One of the projects for my Media Writing class was to select an interesting individual, someone you hardly know, and write a profile story about their life in a unique way. I chose to write on Yamhill’s Robbie Laughlin, a once small town boy who chased his dream of being an actor in Hollywood. It was challenging interviewing Robbie because he leads a very busy lifestyle in Los Angeles, however definitely worth every second of getting to talk to him. I hope you enjoy his story as much as I did! 🙂
Robbie Laughlin (Right) with best friend Giuliana in Los Angeles
Most high school senior men in Robbie Laughlin’s small, rural Oregon hometown preferred lacing up their football pants or cocking their rifles. Robbie had a different agenda. He spent his free time in the woods with his family’s first video camera in hand, and their Norwegian exchange student in tow. Robbie was the star of the one-man show, and the exchange student was in charge of capturing his dramatic soap operas and hysterical tragedies. It never occurred to Robbie during the countless afternoons he spent filming in the woods that one day he would have a Hollywood agent who would refuse to let these homemade videos go viral.
Robbie made do with the resources in his childhood hometown of Yamhill, Ore., while pursuing his immense passion for theater and fashion. Robbie’s time in front of the camera in the backwoods of his parents’ enormous property was just the beginning of a great career. He is now a well-known entertainment personality best known as an anchor for E! News. He also emcees fashion shows for Macy’s, hosts his own weekly radio show on Global Voice Broadcasting and regularly appears on the reality show “Giuliana & Bill.” He does all of this while still maintaining an easygoing lifestyle amidst the high drama of Los Angeles.
The drama of Los Angeles is nothing new to Robbie. He experienced a childhood filled with school plays, edgy fashion and a dream to make it big one day in Hollywood.
“Robbie was very imaginative,” Robbie’s older sister, Kelly Sue Van Horn, said. “We played a lot of Barbies, and it was always very high drama. He just loved to play and dress up and act things out.”
While the other boys in his first grade class were aspiring policeman, Robbie made it clear to his teachers and classmates that he wanted to be an actor in Hollywood. The other boys called him names here and there, but for the most part he received support from his family, community members and peers for his dream.
Sixth grade was a major turning point for Robbie. It was the year he really found himself interested in theater. After trying wrestling and playing in the band, just to satisfy his parents, he quit playing the drums and joined the theater.
“For some reason, my mom and dad were forcing me to do band, and I missed the very first play. When I watched my classmates do the play, I was devastated because I knew I should have been up there. My dad had played the drums in high school and was quite good, so they were pushing me to follow in his footsteps, but I wanted to do my own thing,” Robbie said.
There was never a time in Robbie’s life when he wasn’t doing his own thing. Take his change of last name, for example. He was born Robert DeCrevel, but spontaneously changed his last name to his mom’s maiden name, simply because he thought it sounded better.
Robbie gathered up lead after lead in each performance he auditioned for, including roles in “Damn Yankees,” “A Christmas Carol,” “Oliver Twist” and “The Music Man.” Robbie participated in every play from ninth to twelfth grade in his high school and at the Gallery Theater in nearby McMinnville. He was fortunate to have experienced, creative role models who supported his theatrical endeavours. His drama teacher went to Hollywood High School in California, and his school’s vice principal was art oriented as well.
Not only did Robbie get attention for his incredible stage presence, but he was abnormally clean cut for a young man in Yamhill. After all, aside from the plays, his favorite part about school was picking out his outfit. Robbie’s normal attire usually included, from toes to nose, loafers, khaki pants, a polo shirt with a popped collar and neatly combed hair.
A combination of talent and the right connections landed Robbie his big break after graduating from Cornish College of the Arts in 1993. College was a time of growth for Robbie. During Christmas break of his sophomore year, he came out to his family. He used the support from his loved ones as motivation and encouragement to follow his dream childhood acting dream. He graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theater.
“As soon as I graduated college in 1993, I met my manager, Lee, who represented an actress, Khandi Alexander, at the time,” Robbie said. “Lee told me I needed to come to L.A. right away. I was always going to move there, but I didn’t know it was going to be so fast.”
After packing up his belongings, he and his sister drove to Los Angeles and began unpacking his celebrity lifestyle. A dozen head shots later, Robbie auditioned and was offered a part in an episode of “Family Matters” as Steve Urkel’s nemesis.
“I wouldn’t say it was easy. I lucked out. Moving here and booking the first television show was maybe fate, maybe luck or the right timing,” Robbie said. “There were ups and downs with everything for sure. I never felt like giving up; I never felt like I wasn’t doing the right thing. I always knew to keep changing and evolving with the way my career could go.”
Robbie was smart to keep an open mind, many doors have opened for him. He has been able to share his talents by both acting and hosting. Robbie has appeared on a handful of television series, sitcoms and short comedies. “Six Feet Under,” “The Big Easy,” “Queer Eye for the Straight Girl” and “$100 Makeover” are just a few of the television series he has been on. Two short comedies that Robbie has appeared on are “Another Gay Movie” and “Gay Zombie.” He has also been on a number of sitcoms including “Family Matters,” “Cybill” and “Caroline in the City.”
In addition to television series, comedies and sitcoms, Robbie was given the opportunity to be in a documentary. He was one of five openly gay men followed for the television documentary “Gay Hollywood.”
Robbie has also enjoyed hosting and emceeing fashion related shows during his career in front of the camera. He was a host on “Xcess/Access,” a 13 part series look into L.A.’s Fashion Week. Among several other host appearances, Robbie was the recurring host of E!’s “The Daily 10,” for 83 episodes until 2010. One of Robbie’s favorite interviews for E! News was with Honey Boo Boo and her Mama June. He was a host at eight Macy’s store fashion shows across America. He has also interviewed U.S. Olympic star swimmer Ryan Lochte during his appearance in London at the Summer Olympics. Robbie also appears on the radio during his show on Global Voice Broadcasting.
“I never got stuck with one thing,” Robbie said. “Like I never thought I had to be in movies and keep going in only that direction. Because I had that open mind, I found things that I truly love and that truly worked for me and that I could be successful in.”
In addition to his performances, Robbie was one of Sunsilk’s “Hairapy Guys” which helped to promote their shampoo product line in North America. He was a spokesperson for the $200 million campaign. He also makes regular appearances on the couple’s reality show “Giuliana & Bill” which airs on the Style Network. He also finds time to write reviews of Hollywood fashion for Life & Style Magazine. In February Robbie covered New York’s Fashion Week in February.
As Robbie lives out his Hollywood dream, he is still ambitious about his future. His experience hosting has led him to dream of one day hosting a talk show similar to “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.” After acting on sitcoms and television series, he hopes to join the cast of a funny ensemble sitcom.
As much as Robbie enjoys the spontaneity of his celebrity lifestyle, he will always be rooted in the rolling hills of Yamhill. As young Robbie waded through the woods of Yamhill curiously with videocamera in hand, he had no destination in mind, only dreams and aspirations. Somethings never change.
Giuliana is one of Robbie’s best friends. He is a regular guest on her show “Giuliana & Bill”
Robbie was featured on the front of “Out Magazine.”
Robbie with friend Nichole Tom, a star on “The Nanny.”
Here is a quick look at Robbie hosting a Macy’s fashion show!
Thank you for reading! 🙂