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Drew Barrymore This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

Born into a famous family, Drew Barrymore was in the spotlight from the start. When she was seven she landed her first major role in “E.T.” As a young star, Drew struggled with drugs, alcohol, and depression but turned her life around and has since starred in many successful movies, including “The Wedding Singer” and “Never Been Kissed.” In her new film, “Whip It,” starring Ellen Page, Drew acts and directs this story of a misfit teen who finds her place on a roller derby team.

What is one thing you know now that you wish you had known as a teenager?

I wish I had known that I would actually survive heartbreak. Sometimes you think it's so bad that it will physically end you. But you make it through somehow – with the help of your friends – and those are the journeys that make you a good friend to someone else and give you wisdom.

But God knows, when I was young I thought heartbreak was the worst thing ever. I just thought I was going to die inside, and then I realized I'd had some really interesting relationships that helped form me along the way in life, and those heartaches actually made me stronger and better.

Taking risks is difficult for anyone, especially insecure teens. You seem to have taken many risks in your career. How do you find the courage, and what advice can you give teens to overcome our fears?

I think the essential thing is to know that everybody feels the same way. If you're in an office environment, or a high school, it's a confined world and there are pressures, and some people aren't as nice as others. You just have to stay on your own path and not get lost or be too worried about what others are thinking of you. If you try to define yourself through the acceptance of others, you may not get it. You really have to do it for yourself. You have to stick to your gut instincts and your creativity, your passion in life, and don't let other people deter you.

The pressure of what other people are thinking or doing can be very strong and completely sidetrack you. The important thing is to stay focused and true to yourself. That is the path to happiness and success, no matter what you choose to do in the world. Just stay on your path and trust yourself.

Do you have any advice for teens who use alcohol or drugs to avoid dealing with their emotions or the challenges in their lives?

I think as you get older you start to appreciate the word balance. I completely understand the desire to have fun, but it doesn't mean getting high is what's going to be the most fun in life. And you actually need to feel those feelings in order to come out on the other side and be stronger and wiser for it. It's like heartbreak, or a bad family situation, or an environment that isn't socially warm and accepting – you have to live through it and wear those badges with honor knowing that you really did get through it and became a stronger and more sensitive person. Obviously, partying is not going to lead you to the reward that earning that knowledge will bring.

If there is one thing that you could change about your life, what would it be and why?

I would make the paparazzi go away – they are the worst! But that's just my thing. You know, I'm sure someone in some office somewhere is like, “I wish my manager would just go take a flying leap.” Or “I wish that girl in my high school who makes fun of me all the time would move to another state.” I so understand that feeling and, really, it's the same.

When I was growing up, I loved the movies of John Hughes. He had a particular style of filmmaking where the problems that teenagers or kids were going through seemed the same as adults. They were never talked down to; they weren't belittled. Heartbreak and fear and acceptance and rejection and trying to figure out who you are and what you want to do in life and who you want to do it with – those are all really important when you're growing up.

So with “Whip It” I wanted to make a film about young people where the stakes and emotions and fun and risks and lessons are dealt with in a serious way. I think kids are smart and savvy, and when films are made about their problems and journeys, they should be treated as importantly as adults. That's the kind of film I related to when I was a kid.

In making “Whip It,” what was the hardest thing about being both an actor in front of the camera and a director behind the camera?

Actually, it was a complete help in relating to people. First of all, I could never sit on the sidelines; I'd have to get in there. And I didn't want to be the kind of director who said, “I know it's scary, but just go in there and do it.”

I wanted to learn the sport as well, understand the pain and fear that comes along with it. I wanted to be there to encourage and celebrate with everyone when they learned. And I learned from doing the “Charlie's Angels” movies that training camp gives you two things that are vital: an ability to get out there when you've learned all the stuff and you're excited to show it, you're passionate about it, and you're physically capable; and also the bonds of bruises and pain, overcoming challenges and finally jumping that thing on skates. You know, the bond that comes with that experience is what forms true friendships. And so that chemistry in the film is real. These girls really know each other and they've been through things together; it's not just actors walking on a set, shaking hands, and being like, “Okay, we're on a team.”

At the age of 14, you went back into rehab after a suicide attempt …

[Laughing] So, keeping things light … good.

… What would you say to teens who are suffering from depression or have suicidal tendencies?

I would just say to persevere and find people who are safe and honest and who will give you tough love and guide you through, because you really can't do everything on your own. You need love and support around you, and to believe that you will get past these hard times. You will overcome. Things will get better. Life is a series of ups and downs, and the good news is that when you're in a low, it will always go up again.

Life is not a free journey. There are a lot of lessons you have to learn along the way, but just appreciate the gift of it and find people who will be honest with you.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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This article has 2 comments. Post your own now!

lkosydar93 said...
Nov. 10, 2009 at 1:32 pm
MOLLLS!! this is amazing, love you girlie, miss you! :D
Teiralovessugar13 said...
Oct. 9, 2009 at 4:32 pm
I love Drew Barrymore!! She is soooooooo cool. She seems really innocent too!:)
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