Drew Barrymore brings her legend with her everywhere. But it’s one she wears with grace. Given her infamous Hollywood childhood, Barrymore could have become, with a few more steps in the wrong direction, another cautionary tale. But she didn’t, instead growing up and decisively creating not only her own work — moving from in front of the camera to behind it — but her own world. That said, Barrymore is not insular, removed, or overcautious. If you follow her on Instagram, you will remember jolly videos of her exiting the New York City subway praising Mondays, of all things. Barrymore’s famed optimism remains undimmed (there should be a daisy named after her by now), but these days it’s grounded in a much richer pragmatism. At 45, Barrymore is the mother of two daughters, Olive,7, and Frankie, 6. She runs six businesses: Flower Films, Beauty, Home, Eyewear, Kids, and Hair. While she has a carefree image, she is a confident and detail-oriented decision-maker (having shot eight covers with her over the years, I can attest to that). When Barrymore commits to something, she gives it her all. This fall, she will embark on her next creative adventure, The Drew Barrymore Show, a syndicated daytime show distributed by CBS (check your local listings).
LAURA BROWN: Drew, what I think is badass about you is that you’ve always been yourself: curious, empathetic, and positive. But what does “badass” mean to you?
DREW BARRYMORE: I don’t really know what it means to be a badass — and I’m OK with that. We live in an era when people want to be more than one thing. If you apply yourself and work hard, that’s where the badassery comes in. I also love to see the word “badass” in a joyful context, like on this cover with a smile, a peace sign, and a shirt that says, “Good news.” That makes me feel like I’m on the right path. There’s this quote I love that Nancy Juvonen—my business partner of 25 years and the love of my life other than my daughters — taught me: “Insecurity is loud; confidence is quiet.”
LB: I’m writing that one down.
DB: Also, don't just say you're something — be something. Be a listener, be quiet, and do your thing. When we were making Charlie's Angels , somehow rumors started that it was going to be shit and suck badly. Nancy said something I'll never forget: "If we do our jobs well, then that will be what we make." You can't be fueled by negativity. That's why, to me, what's happening now in the world does not feel negative; it feels overdue. People will have different opinions about how to proceed, and based on history, there is nothing everyone in the world will agree on. But it seems like there is a collective consciousness right now — an American and global awakening. And I am a student. I'll be learning until the end of time.
LB: You're really unselfconscious about the way you project yourself on social media. Instead of posing in a picture, you're on the subway saying, "Thank God it's Monday."
DB: Yes! Mondays have been so crapped on. But for me, it's not the start of a long week or this mammoth thing that's blue and terrible. I've been festering all weekend, working myself into a lather. Everyone is back to work on Monday. Get it done, son!
LB: Has there been another moment where you felt real ownership of how you communicate?
DB: Yes. Social media gives everyone a platform, but growing up in Hollywood, I hated soapboxes. So, first, I was like, "I don't want to give messages that way, and I'm not sure I want to post a lot, period." There was no social media when I was younger, but everything was very much out there about me. That was a great training ground — it wasn't necessarily my choice, but it was best not to kick and scream about it. I was in a job where it was fair game for my behavior to make headlines, and I never had bitterness or a chip on my shoulder about the way my life went. I moved out when I was 14, and then there was a 20-year period where I was very quiet. I went away, got my life together, took care of myself. And I got to enjoy the '90s, which was hella fun. There was a nice middle in the sandwich that was delicious and completely untapped. You didn't know everything about everyone — there wasn't the technology for it. Then you get into the 2000s with Y2K and everything becoming botlike. Who would've thought that someone would create something that's in literally every person's hand? I mean, that wasn't in George Orwell's book , but it might as well have been.
LB: It's so much to navigate. But tell me, in your life, what has given you the most pride?
DB: Obviously, I'm most proud of my two daughters. Nothing in my life's journey was like, "It's gonna happen for you." And having kids was not something I wanted to get wrong. So I waited a long time.
LB: On the big things, you've been quite deliberate.
DB: I'm proud to be a little naughty, a little imperfect, a little scared, a little human. I still think comedy is such an antidote to the bad things in life. When things are so important and high-stakes, such as this time in the world, you wonder how to find your voice. I write and speak as if no one is reading or listening. That doesn't mean I don't care what people think; I am a human welcome mat. Upsetting someone is the last thing on earth I'd want to do, but we should all be nicer to ourselves. Humility and perspective are vital. I got some interesting examples of exactly what not to do growing up, but I was lucky enough to follow people who knew exactly what to do. So even though I'm embarrassed when I crash and burn or lose my way, I always get back on.
