One advantage Drew Barrymore has from living in the heart of the cultural consciousness for the past 35 years is that she has primo #TBT material. “When I was 6, my mom dressed me like a little 80-year-old woman,” Barrymore says, holding a stack of inspiration images on the set of her InStyle cover shoot. She lands on one from 1983 where she’s in a miniature black evening gown and pearls. “When I first unearthed this photo, I was like, ‘Are you kidding me? That’s my daughter Olive’s body 100 percent!’ ”
But it wasn’t only the trickle-down genetics and era-specific fashion that resonated. “None of those pictures were taken at home,” she says a few days later, sitting in the den of her Upper East Side apartment in N.Y.C. “Not like people would necessarily have pictures of me at home, but it’s almost like I never was at home. I was always out and about. That was the biggest takeaway for me.” She pauses and smiles. “And it’s funny because you’d have to take a crowbar and a spatula and a forklift to get me out of the house now.”
VIDEO: Watch Drew Barrymore Recreate Her Most Iconic Photos for Our February Issue
Barrymore’s apartment is equal measures Drew and her two daughters, Olive (5) and Frankie (3). Sandra Boynton books are stacked on Rizzoli monographs; Dr. Seuss mingles with Joan Didion. It’s cozy and personal—and has a super impressive craft closet. It’s easy to see why the trio who inhabit the space would never want to leave. Tonight the family has just finished decorating two Christmas trees to a holiday playlist of Elvis Presley, Mariah Carey, and Bing Crosby classics. Miracle on 34th Street is on TV, soundless, in the background.
At 43, Barrymore is still finding room to explore. Outside of acting, which she still loves (her Netflix show, Santa Clarita Diet, returns for a second season this year), and producing (her company, Flower Films, has both TV shows and films in the works), the star also boasts Barrymore Wines by Carmel Road, the cosmetics line Flower Beauty, and Dear Drew, a clothing collection launched this fall with Amazon Fashion.
“I kept feeling this burning desire to build an apparel brand for women by women, to explore something romantic,” she says. “I took it back to my love of tailoring and having been in a costume house my whole life.” The cuts and silhouettes match Barrymore’s personal aesthetic. “I have a body type that I tend to cover up,” she says. “So it’s nothing tight, not big and boxy, more of a fluid drape that feels like the ’20s, ’40s, and ’70s. Not utterly casual but efforted in its effortlessness.
“I’m very conscious about the way people feel,” Barrymore says of how she looks at her growing empire. “When I was making movies, I just didn’t want to tell a depressing story; I wanted to tell one about some type of self-improvement. I thought, ‘There’s enough shit in life. I want optimism and joy.’ At the same time, I don’t like magic-wand happy endings—and now I don’t like magic-wand makeup or magic-wand clothes.”
It makes sense that Barrymore is skeptical of instant fixes—she’s always been the kind of person who puts the work in. She started collecting her first paychecks as a toddler and was legally emancipated at 14. “From a young age I was overly passionate and thought everything lived and died in a professional atmosphere because, back then, it was really all I had,” she says. “I didn’t have a family. I’ve been working as long as I can remember.”
So she’s driven and ambitious—and definitely doesn’t mince words. “When people say, ‘Be present,’ I want to punch them in the fucking face,” she says, sitting back into the couch. “I just get murderous.” She laughs and sits forward. “I think I find the advice ‘Just put one foot in front of the other’ far wiser. There’s a simplicity to that—a motion and an action.”
Barrymore likens her sporadic seething rage to that of the character Tracy Flick in Election, “mania music and all.” Her kids can sense the situations in which the mania music is playing in their mom’s head. They call it “face ripper” mode. “My kids know I get a gleam in my eye when I feel like I’m being messed with,” she says. “It makes them laugh.”
At the same time, she notes, if she felt as if she’d been cold or dismissive to someone, she would be wrecked for days afterward: “It is so much cheaper, faster, and more fulfilling to just be nice.
“Do you see the extremes now?” she asks me with a smile. “God or the devil, face ripper or ‘Take the shirt off my back,’ I definitely have a ferociousness. And I’ve always had it. I completely rebel against authority. Scrappy. I am very fucking scrappy.”
Throughout our talk Barrymore repeatedly gets up to let her dog, Douglas, enter and exit the den. He can’t decide whether he wants to be with us or with the girls, who are finishing dinner and taking baths before bedtime.
And while Barrymore is excited to talk about her work, it’s also clear she can’t wait to scoop up each of her daughters after we finish talking. (And she does. She sees me out with a towel-swathed Frankie in her arms, who bids me farewell by saying, “I’m a burrito.”)
Truly, there’s nothing that compares, she says, to the joy of reuniting with her kids after a long day. “Today I picked Frankie up at the playground, and she let her cheek rest against my lips for a really long time. So I just hummed a song and didn’t really move so as to not break the moment,” she says. “And, oh my god…” Her eyes go wide as she thinks about the scene she just described. “I think I was actually being present today! But nobody was telling me to be, so I guess it’s OK. My girls make me stop—stop thinking and rushing and needing to do ... They make the whole world totally stand still. They are the love I’ve always wanted to know.”
Love is something people associate with Barrymore—and not just because hearts and flowers are part of her brand. She has been married three times, most recently to art consultant Will Kopelman, the girls’ father. (The couple divorced in 2016.) Pondering what she’d tell a younger Drew about love, she thinks and says, “Well, the jury’s out.
“I really don’t know the answer at this moment in my life. And I don’t mean that in a depressing, cynical way. It’s more clean-slate, anything’s possible. I’ve never approached love in a ‘new possibilities’ way with children.” In the past, Barrymore says, she was in love with love. But now, with her two daughters so clearly at the center of her universe, her needs have changed.
“My daughters are so fulfilling that I feel like my cup is just avalanching over. If love took on a physical analogy form, I’d be an overstuffed turkey or a piñata. So I’m not really hungry for it at this moment. I don’t think I would have ever known that I could be this content, this whole, without being in a romantic relationship. That would have been a surprise to my younger self.”
If she knew then what she knows now ... As the credits roll on Miracle on 34th Street, Barrymore completes the sentence: “Well, I wouldn’t have listened. I’ve grown and changed and evolved throughout the years, but I’m not, in spirit, that different from the kid in the pictures wearing giant poufy dresses. I just had a lot of rebellion that had to calm down. But it did.”
Photographer: Anthony Maule. Fashion editor: Catherine Newell-Hanson. Hair: Marki Shkreli. Makeup: Fulvia Farolfi. Manicure: Casey Herman.
For more stories like this, pick up the February issue of InStyle, available on newsstands and for digital download January 5