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Drew Barrymore; surviving the fast lane

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Child star Drew Barrymore grew up too fast. At last, the real person has emerged from that tarnished cocoon.

It’s no secret that Hollywood can be a fickle place. One minute they love you, the next they don’t. But Drew Barrymore has a rare kind of staying power. Her 15 minutes of fame has lasted almost 45 years and although her motivation has changed, her star shows no sign of diminishing anytime soon.

Hers is a story of resilience and redemption; of emerging against all odds to live an authentic, balanced and positive life. 

But the obstacles came early and often for the young starlet.

Depending on how you look at it, fame was either in Drew Barrymore’s destiny or in her DNA. Or maybe both.

Born to actor father and major Hollywood player John Barrymore, and lesser known actress mother Jaid Barrymore, Drew was literally acting before she could walk, securing her first role at only 11 months old when she appeared in a commercial for dog food.

The camera instantly fell in love with her. Followed soon by audiences around the world. 

At the ripe age of seven, she captured the attention of filmmaker Stephen Spielberg (incidentally her actual godfather) who cast her in a film that would capture the imagination of a generation. The release of E.T: The Extra-Terrestrial in 1982 thrust Barrymore into the Hollywood elite. 

But life under the microscope wasn’t easy. Her burgeoning career and unstable homelife reads like a playbook for cautionary tales: 

Child is born into Hollywood spotlight. Child celebrates her stardom in Hollywood blockbuster by pouring Bailey’s over her ice cream (just because she can). Child becomes teenager who drinks heavily and becomes addicted to cocaine. Child is hospitalized for cutting her wrists. Finally, child legally divorces her parents. All before her fifteenth birthday.

Even Hollywood filmmakers would think the script too absurd to be made into a movie. Who would believe it?

Her notoriously reckless and indulgent childhood, including hitting Hollywood hotspots with her father, was chronicled by a teenage Barrymore in her autobiography Little Girl Lost. She describes the ease with which she purchased drugs as a 12-year-old girl as “so far beyond sordid it’s unimaginable” and her “settling” for a rose tattoo when she wanted daisies as “a fiasco.”

Not surprisingly, the “fiasco” that was her entire childhood took its toll on her fledgling movie career. She was a 16-year-old washed-up and out-of-work actress; just another child actor, chewed up and spit out by the same business that created her. 

But unless you’ve been living under a rock the last two decades (or not born yet), you know that the tumultuous start was just the tip of the iceberg that would become her illustrious career, where reinvention was more of a revelation of her authentic self. And that authenticity is what she has become synonymous with.

She does not regret her past. She owns it and credits it with helping her get where she is today.

“If you are going to go through hell, I suggest you come back learning something,” she says.

The journey from Hollywood “bad girl” to Hollywood “sweetheart” is not one that just everyone can trudge. And the journey has certainly come with more than a few obstacles. A sex-crazed and outrageous late teenage persona, several failed marriages (let us not forget the offbeat Canadian Tom Green) and hiccups at the box office humbled but didn’t destroy her.

“I’m not insecure,” she says. “I’ve been through way too much f**king sh*t to be insecure. I’ve got huge balls. But I’ve been humbled. That makes you grateful for every day you have.”

During the last decade, she has matured into a multi-talented actress, producer and, most recently, director. She has shaken free from the shadow of her family name to establish herself in her own right as a force to be reckoned with.

You can read more on Drew Barrymore in the latest edition of Optimyz on store shelves across Canada until early January.

“Being a Barrymore didn’t help me other than giving me a great sense of pride and a strange spiritual sense that I felt OK about having the passion to act,” she says. “It made sense because my whole family had done it and it helped rationalise it for me.”

The passage of time can act like a lens, adding clarity and perspective. And Barrymore chooses to add a sunny filter to her lens. A pop of colour that has always defined her.

“The way things have gone in my life, sure, I could have been a bitter person,” she says. “But I just find bitter people really un-fun, you know? And who wanted to be that person? Everyone is like a butterfly, they start out ugly and awkward and then morph into beautiful, graceful butterflies that everyone loves.”

Her latest role is that of daytime talk show host. And she will rely on every inch of her experience – both positive and negative – to help her relate to both her guests and audience. She wants to bring something real and different to television. And with the resilience that she has exhibited throughout her career, it would take a brave person to bet against her.

More Inspiration: Check out this cool article on how to sext seductively!

Author: Julie Lawrence is the assistant editor for HUM@Nmedia, the parent brand for Optimyz and Silver Magazines. She is a graduate of the King’s School of Journalism and holds a degree in public relations from Mount Saint Vincent University.


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