'The City's' Kelly Cutrone: Deprogramming girls one intern at a time
You may know Kelly Cutrone as the harsh (sometimes brutal), all-black-wearing, straight-talking boss lady from “The Hills” and “The City.” She's all those things.
She’s also the former wife of Andy Warhol protégé Ronnie Cutrone, the mother of a young girl named Ava, and she used to run with Anthony Haden-Guest, the writer who would later be immortalized in “The Bonfire of the Vanities.” With such a packed autobiography already, what could have convinced her to take part in a reality show?
“I really thought a lot about it,” remembers Kelly Cutrone, who heads the PR and branding company People’s Revolution. “Then, I decided it was an interesting way to talk about what I wanted to talk about. Also, I thought it would be an interesting way to brand and work with my clients. And I think I was right.”
Cutrone, 44, has built her success from a series of similarly correct hunches. At 21, she moved to New York City from suburban Syracuse with $2,000 from her father, who according to Cutrone, said: “This is the only money I’ll ever give you if you want to move to that hellhole. Call me anytime to pick you up and bring you back home. Otherwise, you’re on your own.”
Evicted from her apartment after six months, because she couldn’t pay the rent, it was Hayden-Guest who suggested that she should become a publicist. Cutrone says that when she asked him what a publicist did, he answered, “Oh, it’s nothing. It’s what you do anyway. You just talk all day and introduce people to eachother.” That’s when Cutrone decided to go into publicity – another decision that has paid off for her.
And when the publishing company, HarperOne, called to offer her a book deal, she jumped on it. “If You Have to Cry, Go Outside: And Other Things Your Mother Never Told You” (co-written with Meredith Bryan) will be out next February. The book contains her trademark “Kelly-isms,” as she calls them, on life and gaining success.
Recently, I got to speak with Cutrone about life in “The City” and her thoughts on her infamous interns and assistants: Whitney Port, Roxy Olin and, of course, Lauren Conrad.
Are you comfortable with how you’ve been portrayed in "The Hills" and “The City”?
Yeah, I am. When I started, I already knew myself and I already liked myself and I already didn’t care what people thought of me. So I was pretty thick-skinned. I wasn’t a young woman who was in the middle of trying to figure out what I was about. I was aware of the negativity that is placed on women who are seen as powerful. That doesn’t seem to actually apply to men, as much, and certainly not Caucasian men. I wasn’t aware of it to the extent that I actually went through it, but I think I did a really good job of not running away and sticking to the fact that almost everything I said was coming from a place of truth.
Have you always seen something in Whitney?
The thing that I always knew about Whitney was that she had a lot of depth. I knew she was a nice person. She always read as a non-liability. In the beginning, someone who could become a great publicist can also read as potential liability. They have a lot of energy. They like to talk. If you get five or 10 of those type of girls and they’re young and they’re trying to learn PR, that could be really annoying energetically all day. So from the beginning, her energy was always very soothing and nice to be around. I knew she wasn’t going to do something that was going to hurt my business.
We have a very close relationship. Beyond the show, I really care for her and want her to do well.
Roxy has a lot more energy and a lot more ideas. She’s a good example of what I just said. When I met Whitney, I liked her instantly. I knew that there was no potential for her to be a liability for me. On the other hand, Roxy has a lot of energy and she’s very creative. That will be a huge asset for her, but you don’t want that energy popping up at the wrong time. But I like her. She’s a Scorpio. I’m a Scorpio. There are a lot of similarities between us.
That’s what Roxy told me when I interviewed her. So you agree?
I think Roxy is very competent and smart. I do want to make that point. When you’re doing a show like this, it’s almost like every sentence you’re speaking is like a balloon that goes up in the air. Then when they sit down to edit, they pull down the balloons that they want. That’s how they make the show.
Roxy has done some amazing and some confident things. And she’s done some not-so-cool things just like me. You make mistakes.
So, while you’re watching the show, did you find some of the things Roxy said disrespectful?
A lot of the people who work at People’s Revolution are disrespectful. I’m sitting here with power-chicks or wannabee power-chicks. They try to run me out of the arena. I have to hold my own all the time over here. That’s why I have to be so strict, because otherwise there would be a coup d'état.
What did you think of Whitney’s fashion line?
I thought it was cute and I thought it was good, but I really thought that it needed work. Everybody wants a fashion line and I told her, “Listen, this is going to be harder for you. It would be easier for you to have a fashion line if people didn’t know who you were. There’s a ton of haters in the world and there will be people who want to see you make a fool of yourself.”
So her line had to be better than any other person her age who's starting one. That’s the beautiful truth and that’s the sad reality of where she was at. To be honest with you, the guidance I gave her and the stuff that we did together, I have to do for 90% of my clients, anyway, regardless of whether you’re in your 20s or you’re an older brand.
We were never friends. She worked for me and now she doesn’t. Like most people who work for me, I don’t really stay in touch with her. But it’s not for any other reason than we were never BFFs, as the girls would say.
What message would you want viewers to take away from watching you?
One of the things I really like doing right now, and it’s come through TV and the book I’m about to put out, is to talk to young people who want to go after their dreams. There’s this whole thing that’s going on around the world that people are told their dreams aren’t real and they can’t have them. And that the world that I live in is not the “real world.” I want to help kids bust through that, so that they can stop being programmed. Even working in my office, I see these girls who think their parents raised them to be independent, but they just want them to get pregnant and have 2.5 kids by the time they’re 27.
– Jethro Nededog (follow me on Twitter @TheRealJethro)
Photos: The many faces of Kelly Cutrone on "The City." Credit: MTV