Although she's married to arguably one of the most famous psychologists in the world, Dr. Phil's wife Robin McGraw has burnished her own path throughout an unexpected life in the limelight.
In the past 15 years, Robin, who has a recurring role on her husband's daytime television program, has written multiple books, launched a female-focused lifestyle company and founded a charity organization inspired by the women she's met through the Dr. Phil Show. During their 40-year marriage, Robin and Dr, Phil have been a solid unit, boldly championing and complementing each other's business pursuits.
The secret?“He doesn't 'Dr.Phil' me," says Robin, of her psychologist husband whose show has been on the air for 15 years. “He asked me one time to be a faux patient for psychological test. I got into three or four questions in and I thought 'wait a minute, are you grading this?' [When I realized he was] I said this test is over. I will never be your patient again. That was the first and last time."
Robin and Dr. Phil, who have two sons, Jay, 37, and Jordan, 30, and two young grandchildren, met the summer after high school through his sister. Since then the couple has been inseparable.
“It always was my mission to be a wife and mother," says Robin. “I was a stay at home mom and very thankful. Now I am thankful I can say I am a grandmother."
Beyond being a wife and mother, Robin has also come into her own as an entrepreneur. Her inspiring business and charitable pursuits are each dedicated to the people she has met in her life and through the show, which this bubbly southern lady counts as one of the biggest impacts of her life.
“At the end of the day when you want to be successful and work really hard, I believe the true celebration is what you have done for someone else," says Robin.
The Dr. Phil Show
After a successful run as the resident expert on human behavior on The Oprah Winfrey Show, Dr. Phil was offered the chance to star in a new program, created by Oprah, that would focus on the clinical and forensic psychologist's “life strategies" and frank approach to counseling.
“I've always been so proud of my husband. I always thought he was so brilliant when he was on Oprah. I always saw in him what Oprah saw in him."
In 2002, Robin and her family moved from Texas to California so that her husband could start shooting The Dr. Phil Show. At the time, Robin was an at-home mom caring for her children, who were in college and high school at the time. She went to the set to watch her husband's debut episode, and her life took a surprising turn towards the spotlight.
“I watched him in his first show and I was just so proud of him," says Robin, who was sitting in the front row of the audience. “He looked over at me and I was probably crying. He walked up to me thinking the cameras were off and said 'what did you think of it'? We started talking about it and walked off."
That impromptu moment between the doctor and his wife gave the show's executive producer, who hadn't yet decided how to end the show, an idea.
“The producer came up to me and said 'what we just saw took him from being a very serious doctor helping solve problems to being who he is when he's not doing that. We saw the real Phil,'" says Robin. “They asked me to come every day after that."
After becoming an unplanned recurring character on her husband's show, Robin said a cult community of women began forming around her.
“The viewers who watch the show see me like a girlfriend even though we never met," says Robin. "They would write me thousands of letters asking what shampoo I use, what color nail polish I'm wearing, what my skin care regimen is, and where I get my clothes."
After years of feedback from these female fans, McGraw wrote five books, including Inside My Heart and What's Age Got To Do With It? to answer questions and help give advice. Soon Robin began to see white space that would not only give back to these women she was interacting with, but also fulfill her passions for philanthropy and entrepreneurism.“I've been to over 2,500 [Dr. Phil] shows over 15 seasons," says Robin “I have to say the shows that have moved me the most have been on domestic violence and sexual assault. It is very hard to hear those stories. We've had such strong amazing women come on who been through it and survived, and I always want to help those who need rescuing."
In 2013, Robin launched When Georgia Smiled: The Robin McGraw Revelation. The organization (which is named after Robin's mother) is dedicated to helping the victims of domestic violence and sexual assault by giving them access to support in times of crisis. The organization was inspired by assault survivors she met on The Dr. Phil Show.
“I thought I cannot sit here another day and not do something to help."
As part of her philanthropic efforts, Robin has also released the Aspire Initiative and The Aspire News App, a free virtual lifesaving app, that serves as an emergency contact system designed to reach friends, family or the police should someone need protection at the hands of an abuser.
