There came a scream from behind a makeshift wall. It was deep, raw, and went on for a little longer than is considered respectable when one is howling in front of one’s friends and colleagues. Drew Barrymore was really letting something out. The actor and talk show host had begun shooting for the summer issue of her magazine, Drew, which features her on its cover every issue, Oprah Magazine–style.
One of the reasons any normal person might be screaming that day, a Friday in February in midtown Manhattan, was the number of things that needed to get done. Barrymore was shooting not just that cover but another cover, plus photos for her upcoming (but still secret) product launch for her Beautiful brand at Walmart, among other product shots, mostly of kitchenware for that same line. On the other side of the makeshift wall, there was an imitation kitchen, and down the hall from that there was an imitation bathroom. Hang a left and there was an imitation living room. Photo sets all. Frenetically moving between them was an enormous crew as well as the reason they were all there, Barrymore, the model who was directing and analyzing and producing the entire time.
“I feel like a fly with, like, all those eyes, even on the sides and the back of their head,” Barrymore said, zeroing in on the task at hand, our conversation, after hopping up a couple times to grab some people from her team who may be helpful to talk to as well and adjusting the music so our chat wouldn’t get drowned out. “Sometimes I wanna shut it all off and have just two eyes. Two eyes are plenty. But in work mode or creating mode? Yes. A fly.”
Besides the daily duties of the syndicated Drew Barrymore Show, she has her magazine, Drew, which she puts together with the help of friend and editorial director Crystal Meers. The publisher a360media recently bumped up the issue count from thrice a year to quarterly. We can’t seem to get enough of Drew Barrymore, and whatever the actor, mother, talk show host, maker of things, and magazine editor puts out there.
Consider Barrymore’s recent output. She went viral in 2022 for crying when she found a window behind a wall while renovating her apartment, and again after she filmed herself dancing in the rain. On The Drew Barrymore Show, she often cries into laughs and back into tears. She shoots off wry zingers and does bits. She mines her past (and those of her numerous famous friends and former lovers) to create a show that is the kind of zany that makes kooky look wacky. I could watch Keanu Reeves apparently baffled by where he is and what he’s talking about a thousand times. She is all id, and so if she needs to scream, she’s going to just let it out. Just because.
Fly-mode engaged on the photo set, Barrymore cycled through outfits, changing in a semi-open space off in one corner with the alacrity of a movie montage. There was spring Drew in a long floral dress that would be perfectly at home at a baby shower or a wedding in June. Then a jeans-and-top combo that elicited domestic Drew. And finally a suit option the color of rust that gave business Drew. Each look got its moment in front of the camera, so it could be used in various contexts down the line—and, ever the producer, Barrymore evaluated each burst of photographs and made suggestions for their eventual landing place.
I sat down with business Drew for a brief moment between photo shoots. She and her team had orchestrated such a tight day of scheduling in a large, two-story loft space and then invited a writer to witness it, creating a kind of immersive performance piece on the world of modern celebrity. Like a kind of Sleep No More for the over-pop-cultured.
For the better half of our still-new century, we’ve required our most famous personalities to become, well, everything. To be everywhere. We need them to do their core art, the thing they initially became known for, be it acting or singing. And then they must expand into a side project—be it singing or acting or producing or writing—to show range. And then they have to tap their influencing potential on behalf of brands, so they can actually make some money. And then they have to vertically integrate their influential image into their own brands that then need to spider out into all sorts of productive product categories. And throughout all this, of course, they have to be a TikTok star with a robust Instagram or Twitter or YouTube account. Often, after a person does all of these things apparently required of modern personalities, the audience decides it’s too much! They’re everywhere! They’re cooked!
But Barrymore will never be cooked. Perhaps because she is raw by nature. Thanks in part to Barrymore’s long family history in Hollywood and her life as a wild child living in front of America and the world, there’s an impulse to look at her with wonder and say, We’re so glad you’re here. Barrymore herself said as much in the opener of season two of her show, when she took a film crew to the places in Los Angeles where she grew up—the small house where she lived with her mom and the apartment she lived in at 14, when she was emancipated from her mother and absentee father, John Barrymore. The segment ended at the psychiatric ward her mother put her in at 13.
“My life is so wonderful compared to what it was in this place,” she said, standing outside the institution. “I can’t even believe I actually get to be where I am now, ’cause when I was here, I didn’t see that. I thought I would be here forever. I never thought I was gonna make it to somewhere better, and I’m just so happy with my life.”
More than 30 years later, her fans, too, are just so happy with her life. I’m reminded of an Interview magazine cover from 1995 that read: “More! More! Drew Barrymore!” We still want more Barrymore, in whatever form it comes, because she herself is life-affirming, an absolute success story from a genre of child star that doesn’t always turn out well. We’re so glad she’s on camera almost every week expressing a fuller range of emotions than most get to in a lifetime. Even with Drew magazine, a “special interest” glossy already focused on her, an early directive was: more Drew.