabe of the small screen.
She has a certain aura that is hard to define. That didn't, however, stop US lad mag Maxim trying. To mark its 100th issue in 2006, it produced a 75ft x 110ft display of its Longoria cover and positioned it in an isolated and inaccessible spot in the Nevada desert. The idea was that a bikini-wearing Eva could be seen by passing planes and, theoretically, satellites in outer space -- possibly even horny aliens in space ships.
Whatever about UFO-bothering sexuality, Eva Longoria offers a reassuring fantasy, traditional in tone, but modern in imagined sexual liberty (a combination of the adulteress Gabrielle she plays and Eva's famous interview with Rolling Stone -- which you will have read in LIFE -- where she hinted at a penchant for vibrators). In a far-from-golden age where celebrities try hard to keep schtum -- their publicists tell them they say it best when they say nothing at all -- Eva can't seem to keep her pucker lips zipped. In 2006, she made front-page news when she told Allure that she's the "experienced one" in her relationship with Tony Parker, the San Antonio Spurs player seven years her junior: "I'm the teacher, especially about love. He's always telling me he's never met anyone who loves the way I do -- wholly, freely and unconditionally."
But I digress.
For her part, Eva Longoria believes people generally see Eva Longoria as fun. "That, I'm willing to indulge," she laughs. "A lot of people see me as part of a fantasy world: 'Oh, she has this and she has that.' And when they know me, they know that I'm pretty real and that I do dabble in the indulgent but I'm real."
When I ask her how she keeps it real, she responds instinctively with the two words that are probably most important to her in the world: "My family." Eva and her basketball-star husband were married in a fairytale chateau outside Paris last year. She is the goddess of small things -- five-feet-two inches to her husband's six-feet-two. (Tall Tony and Eva began dating in spring 2005, and allegedly announced they were going through "a difficult time" in autumn 2006 etc, etc). Quizzed about how her husband would describe her, she smiles and replies softly: "Funny."
Funny ha-ha or funny peculiar?
"Funny ha-ha." She roars with laughter. "Funny ha ha!"
What makes you laugh?
"You!" she roars. "Irish men make me laugh. Are you a writer by trade? Do you write other stuff? Do you have siblings?"
Three sisters and one brother.
"Where are you in your family?"
Second-youngest baby. And you?
Did that affect you in relationships in later life?
"Yes, I need to be held at all times!" she laughs.
"But yes," she adds, "it affects me in the sense of I felt like, growing, that I was getting things handed back to me: like hand-me-downs."
"Is that your sister's dress you're wearing today?" I ask, referring to the mint-coloured Dolce e Gabbanna dress she is wearing (in it, Eva looks more like she is going to the Trinity Ball than to a beano in Nice). I kind of recognise it.
"Yes!" she roars, "She gave it to me for this press junket. But I think it does affect me in the sense that I'm a fighter."
A pampered fighter, granted. Eva's celebrity hairstylist, Ken Paves, who found fame and fortune on Jessica Simpson's MTV's Newlyweds, was never far from her presence, and neither was her make-up team.
All about Eva: she was born Eva Jacqueline Longoria in Corpus Christi, Texas on March 15, 1975. She has three older sisters: Elizabeth Judina, Emily Jeannette, and Esmeralda Josephina. She secured her first big TV role in 2000 in Beverly Hills, 90210, then The Young and the Restless. Then, she did a few mediocre movies before, in 2004, landing the role of gobby Gabby in Desperate Housewives. She is the talk of Hollywood. She regularly dines a deux with Victoria Beckham in Chateau Marmont.
It is a long way from Cannes to Corpus Christi. "Corpus Christi is like this," she says monitoring all around her. "It has a beach and surfing. It is a beach town and it is very casual and very small."
Unlike her home in Texas, where she lives with Tall Tony in a sprawling mansion that includes a 133sqft walk-in wardrobe complete with what she refers to, tongue-in-chic, as her Hers 'n' Hers closet. Eva and Tony seem incalculably happy. Unlike the first time around for the Latino Hottie.
What was the lowest point in your life?
"My first divorce."
She thinks for a second before realising what she has just said. "My only divorce!" she roars with laughter. "My first divorce?!" She corrects herself: "My first marriage!"
A Freudian slip.
