Kristin Cavallari on Her Reality TV Comeback and Playing the Villain for ‘The Hills’: ‘I Really Had No Say’
The infamous villain of ‘The Hills’ and ‘Laguna Beach’ is now grooming the next generation of reality TV stars in her new E! reality show ‘Very Cavallari.’
In the eight years since The Hills, Kristin Cavallari has remade herself—SoCal’s most infamous antagonist is now a Nashville-based entrepreneur. The married mother of three and retired reality TV villain is also the businesswoman behind Uncommon James, a burgeoning lifestyle brand that boasts trendy, delicate jewelry and an “ethically made” home collection. Recently, Cavallari has managed to manifest Uncommon James from Instagram into its own flagship store.
Very Cavallari, the Laguna Beach star’s return to reality TV, premiering on Sunday night on E!, documents Cavallari’s brick-and-mortar debut. While the show also features Cavallari’s husband, former NFL quarterback Jay Cutler, it mines most of its entertainment from Uncommon James’ camera-ready employees. Cutler and Cavallari are the relatively calm grown-ups to their hard-partying young professionals, and there’s a good balance of adult minutiae, office theatrics, and good old-fashioned interpersonal drama.
Cavallari, who has a reputation for playing the reality TV game and reveling in the artifice of it all, seems happy to hand over the catfights and catchphrases to the next generation. Calling from Nashville, Cavallari told the Daily Beast how excited she is to introduce the real, authentic Kristin to the world—with just a little bit of editing, of course.
So this is your big return to reality TV. Why now?
A few different reasons. One of them being that my husband is done playing football. He retired, and so I’m able to. For the past seven years I’ve sort of been on his schedule, and with our kids, we just always want to make sure that one of us is around. And so with him being done, it just frees up a little bit more of my time. And then with us being in one location now, which is Nashville, I was really excited to plant not just my personal roots, but to open up my flagship store, my headquarters of Uncommon James, and with the staff that I have and the backdrop of opening up this store, I just felt like it was a really good opportunity to get back into reality TV—but not have it just be about my family, have it be about something more, and rely on the staff for the drama, rather than my own personal drama.
It feels like that marriage dynamic—you taking care of your business, and Jay in more of a supportive role—is going to be a big storyline on the show.
This is the first show that I can really get behind and say this is in fact me. Like, this is my personality, every storyline on the show is real. It comes from a very real place. And once Jay was home from Miami, I mean we went through that period of ok, now Jay’s home, things really were picking up for me, and so he had to take on more of that parenting role. So that was very real. I think obviously with any show, of course you have to amplify it to some degree and make it interesting, but that’s very true to how things were at that time.
And this show, and your brand, is all about Nashville—was moving to the south a bit of a culture shock for you?
I don’t really think so! I mean, yes, of course there are some “southern belles” if you will, but there are those same types of women everywhere you go, they’re just not called southern belles. So for me it wasn’t some big culture shock, especially because we’ve been going back and forth between Chicago and Nashville for seven years, so I really knew Nashville. It wasn’t like all of a sudden we were just here. But Nashville actually has a very cool, hip feel to it, and that’s also what I’m excited to show people on my show, that it’s a very sexy city! And the people here are really fashion forward and just cool. I think when people think of Nashville they think of the South, and it’s cowboy boots and cowboy hats. But that’s really not the case at all. I actually think there are a lot of similarities between Nashville and L.A.
Obviously in Laguna Beach and then The Hills, you got a bit of a villain edit. I know you’ve talked about feeling uncomfortable at times with how you came across on TV. Given those experiences, did you have qualms about returning to the reality TV genre, and how you would be portrayed?
I had a moment before we started filming where I really freaked out, and I thought that I was making the wrong decision, but that quickly went away as soon as we started filming. And this time around I’m an executive producer. So I have this control and say in what happens, and I’m working on the show with people who value and respect my creative direction, and that was such a great feeling, especially coming from Laguna Beach and The Hills, where I really had no say, and it made the experience so much more enjoyable for me. So because of that, I had this security blanket where I could just film and not have to worry about it, because I knew I was going to see everything beforehand and, if I really wanted, I could get something taken out.
And now knowing what that feels like, do you have any regrets about doing reality TV at such a young age, having had so little control over what aired?
I don’t regret anything at all. I mean, of course there were ups and downs, and there were moments that I’m not proud of, but overall I really enjoyed my whole experience doing reality shows. And it’s ultimately gotten me where I am today, so I’m so thankful for it. I just think now it’s different, because it’s one thing when you’re 18, 19, 20, and you only have to worry about yourself, but now going back to reality TV, I’m a wife, I’m a mom. It’s not just me anymore that I have to be concerned about, my actions now affect other people. So that, for me, is where it got a little scary. But it’s all good—I’ve seen all eight episodes and I’m fine with how everything has turned out. And I’m actually excited because, like I said, I can get behind this show and say this is me, take it or leave it. And OK, of course there’s editing here and there…but for the most part, this is a very fair representation of me.
The show really feels like an opportunity for you to introduce the “real” you, as opposed to the Laguna Beach/The Hills character that people know you as.
Yeah! I’m really excited for people to see it. Really excited because…well, exactly what you just said. I mean, people think that they know me, but really they don’t! And I do think that, in that same breath, of course I’ve matured and grown up. And so I think that no matter what, of course there would be some sort of an evolution of me on reality TV, but this show really reflects who I am now.
I know it’s been a while, but do people still approach you and ask you about specific Laguna Beach drama, or try to genuinely talk to you about storylines that were clearly manufactured?
