Inside Matthew McConaughey's Full Family World as a Father of 3

Matthew McConaughey On What He's Learned from His Kids

Matthew McConaughey may have never gotten married if it hadn't been for his son Levi.

Not merely thanks to the child's existence, because by the time the Oscar winner asked for Camila Alves' hand they had been together for five years and were parents to both Levi (in lieu of Matthew Jr. they went with the apostle Matthew's biblical alias) and his little sister, Vida ("life" in her Brazilian mom's native Portuguese). They could've just kept livin' that way, and the livin' was great.

But in 2011, then-3-year-old Levi asked his dad why his mom's last name wasn't McConaughey, like everyone else in the family. And when his dad informed him that he and Levi's mother weren't married yet, the child's reply was a simple, "Why not?"

Levi didn't put much stock in McConaughey's "well I want to but I don't feel I need to" explanation, the actor recalled in his 2020 memoir Greenlights, and just asked his father if he was afraid.

"I guess I am a little bit," McConaughey remembered admitting. When the boy asked what he was afraid of, the answer was, "…Of losing myself."

photosMatthew McConaughey's Memoir Bombshells

After talking to a few grown men, including brother Rooster and his pastor, about the institution of marriage, McConaughey did, in fact, get down on one knee and propose to Alves on Dec. 24, 2011.

The following May, with a date still to be set, his fiancée informed him she was pregnant again (she presented him with an ultrasound photo, just as she had the first time) and had no intention of walking down the aisle while showing. So, they rallied their 88 nearest and dearest and hosted a long wedding weekend at their Texas home, tying the knot June 9, 2012. Son Livingston (named after two "real Renaissance men" he'd met, McConaughey wrote, "well versed in the art of livin,") was born Dec. 28, 2012.

Fast-forward a decade and, suffice it to say, McConaughey—who won an Oscar for Dallas Buyers Club and stunned in True Detective after officially becoming a husband—did not lose himself.

Though becoming a first-time father in July 2008 was when the star, who's turning 54 on Nov. 4, really found himself.

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"Out comes this screaming little life with a pair of balls," McConaughey delicately reflected on Levi's birth to Esquire in 2016.

"Man is never more masculine than after the birth of his first child," he continued. "I don't mean in a macho way. I mean in terms of giving a man strength."

Or as he put it on Good Morning America in 2009 when his firstborn was only 9 1/2 months old, he had "more to live for, and that feels good." 

In Greenlights, he called having a daughter "the only honeymoon that lasts forever." And once he was married (and Camila became Alves McConaughey, so Levi had "one less question"), and Livingston had arrived, he described himself as "fulfilled in my life as I'd ever been." 

Alex J. Berliner/ABImages via AP Images

Of course, these weren't just bundles of joy. He and his wife had three whole humans to guide.

"It's so much more DNA than environment than I thought it was going to be," McConaughey told Anderson Cooper on CNN in 2020 about raising his three kids. "They are who they are, and we nudge them along, and we shepherd them, and we try to put what they love in front of them and keep them away from great harm. But boy, they are who they are right when they come into the world."

Let's not forget, though, where that DNA comes from, and the occasional glimpses that McConaughey and Alves have shared with the world show a trio who have embraced family, nature, adventure (their beloved Airstream gets a lot of use) and, yes, that JKL attitude.


"Surf souvenirs," McConaughey captioned a March 2 Instagram pic of Levi, referring to the bandages on the 15-year-old's back after an apparently eventful wave-riding session, his board still tucked under his arm. Obviously enjoying the bathing suit weather wherever they were on their winter sojourn, Levi was also wearing swim trunks while watching his dad (in shorts and a sleeveless tee) give 10-year-old Livingston a haircut, a pic of the snip session posted by their mom on Feb. 26.