More riotous laughter. That raspy, throaty laugh. "I have a kind of cackle," she explains. "You are going to write a terrible article, aren't you?" she cackles. "I feel it.'
Are you religious?
"Yes, I'm Catholic," Eva smiles. "I believe in God and heaven and hell." She says that her mother, Ella, went to Dublin not so long ago.
"She brought me back a bunch of Catholic crosses. I collect crosses."
Ella's famous daughter has now assembled an impressive collection of such religious items.
"I put them in my altar in my house."
You've an altar in your house? How Catholic is that!
"Yes, I know. But I have collected crosses from all over the world. It is probably one of my favourite things. Are you religious? You're Irish, aren't you Catholic?"
It depends. It is ingrained. No matter how much sometimes I think I have moved away from Catholicism, it is just there. On the plane over to the south of France, I tell her, when the plane hit bad turbulence I didn't exclaim "Buddha" or "Socrates", but "Oh, Christ!"
"Yeah, that's true," she smiles, "it is ingrained. And that's kind of what I love about it. I love the traditional aspects of it. I love going to church. I feel home because of growing up. I love the ritual of it. I love the sacraments."
She adds that before she and her boyfriend, Tony, got married they went to a Catholic church pre-marriage course.
"You have to before you are allowed to get married", she says. "It was wonderful. It was definitely great therapy."
There is a sip from a jammy bottle of Evian. "This is like therapy," luscious Longoria laughs again. And again.
"What's your earliest childhood memory?" she giggles at the question, before answering. "Falling off a truck."
Falling off a truck? A kid's toy truck?
"No, no, a truck!" she roars. "I fell off the back of a truck. I think my sisters pushed me. That's probably my earliest childhood memory. I thought they were, you know, trying to get rid of me."
And were they?
"I don't know," she giggles. "I thought my sisters were trying to throw me away. But they weren't. That's the earliest memory I have. I think I was three, because I remember three candles on a birthday cake."
Given that you brought up psychoanalysis and therapy earlier, Eva, what would you want to know from Freud if you met him? What would you want to know about yourself?
"Not about myself," she corrects. "I would ask him things. Like: 'What's your dysfunction?'" she laughs.
Do you have any dysfunctions?
"What's my dysfunction? I think I'm a control freak. I love to control everything."
"Except in love. In love, I really love. In the house, Tony kind of rules everything, but in life in general I like to carry my own luggage."
Is that emotional or Louis Vuitton?
Eva is an attractive commodity but obviously no airhead: on top of the €5m for Desperate Housewives, factor in ads, endorsements -- L'Oreal, etc -- and she has her own lucrative production company, unbeliEVAble. The 33-year-old may cultivate a breezy air in person, but Eva Longoria is no empty vessel into which the celeb-obsessive can decant their expectations. She is no Britney.
She has definite opinions and views. She is a spokeswoman for Padres Contra el Cancer (Parents Against Cancer), a charity for Latino children with cancer. She has a huge involvement in Eva's Heroes, which helps special-needs children -- Eva's sister Elizabeth has special needs, so the charity clearly has a special resonance for her. And as probably the world's best-known woman of Latino heritage, she has had the bravery to speak out about immigration in America.
Eva has used her celebrity wisely, to spotlight issues within the Latino community. She has worked with the United Farm Workers and the labour unions. Immigrants come to America to do a job for less than minimum wage with no health insurance and no recognition as a citizen. Eva has said that going to a country like the US, immigrants have to learn English to have any chance of getting their rights recognised. Brave actions and words.
Eva also recently publicly endorsed Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nomination for US Presidential Campaign.
Eva's politics have clearly been shaped by the times she's lived in. "I think Hillary is an amazing woman," she says, "I have met her several times. I have had several conversations with her. I do a lot of advocacy on women's rights and Latino rights. And she is the candidate who has done the most for both.
"I picked her because she represents, and has made significant changes in, those areas that have directly affected me or my community."
She pauses before adding: "I love [Barack] Obama. I think he is incredibly charismatic, but I just think for experience, and for my experience with Hillary, especially in the States right now with emigration reform, it is Clinton who will get my vote."
Is it true that you worked in a field with immigration workers?
"I went and spent the day with them, yeah."
