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"There are many sides to me,” Mendes says.
"There are many sides to me,” Mendes says. / Andrew H. Walker/ Getty Images/Salvatore Ferragamo

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Eva Mendes stars in the new film Girl in Progress as a single mom. “She is a real person with real problems, not the Hollywood version of problems,” Mendes says of her character.

Mendes, 38, shares childhood memories, advice she’d give to her younger self — and more.

What she wishes she knew at 17: To “not jump to give my opinion or advice when it isn’t asked for. I always wanted to help everybody. I didn’t listen enough. Now I’m a good listener, and people are willing to talk.”

Growing up in a Cuban-American [home] in Los Angeles. “My mom ran the house with an iron fist. At the time, I complained I was in prison. If I wanted to go to a girlfriend’s house, she’d call the other mother to make sure we weren’t going to be alone — I was 17.”

A troublemaker? “I was pretty great until I was out of the house. I was a late bloomer on all counts. I think it saved me," she says. "I was scared to get in trouble, although I have a rebel inside me.”

Her rebellious side: “My family and I went to a river when I was 14. Some kids there were jumping off a cliff into the water. I didn’t know how to swim, and I had this fear of water, but I decided I’d jump too. I told the kids that if I didn’t jump, they should push me. I didn’t, so they did," she says. "It was an interesting exploration of confronting fear. I actually had fun. Throwing yourself headlong into something and not knowing how you’ll get out is exhilarating.”

Plan B? “I didn’t have one. If I give myself an out, I’ll take it."

On her looks and the roles she chooses: “I’m responsible for the image I put out," she says. "But, when I’m living my life and the paparazzi happen to get me, you can tell I’m doing normal stuff. I also do things for funnyordie.com ... there are many sides to me.”

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