The only thing that I really still get—well there’s two things. One is, do I still talk to Stephen. (Laughs.) And the other is if I talk to Lauren. Which is just funny. I feel like I’ll be 80 years old and someone will still be asking me those questions. And it’s one of those things where, is it kind of silly? Obviously yes. But I get it, because that’s what put me on the map, and that show reached so many people, so I actually think it’s a really cool thing that people still care enough to ask those questions. But the one thing that I’ve gotten consistently over the years when people meet me is, ‘Oh, you’re so nice!’ They’re always shocked that I’m nice. Which you know, I sort of thought would’ve stopped by now, but I’m still trying to prove people wrong!
As someone who is still dealing with that legacy of how you came across on reality TV, do you feel like you have a responsibility to the young women on your show, to make sure that they don’t get a two-dimensional or villain edit?
My only concern with my staff was that they were comfortable the whole time. I really feel like I was able to be there for them, and they really did come to me with any questions or concerns that they had or still have. Now with the show gearing up to premiere, of course there’s this whole new wave of emotions that are happening and they’ve all been able to come to me, and there’s nothing that I love more than being able to be there for them, because I didn’t have anybody like that that I could reach out to. And so that for me has been the best thing. And some of them understand more than others what it means to make a TV show, some of them really brought their A-game when filming and others were literally just being themselves. And there’s good things and bad things about both approaches, and all I cared about at the end of that day was that everyone was cool and comfortable with what was happening.
As the star of the show and an executive producer, were there any moments when you were torn between not wanting to put yourself out there on a personal level, but also wanting the show to be the most entertaining it could possibly be?
Yeah. So there was a whole storyline with one of my best friends, Kelly, and this guy that lives in Canada and this whole early-on dating thing that they have going on. And it’s two best friends talking, and we don’t have a filter obviously when we talk to each other, but it’s quite different when there’s a camera in your face. So there was a conversation that got a little crude. And as a mom,and a wife, I kind of watched it like “Ugh, can I just tone it down a little bit?” But at the same time that’s how we talk, and I want the show to be authentic, and it is entertaining. So it’s probably going to piss some people off, but at the end of the day, that’s what I talk about with my girlfriends! It just kind of is what it is.
And I know that you’re not showing your kids on Very Cavallari—are there any other boundaries, or topics that were off limits for filming?
Of course my kids, but Jay and I also talked beforehand about what we were and weren’t comfortable putting out there, and where we were and weren’t comfortable filming in the house. I mean, you’ll never see our master bedroom. Just certain things like that—that’s really personal, that’s really private, and for me it was about making sure that Jay was comfortable because this is very new for him, and my family is obviously way more important to me than a reality show.
Do you think you’ll ever show your kids any of your reality TV shows?
I mean I’m never going to sit them down and be like, hey guys, let’s watch Laguna Beach! But at some point, when they’re old enough, I’m sure they’ll stumble upon it. It’s kind of inevitable. But hopefully by then they’ll be mature enough to understand that I was a kid once too. I mean, I’m sure it’ll be a trip to see their mom and their dad filming a reality show, like when they were in the picture. So that’ll probably be a crazy conversation at some point. But they’re so young now that I don’t have to worry about that any time soon.
When you were filming Laguna Beach and The Hills, did you ever expect the shows to have the impact they’ve had?
No, it’s so crazy. I mean Laguna Beach and The Hills, it really is insane that over ten years later of Laguna Beach people still care about it. But no, I had no idea what it was going to turn into, and how much it was going to change my life. And I’m proud to be part of something that was groundbreaking, in a way. It was one of the first reality shows of its kind, really. So it’s cool. I’m proud to say that I was on Laguna Beach, and I’m part of that crew.
People are still re-watching those shows, or even discovering them for the first time.
Because they were really good reality TV shows! Now that you do have more creative control, do you feel like you took any lessons from those past experiences that you’re now applying to this project?
Yeah, I sort of feel like I always had a producer’s mind. Even while we were filming Laguna Beach, I always knew that we were there to make a TV show, and I wanted to make it good. And I do feel like, all three of my experiences now on reality TV, I’ve always looked at from a producer’s standpoint. Even The Hills, I was like alright cool, what do you guys want me to do, let’s do this, I’m game. So this time around it was nice to finally have the official title, and be able to be involved in those conversations, the storyline conversations and all of that kind of stuff, and to be able to see all of the episodes and to change things. I do feel like because I was on two really great, successful reality shows, I took everything that I learned on those and I applied it to Very Cavallari.
But I also feel like reality TV has changed. I feel like now it’s just louder and bigger and how do we get people talking, and I didn’t want to do a show like that necessarily. I mean, I think that Very Cavallari, it’s not flipping tables and it’s not wild and crazy like that, but it’s honest and everything that we’re going through is relatable—this is a real company, and real dynamics. And I like the show, I’m proud of the show, but you just never know. So we’ll see if other people like it too. Because like I said, now it’s bigger is better, which wasn’t my thought process going into this.
Do you watch other reality TV shows?
Over the years I’ve loved the Housewives. If it’s on I’ll watch Vanderpump Rules. To be honest I don’t have a lot of time. I don’t watch a lot of TV. The only time I have to watch TV is at night between the kids going to bed and when I go to bed, and that’s my time with Jay. And I can tell you, he doesn’t want to watch reality TV. So we watch Westworld and some of those kinds of shows. It’s very rare that I get to watch reality TV.
And I know that this is one of those corny questions, but would you be open to having any of your old castmates make an appearance on Very Cavallari?
Oh, yeah! I mean you have to wait for season two, I already have people lined up. I’m not going to tell you who, but it’ll happen. If we get a season two, there will be appearances from Hills cast members. So everyone needs to watch!