Drew Barrymore, wearing  a bright yellow blouse and a grey pencil skirt, poses at The Empire State B...
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Drew Barrymore Spent Her Pandemic Helping Things Grow

“I thought I was a nature hippie girl ... but this feels like a whole new chapter for me.”

When she saw snow covering her flower beds earlier this spring, Drew Barrymore had to snap a photo for posterity. “I thought, Definitely get this picture because when it's blooming again, you'll want to remember this moment,” she told Romper by phone. The talk-show host and entrepreneur sees it as a fitting metaphor for her personal pandemic year, which, in spite of the challenges, has been synonymous with growing things. In addition to her newfound love of gardening (the flowerbeds are a COVID-era addition to her New York home), Barrymore has raised baby chicks, launched The Drew Barrymore Show and a synonymous magazine, and managed the educational growth of her homebound daughters, Olive, 8, and Frankie, 6.

Barrymore describes herself as a “hippie,” “Bohemian,” and “optimist” but she doesn’t have to: You get all that within minutes of talking to her; a sort of dreamy-but-energized vibe pervades our conversation, especially when she talks about the pandemic enabling her to return to, and deepening her love of, nature. Growing a garden, she says, is something she always wanted to do but just never got around to doing. “That’s what happens when you take a bunch of stuff of life off the table,” she says. “I’ve never been that person. I never thought I could be that person! But I just needed to start putting it into practice and seeing what was doable.”

“Little insect casings and kelp and molasses! Cool!”

It’s a good fit with another new venture, her partnership with Instead, a natural lawn care system. Instead seasonally delivers fertilizers that are tailored to your lawn and promises to promote healthy growth without synthetic chemicals. Barrymore says she fell “madly in love” with the company’s emphasis on natural ingredients and environmental stewardship, both things she prioritizes in her own life as well as when choosing brands to partner with. “[It’s] all ingredients that you can read and you're thoughtful about!” she says. “Little insect casings and kelp and molasses! Cool!”

She proudly shares that she’s done all her own lawn plantings this year. She’s even gotten Olive and Frankie in on helping little things grow sometimes. “I wish they would spend all day out there with me,” she says. “But even if they do it in little spurts … it's been a really nice learning curve for me, and for them to see that — and know that's available to them now — is a huge change.”

And now that Barrymore sees what’s doable, it’s opened the doors for her to dream bigger. “I thought I was a nature hippie girl, and I was,” she says. “But this feels like a whole new chapter for me.” She wonders: How can we do what Instead is doing for personal lawns at an industrial scale? How can we use good environmental practices to radically change farming and food production? She’s not daunted by the enormity of the task: The stakes are too high. “I just wish I had this wakeup call decades ago,” she says. “I wish that a lot of us have had this wake up call decades ago. But I’m so glad that I’m here now.”

That’s not to say that even the ebullient Barrymore isn’t occasionally discouraged. The last year has been difficult. Though she is quick to point out that she is aware she has a “ridiculously wonderful life,” like countless other parents with children suddenly home 24/7, it’s been hard, especially remote learning. “I’m without words on the complexities of homeschool,” she stammers.

Launching a talk show in the midst of a pandemic was no walk in the park either. Industry speculators suggested its unsustainability early on, from lower-than-hoped-for ratings to the idea that maybe Barrymore was too famous to be successful. But numbers buoyed; earlier this month, it was announced that CBS renewed the show for a second season, and she’s thrilled. “I really love this job,” she says. “I’m a beyond curious person who loves to cultivate and research and this is the perfect job for that.”

There’s a lot to look forward to. Barrymore loves spring (“and summer and fall”), and she can’t wait to see things start to come back to life, literally (her gardens) and metaphorically (the light at the end of the pandemic tunnel). “It was really nice to parallel this last year with nature,” she muses. “Because nature has to hibernate to have a rebirth.”