Alves shared that Livingston wanted nothing more than a trip to Austin's Altitude trampoline park and an ice cream cake for his latest birthday, while family and friends—including dad's True Detective co-star Woody Harrelson—gathered in January to celebrate Vida's 13th. (Alves was busy climbing a mountain when she turned 40 later that month, while her husband, a man of simple pleasures, indulged in a bowl of Fruity Pebbles on his 53rd birthday last November.)

Levi got he wanted for his 15th birthday July 7, too: Mom and Dad let him join Instagram. Which, mind you, was not a spur of the moment decision.


Gary Miller/WireImage

"We thought he was ready," McConaughey told People a couple months later. "After two to three years of talking about the pitfalls and the upfalls and the downfalls, and him shadowing me on my IGs and his mother on hers and picking out people that he looked up to and talking to them about it, we felt he's got enough information and is mature enough to tell his own story." 

The actor also knows the importance of having one's own space as a child, recalling the tree house that served as his refuge when he was a kid (and which inspired the one on the cover of his debut children's book, Just Because).

"Every child needs that," he told E! News in September. "Every child needs a journal or a diary that they can trust. 'Mom and Dad aren't going through that, that's mine, and [they're] not sharing everything with us.'"

This sort of ultra-thoughtfulness accompanies pretty much everything Mr. and Mrs. McConaughey do as parents. And they've been honest about all the one-day-at-a-time work that goes into their idyllic-looking existence (now evidenced by three Instagram accounts) behind the scenes.

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"The only thing I ever knew I wanted to be was to be a father in my life," McConaughey said on the Rich Roll podcast in 2020, reiterating his frequently repeated sentiment that being a father is his favorite job in the world. "And then I've also learned now, that OK, well, just because you helped make a child doesn't mean you did the work of a father. Fatherhood is a verb."

So consider him a devoted practitioner of fatherhooding.

What the actor has tried to offer as a dad is modeled on his own late father Jim's supportive tough love, with a modern twist—and minus the instability (on CNN he compared his thrice-married parents' relationship to "the Pacific Ocean in the middle of a hurricane") and occasional swat of corporal punishment he experienced as a lad.

Getty Images

"Camila and I are trying to teach our kids values," he said on Rich Roll, "but we do not say, 'because I said so,' as much as my parents did, or most of our parents did. We do try to explain things."

McConaughey described what was then a recent experience with Livingston talking back to his mother, and how he and Alves didn't stop trying to impress upon the kid why it wasn't OK until he truly got it.

"You kinda want to let it slide and just go to bed and let 'em go to sleep," he explained. But not wanting to allow a wound to fester, "we've got to gather up the energy and sit down with our son and go, 'Do you understand why that's not allowable? This is your mother. She works her butt off, we work our butt off to give y'all a house, to give you a meal, to raise you and nudge you to be the young man that you can be, and you have to have respect and what you just did was disrespectful. If you're disrespecting her, you're disrespecting yourself, and you do not have the right to talk to you mother like that.'"

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About an hour and a half later ("It's a very stubborn son that I was talking to"), he said, Livingston "finally understood it."

"Affluent people can give their kids everything they want, but they're not usually going to get what they need," he told Town & Country during a joint interview with Alves in 2020. "Loving a child is a lot harder if you really give a damn. 'No' takes a lot more energy. It's a lot easier to say 'yes.'"

Inside Matthew McConaughey's Full Family World as a Father of 3

That being said, when he and Alves were asked who told the kids "no" more, he admitted, "From the snicker that my wife's giving me, it seems that I'm more consistently the yes guy. She's probably right."

But overall, the couple—whose Just Keep Livin Foundation provides educational and extracurricular resources to high school kids, many of them living below the poverty line—are simply trying to raise children who will feel free to follow their purpose in life and be prepared to work hard for what they want.

Even having designated chores "just makes them feel good and feel more in charge, and it trickles down to all the other things that they have to do," Alves told E! News in 2020, noting that Levi took pride in preparing breakfast for himself and his siblings, while Livingston, then 8, was too young for stove privileges but could whip up a mean smoothie. In general, they and their sister were responsible for "basic things that any child should know how to do."

