As I walk into my interview with Busy Philipps in Manhattan’s Ludlow Studio, I admittedly begin to feel a little creepy — kind of like when you finally meet a person IRL after regularly stalking them on Instagram for months. Okay, exactly like that.
I’m a devoted follower of the actress’s Instagram — specifically, her Instagram stories. So even though I don’t know her, I know a lot about her life. I know that she spontaneously went to a Chance the Rapper concert the night before our meeting and had a really great time. I know that she’s currently super into cinnamon gummy bears. I even know that she’s currently feeling a little self-conscious about three zits on her upper lip.
While celeb video diaries are generally an envy-inducing affair, filled with luxury cars and exclusive parties, Philipps takes a vastly different approach. Most of her stories show her sprawled out on her bed, casually playing with her hair while she talks to the camera. “You guys…” she begins. Then, she’ll jump into a story about what happened with her two daughters Birdie and Cricket that day, what’s she’s watching on TV (probably Friends reruns), or how she made dinner for the fam in a red carpet gown because she couldn’t be bothered to change.
The 20-second videos feel more like DMs from one of your closest girlfriends than a glimpse into the life of a veteran Hollywood actress. “I get a lot of people who come up to me in-person and say that they feel like they really know me,” she tells me. “They’ll say, ‘You don’t know this, but we’re best friends.'”
Philipps is adamant that she didn’t consciously set out to become big on Instagram. But after repeatedly finding herself alone in her bedroom at the end of the night with feelings and thoughts she wanted to share, she tried it out.
“It really was born very organically in that I felt like I had some things that I wanted to say and I didn’t know who to say them to,” Philipps says.
“[The response has been] very flattering and cool and nice and, you know, I think that it’s allowed me the freedom to kind of show a lot of different facets of who I am. We all just want to be seen, you know what I mean? Whether you’re an actress in Hollywood or a mom in the Midwest. Everyone just wants to be heard. For me, that’s been a lifelong struggle and something that the Instagram stories have fulfilled.”
The 38-year-old actress initially rose to fame as the quick-witted and endlessly snarky Kim Kelly on Judd Apatow’s early ’00s sitcom Freaks and Geeks. Since then, she’s gone on to star alongside Courteney Cox in sitcoms like Cougartown and, most recently, can be seen in the upcoming revival of HBO’s Vice Principals. She’s also currently filming the upcoming comedy I Feel Pretty with her bestie Michelle Williams and the coveted Amy Schumer.
“We all just want to be seen, you know what I mean? Whether you’re an actress in Hollywood or a mom in the Midwest. Everyone just wants to be heard.”
But even after almost 20 years in the entertainment business, finding acting work in Hollywood still isn’t necessarily an effortless task for Philipps. That’s something she’s been super honest about with her following and part of the reason she turned to Instagram in the first place. Earlier this year, one of her IG confessions went viral after she admitted she made more money in 2016 through brand sponsorships than she did through acting jobs.
“I’m not above it, guys,” Philipps says in the clip. “I just only choose things that I genuinely like and, like, would want to partner with. Like, for instance, my Michaels partnership, which, you know, is my favorite thing of all time […] that feels like me.”
As far as brand partnerships go, Philipps is kind of killing it. Her ongoing campaign with craft store Micheals has turned into a massive production, even featuring guests like Snoop Dog and Rob Lowe. Most recently, she’s teamed up with LG to promote their new TWINWash with SideKick. She stars in a video series with the technology brand in which she takes a comedic look at the reality of life as a modern mom.
When I ask her about her thoughts on the product (which allows you to do small loads alongside larger ones), she tells me, “My home is very important to me. It’s my little shell. When things get too out of control it starts to impact my brain, so this appliance is a really cool kind of life hack. It embraces this idea that life can be messy, but life is good.”
“It’s very on-brand for me,” she adds with a smile.
She’s found success in this 2017 realm of celebrity, but it’s that repeated transparency about her struggles in the acting world that have really struck a chord with her audience. After she filmed a pilot for a series that wasn’t picked up, Philipps spoke candidly to her followers on her IG story, admitting how hard it is to be in an industry where your career relies heavily on other people deciding whether or not you’re good enough to do what you want to do. It’s an issue women in Hollywood have been outspoken about over recent years, but it’s also one that anyone fighting an uphill battle in the workplace can relate to.
Her openness to having hard conversations like this has put Philipps alongside a handful of other prominent businesswomen who’ve become highly regarded for talking openly about failure, insecurities, anxiety, and depression on social media.
