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After Matthew McConaughey And Ariel Winter Left Hollywood, Hallmark’s Alexa PenaVega Opens Up About Why Her Family Also Departed

Celebrities have been leaving Hollywood for years, but this trend has really accelerated during the pandemic era. Chris Hemsworth and Matthew McConaughey were pre-pandemic defectors from LA, but in more recent years, Ariel Winter left Hollywood for the other coast, as did other celebrities, including James Van Der Beek, who also moved during the Covid-19 era. The list may be long, but among those early defectors were Hallmark’s Alexa PenaVega (and her frequent on-screen partner and husband Carlos PenaVega), who recently opened up about the whys behind saying goodbye to Tinseltown. 

As it turns out, there was a myriad of reasons the couple left Hollywood, but chief among them was her husband’s mental state. In an interview, Alexa opened up about the rejections Carlos was facing during a time of change for them. She told Fox News:

Carlos was really struggling with the industry. Every audition he went on, it would get down between him and one other guy and the other guy would always get it. The rejection was just becoming too much for him. This went on for a full year. At the time, I was pregnant. We’d always talked about moving to Hawaii, but later on in life, like a retirement plan.

Those "retirement" plans came much earlier, however. The actress opened up about how the family planning component really led them to realize a move out of California made the most sense. They simply felt their kids would do better if they were raised elsewhere, and ultimately did have three kids between 2016 and 2021 whom they've raised outside of LA. She recalled: 

But we also knew that we didn’t want to raise our kids in Los Angeles. I felt this tug in my heart. I felt it was God going, ‘You guys need to get out of here. It’s time.’ I didn’t want to move. I knew it was the right decision, but it wasn’t something that I was so excited about.

(Sidebar: if you’re going to pick an “elsewhere,” Hawaii is a pretty sweet choice.)

A lot of times when people defect from Los Angeles, it’s because kids are involved. Mathew McConaughey’s wife Camila Alves opened up about being ready to leave the city in order for their kids to avoid paparazzi. Alves and McConaughey wanted to give them a “private way of growing up.” In the Hallmark star’s case, though, leaving Hollywood sounds like it was a really tough decision for her personally. 

You would think Hawaii is so exciting. But I loved LA. I loved my career and I didn’t want to go. At the time, I felt like we were moving for Carlos. But one day I was praying in my car and I suddenly had this revelation. I felt like God was preparing us for this move. And we weren’t moving for Carlos. We were moving for my heart. It stopped me in my tracks because all that time, I thought we were just moving for Carlos. But I needed a heart reset. I was the one trapped in the entertainment world and needed to take a step back. My job became my identity. God pulled me out of that so I could learn how to be an awesome mom and an awesome wife. God helped us build that foundation in our family. And once I had that revelation, I felt at peace.

Her story is a little different than a lot of the other celebrities who decided Hollywood wasn’t for them. In the Hemsworth case, the Thor: Love and Thunder actor and his wife Elsa Pataky wanted to raise their kids in nature, in a place where they could spend a lot of time out of doors and even ride horses. And Ariel Winter previously explained she was ready for a change and just thought “why not?” In her case, kids didn’t factor into the equation at all, so it was a great time for her to make a massive life change. There's no right or wrong reason behind making the decision, and to note, plenty of other celebs do stay in LA over the long haul. 

Alexa PenaVega was promoting the release of her new book What if Love is the Point (opens in new tab), which focuses on her career as a child star in Spy Kids, leading into her adult career and her relationship with Carlos. Since leaving Hollywood, the two have continued working, and even work together a fair amount. Hallmark’s had Carlos and Alexa starring opposite one another in the now-cancelled Picture Perfect mysteries series, as well as a few one-off romances like Love at Sea

Her next Hallmark movie with her husband actually releases in August of this year. Love in the Limelight is about a couple who interacted as pen pals for years. But will sparks fly when “the former boy band singer” returns to their hometown? That flick is part of Hallmark’s summer movies schedule and will premiere on August 6th.

Jessica Rawden
Jessica Rawden

Amazing Race & Top Chef superfan with a pinch of Disney fairy dust thrown in. Theme park junkie. If you’ve created a rom-com I’ve probably watched it.