Kate Bosworth On Becoming An “Instant Parent” To A 13-Year-Old

There were no announcements or photoshoots when Kate Bosworth entered motherhood, partly because she is quite private, and partly because she was 28 when she became an “instant parent” to a 13-year-old, her stepdaughter Jasper. Immediately, “I understood maternal instincts, even though she didn't come from me biologically,” says Bosworth by phone from Los Angeles, where she lives with her husband, director Michael Polish, who is Jasper’s dad. “The first feeling was just an expanding capability of love that I think a lot of people talk about when they first become parents.”

“I had been working since I was 14. So I was a professional in the world, but actually feeling like a grownup hadn't hit me yet,” says Bosworth, now 37. Becoming a parent to someone else was “a pretty loud wakeup call of put on the grownup boots and stand up taller.”

Every celebrity in the United States has been home to roost, left to ponder life, and the time has been generative for Bosworth, who has been “trying to do more inward work.” She had been breaking ground for about a year on a new website, KIND.EST, a blog organized into Inspire and Cooking posts, and a place to share the things she loves and believes in. She held off launching because she knew that “to be in the arena, you really have to be an all-in person” and worried she wasn’t ready for that level of vulnerability. (Having belonged to a Buddhist organization, Bosworth is also a disciple of Brené Brown.) Much in the way turbulence from the pandemic has jostled people into confessing their undying love over text, realizing we are all here for just one day, it compelled her to go all in, launching in April with a raw post about her late grandmother and subsequently opening up about her relationship with Jasper, and Jasper’s mom, makeup artist Jo Strettell. The site’s mission is spare, set in typewriter font. She hopes to “explore further” and advocate kindness. That’s it. “The world does need some encouragement right now,” she says. “There probably are a lot of families that are quarantining together and a lot of dynamics that are challenging and if we can somehow bring some love into the world and some inspiration, then that's something that we can do.”

I can say, ‘Hey, it's OK, you'll get it, and I only know that because I'm in the future.’

Bosworth’s work as an actor dates back to 1998, when she was just 14 and appeared in The Horse Whisperer opposite Scarlett Johansson and a horse named Justin. She won the role on the back of her skills as a champion equestrian and went on to star in Remember the Titans and Blue Crush, which inspired thousands of girls to briefly attempt to surf. In the two decades since, she has veered toward less mainstream films, like 2014’s Still Alice and 2019’s The Devil Has a Name, and into the offscreen world. In 2017, Bosworth and Polish debuted a film that they had funded about human trafficking: Nona. At that point her opinions and interests still had the scaffolding of film production; now, it’s just her. “Normally I'm discussing a film or I'm discussing a character, and sometimes we touch on personal things, but [KIND.EST] is the first time I'm really opening the door to saying, ‘Hey, this is me’ in a much fuller scope,” says Bosworth. Celebrity is a hell of a magic wand to wave, and Bosworth has reckoned with how best to use it. When the latest episodes of police brutality against the Black community inspired what Jordan Coley called a "milquetoast" celebrity response, Bosworth gave her platform over to friends like Erica Chidi Cohen and Arisce Wanzer.

She got the blessings of Jasper and Strettell to explore their familial relationship on the site, in part because she felt there was a void of positive representations around blended families. The evil stepmom stereotype comes from “feeling threatened, probably, or jealous, or insecure,” she says, but that wasn’t how it was for her. Upon meeting Jasper, “there was no other thought than Jasper's well-being being the priority of everything that we do.”

Kate Bosworth and her stepdaughter Jasper. Photo credit Michael Polish.

They’ve been a family now for almost 10 years, four humans connected by relationships that open out like an accordion. “Jo's age difference to Michael is similar to Michael's age difference to me, is similar to my age difference to Jasper. So it's like, we have this kind of funny decade-ish domino effect.” Her husband, who is 49, will joke, “Babe, remember, I'm in the future.” It’s less of a joke when Bosworth (37) delivers the line to her stepdaughter (22) as encouragement. “I can say, ‘Hey, it's OK, you'll get it, and I only know that because I'm in the future.’”

The one thing that you hope and you pray that they get is that innate kindness.

Bosworth credits her stepdaughter with lighting a cracker under her nonexistent cooking skills. (Today, the two have a rich shared history of chicken piccata.) She takes pride in her part shaping Jasper’s life. “Normally with a kid, you have the mom, the dad, and in our case, you have my influence as well.” As the saying goes, children are with you yet they belong not to you, and Jasper is the proof. “Michael always says, in the case of our family, [the influences] would be a fourth of Jo, fourth of Michael, a fourth of me, and then there's a fourth of just Jasper. She is just this magical unicorn anomaly.”

When you are raising a child, “the one thing that you hope and you pray that they get is that innate kindness,” she says. And Jasper has it. “That just flows through her. And that's just her.”

In the future, Bosworth would love to have a baby with her husband. “It would be a whole new chapter of what we've all done together as a family. It would be like turning a beautiful new page.”

It’s a wish she is putting out into the world. She is convinced, now, that vulnerability is the best way to tackle any life chapter. “The benefit of exposing one — at least in my experience — of exposing one's vulnerability, far eclipses the fear of it.”

“I'm really blessed, man, truly.”