There’s Jen Gotch, the founder of the mega-millennial brand Ban.do, who typically posts multiple times a day with a rating of how she’s feeling. As the caption to a recent selfie, Gotch writes, “3.2 today. The thing with depression is that you often can’t see it coming […] I had a hard, emotional week last week. I’m strong and resilient and I’ve survived many emotional weeks unscathed, so I wasn’t expecting this but here it is.”
Then there’s also acclaimed writer Kelly Oxford. In October of last year, Oxford started the viral hashtag #NotOkay after she asked women to tweet out their experience with sexual assault. Fourteen hours after sending out the request she was receiving up to 50 new submissions per minute.
Gotch, Oxford, and Philipps aren’t just relatable Instagram pioneers though; they’re also all really good friends. “Kelly Oxford I met through social media,” Philipps says. “She reached out [on Twitter] and said ‘I know this is so strange, but we follow each other on Twitter. My daughter is turning four, we have no friends in LA yet. Do you guys want to come over for a birthday party for Bee [Oxford’s daughter]?’ It was just really sweet. That’s how we initially met, and then our girls really hit it off and we became mom friends.”
Is there some kind of connection between this friendship trio and the fact that they’re all passionate about maintaining an ultra-transparent social media presence? A promise over cocktails to share super real wisdom with the next generation? Not exactly. But Philipps doesn’t think their friendship is a total coincidence.
“I think that one of the things that people respond to is our openness and our availability to show that we are imperfect and things aren’t always easy for us. At the same time, there’s another factor involved, which — not to sound like I’m tooting my own horn — but, we’re all good at what we do. Jen is a really exceptional businesswoman who had a vision for a brand and has made it huge. Kelly’s an incredibly talented writer and author, who has a very unique voice, and I’ve been working as an actress in this industry since I was 19 years old.”
It’s clear that female friendships are important to Philipps. “I count on my girlfriends for a lot of support in terms of my career, but also just life and trying to be a good human.” And while Oxford and Gotch are newer friends, Oscar-nominated actress Michelle Williams has been Philipps ultimate bestie for nearly 16 years now.
Philipps and Williams first met on the set of Dawson’s Creek in 2001. Since then they’ve formed a friendship the internet can’t stop swooning over. Philipps is the godmother to Williams’ daughter Matilda, ran to her side after Heath Ledger’s untimely passing in 2008, and is regularly Williams’ date to major red carpet events like the Oscars and the Golden Globes.
“Our best friends moment was almost immediate,” she recalls. “It was like one of those love at first sight type situations. We met at a convenience store in Wilmington [North Carolina]. We really just immediately knew we were going to be friends, and then the next two years of the show we were very tight — almost inseparable. We’ve been through a lot together these last many, many years.”
When Philipps isn’t working, she’s doing her best to be a present parent to her two young daughters, Birdie (nine) and Cricket (four) alongside her husband, screenwriter Marc Silverstein. Maintaining a career while also raising kids is famously difficult, but Philipps feels strongly about her kids growing up with a working mom.
“It’s important for your kids to be able to see you happy and fulfilled by something that interests you, ” she says. “It shows them there is a world outside themselves.”
Still, she’s far from a Pinterest-perfect mom. In fact, that’s basically the entire premise of her current campaign with LG. On the day of our interview, she tells a story about a time when she completely forgot it was school picture day. Her daughter showed up in the wrong outfit and Philipps had to frantically run to Target to find her something else to wear.
When I ask Philipps to recall a moment when she actually felt like she totally nailed the whole parenting thing, she pauses. Then, her face brightens up when she says, “I kind of nailed the ‘Where did I come from?’ talk with Birdie. I really researched it and was very prepared and really chill about it, and I feel like I did a really good job. She didn’t understand why she had her dad’s DNA in her if I was the one who grew her and gave birth to her. I was like, ‘Um, that is a very good question. Let me get back to you on that part.’”
In a nutshell, that’s exactly why the internet has fallen back in love Philipps this year — and why she feels like the best friend we’ve never actually met. Because she’s still figuring it out and she’s not pretending otherwise. So, the next time you wake up with a massive breakout, feel like you’re gloriously floundering at the business of motherhood, or you can’t shake that craving for boxed mac ‘n’ cheese, remember that Busy Philipps is right there with you.
Which celeb do you love for being super real? Share with us on Twitter @BritandCo.
(Photos via Getty, Illustration via Sarah Tate)