A former spouse to the world’s most famous life coach reinvents herself as a maximalist painter
It’s an occasionally tortured idiom—“behind every great man is a great woman”—but Becky Robbins has embodied it in the most literal sense. Few knew her name during the 14 years she managed back-of-the-house operations for then-husband Tony Robbins, the (in)famous motivational speaker.
“We started it from the beginning of the beginning, when there was nothing and then there was everything,” recalls the seasonal Delray Beach resident, in a Zoom conversation from her light-filled studio in California. “It was a co-creation from the very beginning,” but with a clear delineation of labor. “We had a confrontation where he was like, ‘you need to handle the sound system stuff.’ I was like, ‘I’m not a sound tech.’ He said, ‘let me get this straight. My job is from the front of the room, and your job is everything else.’”
Becky Robbins accepted the backstage role. She believed in Tony’s vision; she was a patron of his seminars before she became his life partner. “I felt like he had so much leadership skill, and I felt like this guy could be the president in the year 2000. It was a really good experience to push myself to the extremes of my capacity to manage people, to inspire people, to train the trainers.”
The Robbinses finalized their divorce in 2001. According to Becky, “our values started to shift, and he was interested in things that I wasn’t.” It took a period of adjustment to reorient her life from being surrounded by thousands of people to enjoying an unprecedented autonomy, which she filled with sundry pursuits, from Spanish classes to piano lessons.
She eventually found her new calling, in oil and canvas. Without much formal training beyond a couple of community art classes in La Jolla, California, Robbins has, over the past 10 years of development, honed a signature style that’s as rooted in Pop Art maximalism as it is in eastern concepts of universal awareness.
Inspired by the Golden Ratio and sacred geometry, works like “Teach Peace” and “Love is Still the Answer” contain myriad points of entry: blossoming flowers, a bleeding heart, music notes, a chrysalis. “Pale Blue Dot” is an absorbing collage of the planet’s multitude of life forms, connected by ropes and threads of varying color and thickness. In Robbins’ work, more is more.
“In one of my paintings, I have the microscopic view of a human shinbone,” she says. “It’s so fascinating—it looks like the Gaudi Cathedral in Barcelona. It’s so incredible what this body has within it.
“Those things end up becoming the next thing I paint, and then at some point, I start tying all these seemingly disparate images together, and they start to come up with a theme and a story, which is really exciting.”
Robbins describes her process as intuitive; she plans nothing when she first puts paint to factory-gessoed Masonite canvas. It’s an approach that essentially precludes mistakes; as a result, each painting can take up to a year to complete. “It’s not like I’m such a perfectionist in my whole life, but definitely in the painting. I have to be mindful of what I’m doing.”
Robbins has enjoyed a few gallery shows, and at the time of this writing her work is on view at the Shelborne Hotel on South Beach. Yet she understands that this venture, like her career as a nurse and then as back-of-the-house co-creator of a world-famous speaking empire, may not last forever. “My life has predominantly been cyclical,” she says. “I’m 100-percent involved in something, and then when it’s done, it’s done.”
For now, though, she is continuing her methodical process of revealing the positive sides of nature and existence through her paintings—including in Delray Beach, where she’ll return this fall. “I love what’s happening there,” she says. “The nightlife and restaurants seem to have taken off. … The Ray is a great addition. I think it’s a quaint place; it’s not Miami or South Beach. It’s got its own personality and authenticity, and a cross section of people I really enjoy.”