“Can someone ask Siri if it’s safe to be in a ball gown on a rock in the desert?” Jenna Dewan ponders aloud during our fashion shoot while precariously perched on the hillside above a Hugh Kaptur–designed home. When her hands touch the searing hot surface of the San Jacinto Mountains, it seems as if the 38-year-old dancer and actress might rip off the red Monique Lhuillier dress she’s rocking and dive into the nearby infinity pool. Instead, Dewan strikes a pose, the camera starts clicking, and any fear evaporates from her eyes.
It was suffering that first brought Dewan to the Coachella Valley more than five years ago after the birth of her daughter Everly with then-husband Channing Tatum, whom she met when they co-starred in the 2006 dance flick Step Up. She needed to get away from it all. A friend suggested that Dewan, who was born in Connecticut but was raised mostly in Texas, head to the serene Two Bunch Palms resort in Desert Hot Springs to rebalance.
“I was full-on mom, 24/7,” says Dewan, looking more casual — and definitely more comfortable — after our shoot in a black tank and shorts while lounging in the air-conditioned casita of the On the Rocks house in Palm Springs. “I went for four days and didn’t speak to a single soul. I soaked in the waters. I did sound baths. I lived my best life. And I fell in love with it here. It’s so grounding. It’s quiet. It calms me down. Now, I come out here a lot for respite.”
Judging by her genre-spanning docket of projects, Dewan is in perpetual need of downtime. After hosting the first two seasons of the NBC dance competition World of Dance and acting in a string of TV shows like American Horror Story, Supergirl, and The Resident, Dewan is releasing her first book and starring in the Netflix musical Soundtrack, which begins streaming this winter. She says filming the series from Gossip Girl and Smash mastermind Joshua Safran was her most difficult production yet — and that’s coming from a veteran dancer who has performed with the likes of Janet Jackson, Christina Aguilera, Missy Elliott, and Pink.
VIDEO: View behind-the-scenes shots from the Palm Springs Life fashion shoot with Jenna Dewan.
“[Soundtrack] was a very, very grueling shoot,” says Dewan, whose character Joanna works for Child Protective Services. “There’s singing, dancing, and these great, long dramatic scenes. It was the type of production that when it was done, I was so tired but so fulfilled because I know in my whole career, I will never do anything else like that show.”
Besides adding Soundtrack to her credits, Dewan has also embraced her celebrity stature on social media. She posts a pair of videos each week to her YouTube channel and shares almost everything with her 5.6 million followers on Instagram, including her 2018 split with Tatum, a few lingerie-clad moments, inspirational quotes, the aftermath of her first cupping treatment, and new beau Steve Kazee. She made their relationship official this summer when she posted a pic of her romantically resting her head on the 43-year-old Broadway star’s shoulder. “I didn’t know I was doing that,” she says coyly of the visual confirmation. “I swear I didn’t even know ‘Instagram official’ was a thing!”
In the almost year since her divorce, Dewan has navigated co-parenting with Tatum, embracing her sexuality as a mother, dealing with online criticism, and forging this new relationship with Kazee. (During our shoot, Dewan left Kazee at the Two Bunch Palms pool and daughter Everly in L.A. “She was going to come on this trip with us, but when I explained to her it was going to be 112 degrees, she was like, ‘I’ll go to mermaid camp instead.’”) It’s such experiences that compelled Dewan to offer up personal guidance in her new book Gracefully Yours, which was originally intended to be a collection of poetry.
Dewan hopes to help readers find balance and beauty in their everyday lives with a mix of self-help tips, healthy recipes, and mindful mantras. It’s a passion project that stretches back to her childhood. “When I grew up, I was the kid that would go home and instead of watching Beverly Hills, 90210, I watched Oprah Winfrey,” she recalls. “Clearly, I was into this stuff very early.” It genuinely shows. When she speaks about her own spiritual “reflections” or “journeys,” Dewan feels less like a New Age kook and more like an eccentric best friend.
That’s not to say Dewan doesn’t dip into the woo-woo. She dedicates a few pages of the book to her fascination with oracle cards, a Tarot-like deck that provides her with clarity. Dewan’s favorite card? “My friend gave me this deck of all these different angels,” she says. “The drawings are gorgeous, and there’s one that I really like where an angel is on the edge of a mountain. It looks like she’s about to leap. It’s scary, and there’s that moment of, ‘Here I go! I hope there’s going to be someone there to catch me.’”
The biggest lunge for Dewan is behind the camera. She recently started Everheart Productions and has green-lit several female-driven projects, such as an animated adult show about women trying to make it in Los Angeles, a big-screen adaptation of the 2017 novel Roomies, and a spoof dubbed Magic Michelle inspired by a skit Dewan participated in with Ellen DeGeneres. No, Dewan isn’t planning on portraying the titular role herself, but she does want to be cast in her first action movie. “That would be a blast for me,” she says. If her ability to scale the San Jacinto Mountains in a gown is any indication, it’s probably not far off.