By Anna David

Try as she might to fit in and look like everyone else at the low-key Beverly Hills Italian restaurant she chose for her Cosmo interview, actress Jessica Alba fails…miserably. A baseball cap, brown sweats, and a pink tank top do nothing to conceal her uniquely striking beauty (she’s of Mexican, Danish, and French descent) and the kind of curves that make men weak in the knees. Everything about the 23-year-old actress – from the megawatt smile down to her hip wardrobe – just screams “actress on the rise.”

With three movies rolling into theaters in the coming months, 2005 is shaping up to be Jessica Alba’s year. That’s not to say, however, that her career hasn’t hit a few highs already. The Southern California native made her film debut at age 13 in Camp November(the lead actress dropped out, and Jessica, who had a tiny role, replaced her). Then came a Nickelodeon series called The Secret World of Alex Mack and the TV show Flipper, for which she moved to Australia to film at age 14. The brainy babe took advanced-placement courses with a tutor during her two years on Flipper and earned her high school diploma at age 16. She allotted herself two years to make it big in Hollywood…or else go off to college like everyone else she knew.

Being cast in 1999’s Never Been Kissed gave her the confidence she needed to continue to pursue her acting dreams. Later came her starring role in the popular Fox series Dark Angel and 2003’s sexy dance click Honey.

And now her hard work and patience are really paying off. This month, she stars opposite Bruce Willis in Sin City, and she has Into the Blue with Paul Walker and Fantastic Four out in July. But what Jessica is especially excited about these days is her hot new romance with a nonfamous guy named Cash. Here, she dishes all to Cosmo.

COSMO: Your body is featured prominently in your movies – you were a dancer in Honey, you play a stripper in Sin City and you’re in a bathing suit for almost every scene of Into the Blue. Do you ever have body anxiety?

Jessica: I get self-conscious, but you have to just embrace it and go with it. I remember being in my underwear in my hotel trying to get comfortable [with the Sin City role]. Beyonce’s “Baby Boy” video kept coming on MTV, and all she had on was a short little thing, and she’s grooving around and she has this gorgeous womanly body. I was like, All right, if she can do it, I can do it. I’m by no means a Gwyneth Paltrow or Jennifer Aniston — I’m not one of those women with a really thin body. I have body fat.

C: Have you always had a curvy figure?

J: When I went from girl body to woman body and all of a sudden I had tits and hips and a little tummy and natural fat in places, I freaked out. I went through puberty really early, when I was 11. It makes you feel weird – you know, like your uncle is now hugging you a little bit longer than he used to. I think we all go through wanting to go back – you’re not sure you’re ready for that body. I used to be about 20 pounds lighter. But I get inspired by other women who embrace their curves. Sometimes I don’t like my thighs or stomach, but whenever I get caught up in that, I always focus on the fact that I’m healthy now. I spent a lot of time in the hospital as a kid.