There are two corporate heavyweights from Magnum in the room. I say that perhaps we should think of a nice segue from Hillary Clinton and immigration workers into delicious ice creams. Eva pipes up: "Speaking of immigration issues, there's the Magnum Ecuador Ice cream, the dark chocolate from South America."
Are you asking me to believe that you eat all these feckin' Magnum ice creams?
"I do! Oh my gosh! We almost run out of them! I represent the indulgent lifestyle! I think it's in our nature as human beings to struggle with resisting temptation and we can be tempted every day in different ways. Chocolate and ice cream are a great example of this and I think it's an enjoyable part of life we should embrace.
"I like to attach myself to the things I stand for -- I'm a huge chocolate fan! But I'm also a big believer in the quality of a product as quality is very important in my life in everything I do -- particularly the things I eat -- and that's what I love about Magnum."
How do you keep your amazing figure eating Magnums?
"I work out! I get to the gym!"
Have you ever heard the expression: "A moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips"?
"Yes, yes. But during the commercial I ate lots because we don't have Magnum in the States and it is such a shame and they had to fly the ice cream in for the commercial. And I always eat so much that they were afraid that they are going to run out on the shoot."
Did you ever suffer racism either in your life or in your career because of your Latino heritage? "No, because I grew up in a predominantly Mexican society in south Texas. It is 80 per cent Hispanic. So we weren't the minority."
She says the desire to act was not so much a deep desire that spiralled her towards providence as an accident: "I was in pageants in Texas. Do y'all have beauty pageants in Ireland?" she says in an accent so cute I ask her to repeat it, just for the hell of it.
Yawl do, I say.
"Anyway, in one of the pageants I won a trip to Hollywood, but I was in college . . . and I went to Hollywood and I fell in love with LA. I just thought, 'Ah! I want to be an actress one day!' I didn't even go home. I rang my mom to send my clothes."
She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Kinesiology at Texas A&M University in Kingsville. So, had the acting not worked out in La La Land, it is unlikely that the future Queen of Television would have been working behind the counter in Burger King.
"I would definitely have gone into some sort of business," she smiles. "I was a headhunter when I moved to LA. As a job, I was a recruiter talking to recruitment companies. I loved it. I loved corporate America. I loved the business side of things. -- that's why I like producing more than I like acting."
Is she acting now? It doesn't appear like it. So, who is Eva Longoria? A comfort-first Catholic-y actress who is married to a lanky basketball player and hangs with Posh Spice? The truth is more complex. This beautiful woman walking serenely around the pool in the Cote d'Azur has cojones, certainly. She isn't afraid to speak about politics, even sexual politics. You have to admire her for doing so, even when she knows that the quotes will invariably be twisted out of all recognition and end up on the internet along with ridiculous rumours about sex tapes.
"I spoke about vibrators and Brazilians in an article about women finding their sexuality. I didn't have my first orgasm until I was 26," she said last year. "That was with a vibrator. And yes, I said that every woman should try a Brazilian wax once. The sex they have afterwards will make them keep coming back. Taken out of context, it looks as if I'm running around talking about vibrators. But I hate censoring myself and dancing around things."
Last week in the south of France, the only dancing around things that the gamine actress did was around the villa's pool. And as for self-censorship, she was an open book during our time together. The difference between the Eva Longoria portrayed (and distorted, inevitably) in the media and the Eva Longoria her mother knows is, she says, that "Oh gosh. I'm a baby to my mom. Things are always distorted in the media. That's why I like doing one-on-one interviews like this, because people can make up their minds.
"As it is, especially with the internet, the way things spread is like cancer. Once it is on the internet, people think it is true, even if it's not. I think it diminishes the reputation of reputable magazines," she says.
In December, according to the Los Angeles Times, Eva's husband Tall Tony sued a celebrity gossip website for publishing stories that alleged he had an affair with a French model. Allegedly, he's seeking at least $40m in damages.
"The internet rumour is the first time we actually sued," Longoria explained to the LA Times. "Because it went a little too far. And for it being so false and so not true, it was like: 'Wow, really,'" she said.
What's the funniest thing you've read about yourself on the internet, Eva?
"That I ran out naked from a lingerie store and got in my car," she answers softly, a giggle rising in her throat.
As you do. "Yeah, because everybody does that, don't they?" the one-time ugly duckling, cackles with laughter.