LB: What are you saying to your girls during this moment?
DB: I don't watch the news in front of them because I worry about the images. But I also do not believe in bringing them up in any type of bubble. We all marched in the Women's March. I was speaking to a wonderful educator, Britt Hawthorne, and she said if you're talking to your kids about George Floyd, talk about how this has affected the world. It's not to flower things up in an unrealistic way but to focus on the outcome of something.
LB: They're young, but do you think they're feeling this global mood? Do they ask a lot of questions?
DB: Frankie was already out of school when it happened, but Olive's school always puts everything on the table without telling the parents first. So as you're grappling with how to talk to your kids about something, they walk in and say, "We just got told everything." They're very aware, and we're reading a lot of books and discussing it. Olive's teacher said, "When you're sitting around the dinner table, you should talk about it." But I'm a single mom — we eat around the tiny kitchen island, usually watching a cartoon and chitchatting. I was like, "Oh my god, when you're sitting down for a family dinner?" Me and Norman Rockwell. [laughs]
LB: In 1958. When you serve the casserole! Now let's discuss your new talk show, which has a segment called "Drew's News." It's such a great name. Never underestimate the power of a rhyme.
DB: It turns out my name puns with a lot of things. We have "Drew Got Mail" because I love snail mail. We want to call Groupon and see if they'll do “Drewpon.” You could say “dharmony” instead of eharmony. It's endless! I'm such a news and pop-culture junkie, but sometimes things are just conveyed very negatively. There is a way to look at life that is aware and current but also diverse.
LB: When did you decide this would be your next step?
DB: Someone asked me to do a show a few years ago, but it didn't work out. It came up again in the past year, and this opportunity just seemed right. Gentle television is really important to me — shows with a life-affirming approach, like Carol Burnett or Mister Rogers, that are playful and optimistic but still full of dignity and respect.
LB: Are you doing a monologue?
DB: We are planning to start with the news. I wanted to come in through doors because that felt very Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. We decided to have the doors open outward — that's [the energy] we want to convey.
LB: Obviously, we're not sure when life will return to normal given COVID-19, but what is the production time frame? And who would you like to feature?
DB: Yes, it's being pushed back, and we're taking our time to figure out plans A, B, and C. There are two gentlemen who work as security guards in the CBS building, and I talk to them all the time. I'll definitely ask them to come on the show. Steven Spielberg, because he is so important to me. If you think about a life lived, he transcends anything Hollywood. He has put incredible things into the world and is true to himself. I'd love to talk to Stephen King too. His stories have completely different tones, and I admire people who have range. Jennifer Aniston, because, oh my god, I love her! And I'd also love to have Britt Hawthorne and [Black Lives Matter co-founder] Opal [Tometi], as well as chefs and designers and people who work in the U.S. Postal Service. I like human-interest stories that highlight wonderful and funny things that people are doing out in the world. It doesn't all have to be "optimistic, positive!" Just things that are functioning in the world.
LB: The mere act of functioning is so underrated right now.
DB: There's a famous quote [typically attributed to Abraham Lincoln] that I have often thought about turning into a neon sign or tattooing on myself: "When I do good, I feel good. When I do bad, I feel bad. That is my religion." I so believe in that.
LB: How are you taking care of yourself personally?
DB: I eat really clean and healthy, and I do an hour of Pilates at least four days a week. I have to work so hard at not being the size of a bus. And it's OK. That is just my journey. That is my karma. I don't know, maybe I was thin and mean in a past life. Other than that, between homeschooling and working, I felt very overwhelmed at first — and I hate feeling overwhelmed. It was weird to be a mom and a teacher and a provider and a friend. I felt sad for a while that I was all I could offer my children. Then I realized that I had to get out from under it. I have so much empathy and patience for everyone but myself, it's sick. [laughs]
LB: Just get through the day.
DB: In these times you can just start to feel bad about yourself. I began to self-doubt and beat myself up. Then I was like, "This is temporary." I tell my kids that too. It's not normal; it's the new normal. It's a learning curve, and, hopefully, this is all happening for a reason. Timing is everything — and this is not a time to get lost; it is a time to be found.
Photographed by Drew Barrymore. Styled by Julia Von Boehm.
For more stories like this, pick up the August issue of InStyle, available on newsstands, on Amazon, and for digital download July 17.