Earlier this month, I covered Drew Barrymore’s InStyle cover in Celebrity Social Media, writing, “Drew Barrymore on the cover of InStyle – thoughts? Drew is a very familiar face and she has a very well-known story. We know who Drew is now, we know her arc, we know what she stands for. There’s no new information that could come out of this interview, which isn’t to say she’s not worthy or interesting but right now, does this feel like the cover for 2020? Does this feel relevant to the times we are living in right now? Do we need to hear her story one more time or is there room to tell someone else’s story? This is not a knock on Drew but on the platforms, like InStyle and editor Laura Brown, who uphold the Drews of the world as the center of every conversation.”
Now the interview has dropped and my initial lukewarm reaction to it hasn’t changed. It’s not that Drew is off-putting – she’s a warm person, someone you know is really trying. This cover is in service of her upcoming CBS talk show which has been in the works for a few years and will feature segments like Drew News and Droupons (like Drew Groupons); a lot of puns are dropped (they should have a guessing game segment called Drew’s Clues). She says she’s hoping for all kinds of guests, from celebs to authors to mail carriers to chefs to Steven Spielberg. This is a standard daytime TV formula, mixing human interest stories and giveaways, current events, and celebrities. The only part that piqued my interest is that Drew wants to go for a Mr. Rogers’ Neighorhood feel – that is definitely a vibe audiences might flock to right now (especially come fall, when the US election will be in full swing).
Drew isn’t being precious about her show and she isn’t claiming to reinvent the wheel, but there’s a lot of gushing over her. Laura Brown, InStyle’s editor-in-chief, is a gusher. A skilled interviewer can admire a subject and still get a fantastic story out of it (see: Simone Biles in Vogue or Viola Davis in Vanity Fair this month, or any Taffy Brodesser-Akner profile) but what we get here is a service piece mixed in with a lot of Drew-isms on how she’s imperfect and fun and a single mom and feeling all the feels. It’s the same interview we’ve gotten from Drew for years. And consistency is OK! But it feels very flat in this moment. No celebrity is obligated to speak up on civil rights or politics or anything they don’t want to talk about, but in this case it’s not Drew who’s shying away from it. The interview falters because Drew brings up the BLM protests as an overdue moment, so there’s a missed opportunity to ask her how she sees that fitting into her new talk show. For example, is her team working towards inclusivity on staff (ie: the writers room, hair and makeup, camera crew)? She owns a production company so she’s not just an on-camera personality, she is running the show. How does she see her herself in the bigger picture, how does she see herself as a boss in this moment?
This didn’t need to be a deep exploration of Drew’s psyche but it reads the same way it does when one celebrity interviews another: a little back-patty, a little boring, and not quite as badass as Laura is pumping it up to be. What does work much better than the print interview is the video, and that’s because Drew is so comfortable on camera. Even though we are all so sick of screens and dropping audio and looking into people’s houses, her expressiveness shines with even the most mundane answers. Child stardom sucks but damn if she didn’t learn her angles.