The app, which was recognized on Capitol Hill for its ability to help end domestic violence, has been downloaded more than half a million times across the country.
In addition to her revolutionary tech breakthrough, Robin is also a businesswoman with a particular passion for the beauty industry. In 2014, she launched Robin McGraw Revelation, an anti-aging skincare, makeup and lifestyle line, which became a hit on HSN almost immediately after its launch. In 2016, Robin introduced her newest luxury skin care line, in collaboration with dermatologist Dr. Jessica Wu. As a founder, Robin says she is extremely hands-on with the business, from picking the packaging to overseeing the product formulas.
“Women are busy, so I wanted something they can use and get back to their jobs and families," says McGraw, who named some products after people in her family. “And I want it to be effective. I wanted them to see results."
According to Robin, Revelation will continue expanding into lifestyle, fashion and accessories, everything of course with the end consumer in mind.
“My true philosophy for my company, for my foundation, for anything that I do is to create anything that helps women," says Robin. “I'm not an expert at a lot of things but when I share with other women and try to inspire them it's about what I've learned and what's helped me through my life. Everything comes from my heart."
When talking to Robin about her journey, it's hard not to talk about Oprah. Oprah, of course, gave Dr. Phil his start on her show in 1995 after his legal consulting firm was hired to help her win her now famous Amarillo Texas beef trial. Robin still considers Oprah like family, and says she is in constant communication with the media marvel.
“I talk to her all the time," says Robin, of Oprah. “She's just precious. I can email her now and get a response in 15 minutes. She's like family and she cares. She's very humble. I love and adore her."
“Every chance I get to tell anyone what an amazing down to earth real woman Oprah is I do it," says Robin. “She is like a mother hen."
In addition to her successful ventures, Robin's 40-year marriage is something else she is very proud of. We asked her the secret to keeping the spark alive after four decades.
“Before we got married, I'm proud to say we did our homework," says Robin. “We had lots of conversations what would work for us and what doesn't work. It's an ongoing conversation we've had over 40 years and still have."
According to Robin the secret is simply to find out what your partner doesn't like, and then don't do those things.
“I was the youngest so what always worked for me at home with my father was pouting, but with Philip it didn't work. He told me 'just tell me what I did that upset you and I won't ever do it again," says Robin. “So my advice is to find out what they don't like and don't ever do it. Don't use what you know will upset them against them. I know what I can do to push Phillip's buttons but why would I do that? Find what makes them happy and do that instead."
The Quick 10
1. What app do you most use?
2. Briefly describe your morning routine.
The first thing I do the moment I open eyes is I pray and say thank you.
3. Name a business mogul you admire.
Sheryl Sandberg. She is not only an inspiring business woman, but she is a woman who comes across as real and down to earth.
4, What product do you wish you had invented?
The Wolford body shaper. It's very thin, but it holds everything you want to tuck in. I love it.
5, What is your spirit animal?
A bird in the air flying.
6. What is your life motto?
There's a quote in the lobby of my office that says in neon lights: “There is no force more powerful than a woman determined to rise." That's my motto.
7. Name your favorite work day snack.
I'm a big carb eater. Toasted Trader Joe's cinnamon bread is my favorite.
8. Every entrepreneur must be what to be successful?
9. What's the most inspiring place you've traveled to?
Notre Dame. I went in and lit a candle.
10. Desert Island. Three things, go.
My family, 50 Fierce Broad Spectrum SPF 50 Moisturizer & Sunscreen, and a bible. But to be practical, a fishing pole so I can get some food.
Women have come a long way in redefining beauty to be more inclusive of different body types, skin colors and hair styles, but society's beauty standards still remain as high as we have always known them to be. In the workplace, professionalism is directly linked to the appearance of both men and women, but for women, the expectations and requirements needed to fit the part are far stricter. Unlike men, there exists a direct correlation between beauty and respect that women are forced to acknowledge, and in turn comply with, in order to succeed.
