phoebe robinson poses with her curls out and denim outfit

Phoebe Robinson On Hobbies, Breakups, and Living Her Best Life No Matter What

Plus her go-to beauty products.

"Everything's trash": sometimes, this feels like the ultimate rallying cry for our times. We're all stressed out, everything is expensive, and the weather across the Northern Hemisphere is way hotter than it has any right to be. So it feels rather apt that Everything's Trash, a half-hour comedy series created by writer-podcaster-comedian Phoebe Robinson, is currently airing on Freeform following its July 13 premiere. Ironically, Robinson's new show is a perfect antidote to the outlook suggested by its somewhat glum name. Starring Robinson as a fictionalized version of herself, Everything's Trash centers on Phoebe, an aimless, thirtysomething-year-old New Yorker. After learning that her annoyingly perfect older brother is running for political office, she decides to get her life together. 

The show is based on and named after Robinson's 2018 essay collection, Everything's Trash, But It's Okay. In real life, though, the 2 Dope Queens creator and co-host's vibe is less dumpster fire and more woman on fire. In addition to the Freeform series, the multi-hyphenate has several projects in development through her production company, Tiny Reparations, and a publishing imprint of the same name through Penguin Random House. (Plus—as if all that weren't enough to keep her busy—she somehow still finds the time to keep a gratitude journal.) We spoke with Robinson about breakups, beauty, and Blackness on TV. Read more ahead.

phoebe robinson

Phoebe Robinson/Byrdie

Everything's Trash is based on your book, which is based on your personal experiences. How did the character of Phoebe become separate from that past version of you?

I think she's definitely messier than I've ever been. [laughs] Which is fun to play. Sometimes I don't know where one begins and ends, but I think there are some differences in terms of messiness. She's not the most responsible person, and I think I like to view myself as a pretty responsible person. Still, I think there are also similarities in confidence level, and the sense of humor is very much the same. With TV Phoebe, we wanted to show, "this is a different way that you can become an adult." It's sparked by her brother running for office, but it's about her discovering herself and what it means to be an adult in your early 30s. People pretend that once you turn 30, you figure your whole life out, so we want to be like: Well, no, not necessarily. You're still making mistakes; you're still understanding what you like and don't like and making up your mind. 

Especially now, growing up means something so different for our generation than it has for generations in the past. Even for those who sort of have it together, it still feels like you're constantly dropping some of the balls you're juggling, and I think it's cathartic to be able to see that.

Yeah. I also wanted to show TV Phoebe's trying to figure out her career, dating, and spending time with her friends. Phoebe's brother Jayden is very similar to my brother: married with kids, has a house, and everything. However, Jayden is also messy in his own way. One of the things that we wanted to celebrate is that adulthood looks different for people, and messiness can be different. Just because Jayden's married and is a parent doesn't mean he has everything figured out. He's still making mistakes; he's still trying to grow and learn as a person.

Also, just in terms of showing different parts of the Black experience—like, I'm sort of messy; Jayden's a blerdy person; Malika is a career woman who kind of does have her ish together but is jumbled in her own ways. We wanted to show that no one has it all 100 percent figured out, and that's okay, so try to live the best life you can.

There's a long legacy of messy characters growing up and figuring it out, but that's usually a luxury more afforded to white characters. With marginalized characters, everyone expects every representation to be perfect when what would be better is to be able to have representation that's imperfect in the way that people are. 

Absolutely. As opposed to representing the Black community or trying to be this perfect version of a woman, I just wanted to show a lovable, identifiable group of people with whom you could go on a journey. Even if you can't identify with all their choices, that's okay. Still, you want to fall in love with these characters, spend time with them, and see how they fix or don't fix their mistakes.

What is the messiest thing about you in your own life right now?

Ooh, the messiest thing about me right now! [Laughs] I broke up with my boyfriend while shooting the show. I'm fine, I'm not crying on the floor, but it's just like—when you're in a relationship with someone, you think it's going to go the distance, and then it doesn't. Then you have to make a between yourself and them because you want them to be happy, too, but you realize you're not going to make them happy the way they want. I was like, all right, I'm going to do that while I'm shooting a show. [Laughs] So that was pretty messy. But I like to think that every intense situation prepares you for the future, so I'm getting ready for whatever the universe throws my way.

