"What would reality TV be like without Kristin Cavallari
? We had to contemplate that particular void over the last seven years, during which the former Laguna Beach and The Hills star took a break from lifecasting. Instead, she brought up her three children with husband Jay Cutler, Camden, 5, Jaxon, 4, and Saylor, 2—without the glare of the lens.
But when Cutler, a former NFL quarterback, retired, the family relocated to Nashville and Cavallari decided to return to the reality roost. This time, it's with Very Cavallari, tracking the opening of her Uncommon James boutique—and the surprisingly recognizable everyday drama of office stoushes, car parking (seriously), and family–work clashes.
Cavallari dropped in to ELLE.com to Insta-stalk her E! colleagues and explain why she's back for another stint in the spotlight—but her kids are nowhere to be seen."
It’s been almost eight years since you stopped filming The Hills. What made you come back to reality TV?
A few things lined up. One is my husband stopped playing football. For the last eight years, I’ve sort of been on his schedule. Now, with him being done, we’re in Nashville full time. So we’re in one place, he can kind of help with the kids, where before he was working a lot. I decided to open up my headquarters, my flagship store of Uncommon James in Nashville. Which I think offers a great backdrop and "cast members"—it’s my real staff—for the show. My staff are all in their early twenties, they’re all living their lives. It’s the best of both worlds, where it gets me back into reality TV, but the real personal drama is centered around my staff, so I don’t have to air my dirty laundry.
Were you nervous about doing it?
I had a little moment right before we started filming of, "Oh my God, I think I made the wrong decision," but that quickly went away as soon as we started filming. I’m an executive producer this time around, so having that security blanket and knowing I get to see everything beforehand, and that if we really needed to we could change some stuff…that really put my mind at ease. Working with a team of producers that respect and value my creative direction with the show is such a dream come true. And it’s not about my family. Jay is on it, but my kids are not on it. So it’s not a show that is relying on my dynamic with my husband to be successful. While he’s a part of it, it’s not the whole show.
I read that you had to convince Jay to be on the show, because he’s more of a private person. How did that go?
He really doesn’t want anything to do with reality TV, to be quite honest. But he’s doing it to support me and he understands what a good opportunity it is for me. And so my biggest concern with filming the show was just making sure that he was always comfortable. Before we started filming we talked beforehand about what we were willing to put out there, what we weren’t where in the house we could film—you’ll never see the master bedroom, for example. We both just wanted to make sure we have some stuff that’s just for us, that’s private. And of course with the kids, that was a no-brainer for us, not putting them on the show.
Has Jay seen The Hills or Laguna Beach?
Only...I think MTV played them one summer and he put it on as a joke. So no, not really. He’s seen little bits and pieces but never a full episode.
So when you met, he’d never seen the show?
No [laughs]. It’s better that way.
Your kids aren’t on the show. But if they were teenagers and wanted to be on reality TV, what would tell them? What kind of conversation would you want to have?
Obviously, if they were 18, they could do it. I guess if they were teenagers and we really had a serious conversation and they really wanted to be part of it…like, let’s say I’m still doing Very Cavallari [laughs]. Then maybe I would have them on it a little bit. I would never let them do a show about just them. I would never trade in my experience, but I was so young doing Laguna Beach. I didn’t know what the hell I was doing. And while I’m so thankful for it, I just want my kids to be kids. There’s so much pressure already to be a teenager that I don’t think they should have to worry about cameras in their face.
That's based on your own experience on those shows?
Yes and no. Yes, in that I was so young and I was such a mess and…I had a lot of growing up to do. Again, I’m so thankful for it. But with my kids, I just want to keep them kids. Right now we don’t want to put them on the show, because we don’t want to rob them of the decision to have their lives blasted everywhere. We want them to be able to make that decision. And so what age is that? I don’t know. We’ll figure it out.
Uncommon James is a huge focus of the show. What will we learn about it?
You’ll see how involved I am. It’s my company, it’s only me. It’s truly my fourth child and I treat it as such. I think a lot of times people assume celebrities just attach their name to something, but this is my baby.
The show tracks the flagship store's progress before the opening. Is it open now? Can we go there?
It is! It’s been open for a few months and it's been really fun. It’s doing well. I’m so proud and happy.
How do your staff feel about being on the show?
Each person individually has had a moment of, "Oh my God, the show is about to premiere!" Which I understand. I remember going through that on Laguna Beach. So I’m just happy that I’ve been able to be there for them. I always wanted to make sure that they were comfortable with what was happening. For me it was tough, because this is a real business, everyone has a real job, so that should take precedence. But at the same time we also want to film a good TV show, and make it interesting. So that was a weird line to walk the entire time we were shooting. Ever since the camera stopped, it’s been a little bit of a relief for everybody to get back to real work. Everyone’s excited. But I feel for them because I remember being in their shoes.
Anything you learned from your former reality show experiences that you took to Very Cavallari?
Coming from two very successful reality shows, you just kind of know what goes into making a good show. I always looked at Laguna Beach and The Hills through a producer’s eye. I knew we were there to make a good show and I was all about that. I could separate me personally from the shows and say, "Okay, what do we need to make this a good TV show?"
It’s different for me this time around, because it’s one thing when I was 18 and it was only me. Now I’m a wife and I have three kids. So there’s a little part of me, even just watching some of the episodes now, that's like, "Ah, maybe I shouldn’t have said that. Not a good look for a mom but okay, here’s me and my best friend and this is how we really talk." I had a few little things taken out, but for the most part I left everything in because it's relatable.
Do you also look back at some of the outfits you were wearing on, say, The Hills, and go, "Oh my goodness"?
I don’t think there’s one outfit where I’m like, "That was a good choice." Everything is like "Why?" But at the time, 2005 or whatever…it was cool. We were all wearing the same stuff.
How is your style different now?
It’s evolved so much. I really had no style in the early days. Over the years, working with so many different stylists and being able to wear great designers, I’ve really figured out what my style is. I’m effortless all the way. I want to give the illusion that I just threw an outfit together, even though that probably wasn’t the case. I never want to look overdone. Simplicity is key with everything in my life. I know what works for my body type now and I don’t stray too often. I’m very short and very petite, so more form-fitting stuff on me looks better.
How does your style come through in the show?
There's two sides to me on the show. One is business me, me going into the office, which has been really fun to be honest—to be able to put outfits together every day and have an office to go to. Because I lived in leggings for so many years, just being a mom. Which is nice too. And then it’s me at home, more relaxed, just cooking dinner or hanging out.
There's this one scene where Jay is helping you pick out a sweater and he says, "I always help you pick out your clothes." Is that true?
No...[laughter]. I’ll definitely ask his opinion, and sometimes I listen, but sometimes it’s like, with any girl, "You don’t know what you’re talking about. You don't understand fashion."
Your cookbook, True Roots, came out earlier this year. Do you do any cooking on the show?
I’m cooking a couple times. Would I love to be cooking the entire time? Yes. But it’s more about what makes sense for a show. I mean, you film a scene for, let’s say 45 minutes—it has to be edited down to a minute or two.
So you're just chopping an onion?
Literally. I’m like doing dishes, but really I was cooking the whole time.