When I agreed to take an exercise class on a Sunday morning in Los Angeles with Jenna Dewan-Tatum, I admit it was a momentary lapse in judgment. For those not familiar with her, Dewan-Tatum—wife of the millennial sex symbol, actor Channing Tatum—spent the years preceding her acting career as a professional backup dancer. She grew up in Grapevine, Texas before heading to the West Coast to attend the University of Southern California. It was there that she was discovered by a dance agent, catapulting her childhood passion into a successful career.
During her early 20’s, Dewan-Tatum toured with the likes Janet Jackson, *N Sync and Puff Daddy before eventually landed a breakout role in the 2006 romantic dance film Step Up, where she starred opposite her now-husband. The two married three years after meeting on set and had their first child, Everly, in May of 2013.
The information about her professional dancer pedigree had apparently escaped me when I consented to the class, and before I knew it I was strapping on cycling shoes at a West Hollywood spin studio. I barely recognized Dewan-Tatum when she settled into the seat next to me, her natural olive complexion unburdened by heavy on-screen makeup and the smoky eyes she sports at award shows. “I almost made us go to a dance class, but everybody I bring gets so nervous,” she says. Given her A-list status, her perfect post-baby body and the fact that she’s married to People’s 2012 Sexiest Man Alive, there’s something refreshingly real about her. “This spin class is just as hard as a dance class but it’s quicker,” she says. “With the baby, it’s all about how I can maximize my time.”
Now that they’ve entered the realm of parenthood, finding the balance between work and family is a difficult art that Dewan-Tatum is still trying to master. For the next few months, she’ll be living in Vancouver and spending 15-hour days on set for her starring role in the second season of Witches of East End, a supernatural drama series that premieres on Lifetime July 6. Dewan-Tatum says she and Channing rarely accept jobs that would put them in different cities at the same time “so we can be with each other as much as possible.” In Vancouver, he’ll play the role of stay-at-home dad. “We’re very gypsy-like and we’re always on the move, but we try to keep certain things a routine no matter where we are. What I’m learning is: that’s our life.”
For the celebrity couple, part of that routine includes fitting in exercise whenever they can. Occasionally they’ll do Cross Fit together, but, she says, “I have yet to get him to come to a spinning class with me. I’ve tried many times. He says there’s nothing more frustrating than sitting on a stationary bike and not going anywhere.” And the dance classes? “That’s not going to happen either.”
An instructor announces that class is about to begin and for the next hour, a numbingly loud hip-hop soundtrack fuels our sweat-soaked ride. If Dewan-Tatum struggled at all, she certainly didn’t let on. After class, in the studio’s courtyard—which is furnished with an only-in-LA display of cold eucalyptus towels and alkaline water—Dewan-Tatum pulls up her pant leg to reveal an inflamed red rash. “We’re going to the [MTV] Movie Awards tonight, but I have to rethink my dress,” she says, promising it’s not contagious. “After this I’m heading to the dermatologist because my husband decided to go camping and bring back Poison Oak—the perks of living with a man who loves to be outdoors! We’re a family of Poison Oak at the moment. We’ll be really sexy on the red carpet tonight.”
Given the circumstances, Dewan-Tatum seems relatively unconcerned about the state of her legs—and the last minute wardrobe change. That’s probably because she shares her husband’s love of the outdoors. When they aren’t working, she and Channing often drive six hours outside of Los Angeles to go camping in Big Sur, where they’ll pitch a tent and dine on pre-packaged meals. “It gets you back to the basics, feeling connected to nature and grounded,” she says.
Staying grounded doesn’t seem to pose much of a challenge to the actress, who is completely candid about motherhood. “Kids are life-transformative, but they should fit in to your life. You don’t want to feel resentful for forgetting about a whole part of yourself. It’s tough learning how to balance and multitask; it’s a lot of balls to juggle. That’s been the biggest learning curve of this year for sure.”
At the moment, she and Channing are focused on getting to know their “sassy and opinionated” one-year-old, and they haven’t started planning for a second just yet. “I think it would be really hard to have more responsibility—it takes a while to adjust to [being a mom],” she says. “You’re running around non-stop because your ‘me time’ is completely gone, but it’s also the most fulfilling thing in the entire world.”
That evening at the MTV Movie Awards, Dewan-Tatum wore a black Pamella Roland ensemble that was half mesh, half lambskin. It had long-sleeves and hit just below the knee, and it was stunning.