Between the show and the breakup, what does your life look like right now? 

Every day looks a little bit different. Some days I'm reading a lot of manuscripts, and other days I'm writing or supervising stuff. Mentally, I was so terrified to go outside and interact with anyone. Now I'm like, okay, I think I gotta live my life more. So I'm seeing friends again in small groups of people over at my apartment, and I'll rent a karaoke machine, and we'll sing horribly. I've lived in New York for 20 years, and I feel like I'm coming out of this quarantining cocoon and seeing New York the way I did when I moved here for college. It feels like I'm re-falling in love with New York 20 years later, which is awesome.

What about your work life? You've got a lot going on between the show and the publishing imprint.

While things calm down, I'm getting ready for the next surge. Every day looks different when I don't have something structured, so I try to get a lot of reading done and be very attentive to the production company because we're always trying to develop projects. Right now, I have a couple of manuscripts from our slate [for Tiny Reparations Books]: Tourmaline just turned in her draft of her biography of Marsha P. Johnson, so I started reading that, which is exciting. We also have a book called Perish coming out in August. One of the things I love about the slate is that each book has its lane, and it's not overlapping on each other. The unifying theme across all the books is a strong voice with a lot of heart. 

We get a lot of slavery-themed books, and there's a place for that, but we also feel like we don't need to live in a state of traumacore. If you want to talk about more traumatic things that happen within a particular community, you can do that. It needs to feel as though you're not just a tourist through it and that you're trying to say something beyond looking at how sad something is. That's the thing that makes stuff resonate with people without feeling like you're just living in the muck in a depressing way.

Do you have a morning ritual? What is your beauty routine?

Because shooting the show was so intense, I started trying to meditate Monday through Friday first thing the morning. I started writing a gratitude journal. There's this Black-owned skin company called Buttah Skin, and I use their gentle cleanser ($15) because I have sensitive skin. I also use their toner ($19) and vitamin C serum ($39). Then I use La Mer's eye cream ($260) and moisturizer ($380). I have two go-to masks that I like to use; one is Mario Badescu Clay Mask ($18), and the other is Farmacy's Honey Mask ($60).

Wearing makeup breaks me out a lot, so I try not to wear it unless I'm working or on camera. But I feel like MAC always shuts it down with their lipsticks. I also like Glossier Boy Brow because I don't have full eyebrows—I have to draw them in and slick 'em down. I love Fenty Beauty, and I think all her stuff is great.

phoebe robinson

Phoebe Robinson/Byrdie

Do you have a go-to hair care routine?

Yeah, my hairstylist, Sabrina Rowe has a haircare line called NTRL by Sabs, so I use a combination of her stuff and Pattern Beauty. I swear by Sabrina's conditioner, which I use all the time. I also like Pattern Beauty's hair mask—it's perfect for my hair.

What other stuff do you do to take care of yourself?

I have a Peloton bike, so I'm living my Peloton best life. I have a little keyboard, so I'm trying to teach myself how to play the piano. As a reformed workaholic, if I enjoy something, it's very easy for me to monetize it or figure out how to loop it into my career, so I want to do things for the sake of it. I'm not trying to be the next Alicia Keys. I don't want an album or a record deal or anything. I want to be able to do something creative even though I'm not that great at it.

I think it's really valuable and healthy to do something you're not good at and enjoy it anyway. 

Yes, and I think that we're so conditioned societally to be like, well, if you're not going to master it, what's the point of doing it? And it's like, well, I want to do it because it makes me feel good, and sometimes there is no purpose other than joy. I want to spend some of my time feeling good to feel good. I want to have different hobbies. I tried to get into hiking—it's just not for me. [Laughs] You live in LA. Do you hike a decent amount or no?

"Hiking" is a strong word. I like to get outside, look at cool stuff, and not work that hard.

Yeah, that's my kind of hiking, too. I think I'm still in the discovery of just trying to do things just for fun, you know?

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