Extended Stay (2020) By Megan Gabrielle Harris: Courtesy of the artist and Debuck Gallery
When Freeform green-lighted my half-hour comedy Everything’s Trash, which is inspired by my life as a formerly broke thirtysomething cocoa Khalessi trying to make it in NYC, I was overjoyed, floating even, like when Sex and the City’s Carrie Bradshaw skips while crossing the street for no reason. Imagining myself on set skip-walking to wardrobe to slap on some nipple covers? Don’t mind if I do. Skip-walking to craft services to eat Cheez-Its even though I’m lactose intolerant? To be expected. Skip-walking to the wrap party once shooting is over and dancing and partying with the cast and crew? Duh! Never mind that a bitch (I’m said bitch) can barely walk after balancing precariously on what essentially amounts to toothpicks for 13 hours a day, five days a week for months? I’m a fool! But I also have to admit that my mind was full of fantasies about what getting myself “Hollywood-ready” as a mere “normal” would entail.
Before I go on, let me introduce myself. My name is Phoebe Robinson. I’m from Cleveland, Ohio; am a New York Times best-selling author/comedian/actress; and avail to be Jason Momoa’s scrunchie holder/lover…stay on task, Pheebs. The TV show. Yes. The TV show. Whenever I mention it, folx ask how I got myself camera-ready, because the process seems shrouded in mystery. But honestly, it’s straightforward. Like, have you ever woken up at an ungodly hour so you could exercise in the hopes of your body turning into JLo’s, only for it to resemble that of a contestant on MTV’s Real World/Road Rules Challenge who just had two weeks’ notice that they were going to do some rope climbs and barrel rolls? Then you know how to get Hollywood-ready, my friend.
Television, hell, life is image-based. We want to look great to secure the job, win the lover, get out of trouble—and because this industry encourages women to transform themselves into a lewk du jour by fasting, overexercising, and getting plastic surgery, the pressure was on. Sorta. Being a type A queen, I strove to get Hollywood-ready more on my terms: I had achieved this dream, so I wanted to look like the person who manifested it. But that doesn’t mean I wasn’t down for some upgrades.
First up? Exercise. I had already begun working out long before my TV show was green-lighted, because quarantining in a small apartment was not great for my mental health. I bought a Peloton bike to get moving and raise them endorphins. Two-plus years later, I’ve got arms and legs by Peloton, and personality by being an A cup since I was 13 and thinking that charm and wit will bring all the boys to the yard. And I think we all know that since comedy is my career of choice, my yard has mostly been like last call at a bar on a Tuesday night—minimal occupancy. But after spending all these years honing the funny, the addition of this new honed body-ody-ody makes me feel pretty dang Hollywood-ready.
Next up? My diet. Being in my midthirties, I’m dependent on my diet to give me the energy I need to handle my demanding 15- to 16-hour-a-day schedule. I jump-started this journey by doing the Kroma wellness detox. Because I strength-train, I didn’t really lose weight, but this detox gave me a taste of my future: I ate lots of porridge and greens and pooped several times a day. Now the passageways are clear and I mostly eat in moderation: comfort food if I want, but I have to admit that Sweetgreen salads are a staple of my diet. (Full disclosure: I thought Sweetgreen was pronounced Sweetgreens because I’m a Black auntie and Black aunties just love adding an s to shit.)
Now, I can already feel the judgment from some of you about my eating a takeout salad e’ery day. In my defense, a homemade salad doesn’t hit the same. I need a girl named Kelsie to be slicing and dicing them cherry tomatoes, so I can really absorb the nutrients. #TheseAreMyReparations. How deep is my love for takeout salad, you ask? Sweetgreens (intentional s) slid into my DMs and asked to send me a bottle of a soon-to-be released vinaigrette. Woooooow! I’m getting advance salad dressing drops before they hit the streets, because salads are apparently a pillar of my public persona?! I’m Hollywood-ready, bitch!
Well, almost. I still had to address my teeth. Y’all, they looked like Sherwin-Williams’s off-white paint swatches. I’m talking Gossamer Veil, Steamed Milk, Roman Column. While I never had bright pearlies like my dad, the fact that Trash was filming in 4K convinced me that I didn’t want to look like I grew up in England. So I went to the dentist for the first time since high school. I know! Trifling! But also? My dentist said she liked my “thicc enamel,” so maybe I was doing something right? (Okay, she definitely said “thick” not “thicc,” but I will take any opportunity to spin a compliment so I feel like Megan Thee Stallion.) Anyway, the point is, I had a stellar appointment (no cavities!) and went through the two-week process of professionally whitening my teeth. Not to the point that it looks as though I’m walking around with a mouth full of Chiclets, but bright enough that if a fisherman were lost at sea in the dead of night, I could smile and help guide him home.
I know, I’ve written a lot about the physical here, because that’s what Hollywood places importance on. But during this time of preparation, I also discovered the most important thing I had to do personally to get myself Hollywood-ready: set boundaries. It sounds strange, but that’s only until you think about it. Yes, this is a business that’s driven, in part, by doing whatever it takes to make your dream come true, but being at this stage of my life and having experienced my fair share of rejection, I’m appreciative of this opportunity. I want to cherish and savor every moment. Everything’s Trash will never come around again in this specific way with this specific group of writers, actors, and collaborators again. That’s what makes it special: its fragility, in that if even one thing is slightly different, the show wouldn’t work. I want to protect that, and in order to do so, I have to have boundaries. I have to protect my peace, my heart, my mind, my body. That way, I’m ready for whatever Hollywood might throw my way.
This article appears in the August 2022 issue of ELLE.
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