"Some days they go through it singing and dancing and having fun and they create games with it, like who can dry the dishes faster," Alves said. "And some days it's like, 'Do we really have to do this?' So it goes through waves but we try to keep it fun for them."

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And not every day is ripped from a Disney movie for Alves, either.

"Some days, I feel like I got it, and then some other days, I'm like, 'I don't know what I'm doing, I'm so lost,'" the Just One Bite author said on E!'s Daily Pop in April 2022. "As parents, as moms, you feel a lot of times, 'Well, I did it, so I can do it and I can continue doing it.'" But, sometimes, just pushing through isn't the sustainable path.

"It takes a moment for you to realize that, 'You know what? It's okay to ask for help,'" she noted. "It's okay."

Gary Miller/Getty Images

Yet so often she does totally have it.

McConaughey reminisced on Rich Roll how his missus uncannily knew when he needed his alone time—and that she preferred he take it rather than deal with his got-to-get-away energy.

When it came time to gather up his journals and go somewhere without WiFi (or electricity, for that matter, minus his generator) to write his memoir, Alves let him know it was OK for him to disconnect and do so.

"She's like, 'Don't come back till you got something. However long that takes. We're good, I got the kiddos here, go,'" he explained. "It was a gift she gave me."

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But when the COVID-19 pandemic touched down in 2020, that was an incomparable chance to reconnect.

The family of six—including McConaughey's mom, Kay, who celebrated her 91st birthday in January—hunkered down at home in Austin. By that May, as the actor admitted during a virtual fan event for the football team since renamed the Washington Commanders, he knew "a whole lot more about my house and my family than I did two months ago!" 

And despite his lone wolf tendencies, he was digging all that togetherness. 


"Our family unit's gotten tighter," McConaughey reflected to Parade in October 2020. "The McConaugheys have been cooking and reading and making it a point to check in with one another. Every couple of weeks, we have to recalibrate and let everyone voice their frustrations at the dinner table and go, 'Well, let's talk about what pisses everyone off. What's everyone not liking about this?'"

Everyone's favorite Lincoln spokesman also found that he had a built-in crew of three whenever he needed to make a video or take some work photos from the confines of home.


"It would be kind of cool if I looked up in five years and the McConaughey clan, my two sons and my daughter, are their own production entity and we're going to market and advertise, do ads and PSAs and make movies together," McConaughey said. "That would be really cool."

And in case that sounded like a father projecting, he further described his kids' creative inclinations to People at the time, saying Vida was into graphic novels and loved to paint and draw, while Levi "basically came out of the womb knowing a minor from a major key on the piano." Alves, meanwhile, showed off Livingston's video editing skills on her Instagram, the then-9-year-old's work stitching together highlights from an Austin FC game (Dad's a minority owner of the pro soccer team) as good as any grown-up's.

So what, really, was McConaughey to do but take inspiration and expand his own creative horizons by writing a book for families?


"Kids are being told by the world that they need to be absolute about something," he told E! about what he hopes children and parents get out of Just Because. "You know, 'What are you gonna do? What are you gonna be like?' 'Whoa, I'm a kid. Let me try some things out.' Or, you know, 'I'm excited about this, but I'm nervous and I'm confused, I feel both these things.'"

And, McConaughey continued, "That's cool. You can have dueling feelings. You can feel one way today about something and tomorrow feel a different way about the same situation. This starts to confuse us and confuse young people. It's saying 'Hey, that's okay. That's part of the poetry of living.' So there's a proper leniency in here I think will allow access for parents to talk to their kids and for kids to talk to their parents and say, 'Well, tell me about a situation you're in like that in your life, Mom, Dad'—and it opens the conversation to say, 'Hey, life's a lyric, it's poetry to live it.'"

As he wrote in Greenlights, "life is our résumé." And he'll keep acquiring experience—but, as a dad, he's already got the top job.

Read on to see Matthew McConaughey's sweetest family photos:

(Originally published March 4, 2023, at 3 a.m. PT)

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