Before stepping foot into the workforce, women who choose to opt out of conventional beauty and grooming regiments are immediately at a disadvantage. A recent Forbes article analyzing the attractiveness bias at work cited a comprehensive academic review for its study on the benefits attractive adults receive in the labor market. A summary of the review stated, "'Physically attractive individuals are more likely to be interviewed for jobs and hired, they are more likely to advance rapidly in their careers through frequent promotions, and they earn higher wages than unattractive individuals.'" With attractiveness and success so tightly woven together, women often find themselves adhering to beauty standards they don't agree with in order to secure their careers.
Complying with modern beauty standards may be what gets your foot in the door in the corporate world, but once you're in, you are expected to maintain your appearance or risk being perceived as unprofessional. While it may not seem like a big deal, this double standard has become a hurdle for businesswomen who are forced to fit this mold in order to earn respect that men receive regardless of their grooming habits. Liz Elting, Founder and CEO of the Elizabeth Elting Foundation, is all too familiar with conforming to the beauty culture in order to command respect, and has fought throughout the course of her entrepreneurial journey to override this gender bias.
As an internationally-recognized women's advocate, Elting has made it her mission to help women succeed on their own, but she admits that little progress can be made until women reclaim their power and change the narrative surrounding beauty and success. In 2016, sociologists Jaclyn Wong and Andrew Penner conducted a study on the positive association between physical attractiveness and income. Their results concluded that "attractive individuals earn roughly 20 percent more than people of average attractiveness," not including controlling for grooming. The data also proves that grooming accounts entirely for the attractiveness premium for women as opposed to only half for men. With empirical proof that financial success in directly linked to women's' appearance, Elting's desire to have women regain control and put an end to beauty standards in the workplace is necessary now more than ever.
Although the concepts of beauty and attractiveness are subjective, the consensus as to what is deemed beautiful, for women, is heavily dependent upon how much effort she makes towards looking her best. According to Elting, men do not need to strive to maintain their appearance in order to earn respect like women do, because while we appreciate a sharp-dressed man in an Armani suit who exudes power and influence, that same man can show up to at a casual office in a t-shirt and jeans and still be perceived in the same light, whereas women will not. "Men don't have to demonstrate that they're allowed to be in public the way women do. It's a running joke; show up to work without makeup, and everyone asks if you're sick or have insomnia," says Elting. The pressure to look our best in order to be treated better has also seeped into other areas of women's lives in which we sometimes feel pressured to make ourselves up in situations where it isn't required such as running out to the supermarket.
So, how do women begin the process of overriding this bias? Based on personal experience, Elting believes that women must step up and be forceful. With sexism so rampant in workplace, respect for women is sometimes hard to come across and even harder to earn. "I was frequently assumed to be my co-founder's secretary or assistant instead of the person who owned the other half of the company. And even in business meetings where everyone knew that, I would still be asked to be the one to take notes or get coffee," she recalls. In effort to change this dynamic, Elting was left to claim her authority through self-assertion and powering over her peers when her contributions were being ignored. What she was then faced with was the alternate stereotype of the bitchy executive. She admits that teetering between the caregiver role or the bitch boss on a power trip is frustrating and offensive that these are the two options businesswomen are left with.
Despite the challenges that come with standing your ground, women need to reclaim their power for themselves and each other. "I decided early on that I wanted to focus on being respected rather than being liked. As a boss, as a CEO, and in my personal life, I stuck my feet in the ground, said what I wanted to say, and demanded what I needed – to hell with what people think," said Elting. In order for women to opt out of ridiculous beauty standards, we have to own all the negative responses that come with it and let it make us stronger– and we don't have to do it alone. For men who support our fight, much can be achieved by pushing back and policing themselves and each other when women are being disrespected. It isn't about chivalry, but respecting women's right to advocate for ourselves and take up space.
For Elting, her hope is to see makeup and grooming standards become an optional choice each individual makes rather than a rule imposed on us as a form of control. While she states she would never tell anyone to stop wearing makeup or dressing in a way that makes them feel confident, the slumping shoulders of a woman resigned to being belittled looks far worse than going without under-eye concealer. Her advice to women is, "If you want to navigate beauty culture as an entrepreneur, the best thing you can be is strong in the face of it. It's exactly the thing they don't want you to do. That means not being afraid to be a bossy, bitchy, abrasive, difficult woman – because that's what a leader is."