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Kristin Cavallari meets with Paper Magazine

On September 28, 2004, the first episode of a show called Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County, aired on MTV and changed the landscape of reality TV for years to come. Following the lives of a handful of beautiful California teenagers attending Laguna Beach High School, the show blurred the lines between scripted situations and real emotions and relationships in an indulgently entertaining concoction that audiences around the world now absorb like second nature. The show focused on the classic Good Girl vs. Bad Girl dichotomy, pitting the wholesome senior Lauren Conrad against the fabulously villainous junior Kristin Cavallari in the battle for the show's resident Dream Boyfriend and alpha girl status.

My mother attended Laguna Beach High, and when the show first aired we sat down to watch together and compare it to her reality of a beach town adolescence in the 1970s. "This was... not quite it," she told me, and wandered off before the second commercial break. At 13 years old, I was naturally mesmerized, as I was ravenous for depictions of the high school experience that awaited me the next year. Confronted with the image of Cavallari lounging in her pool alone, talking on her cell phone in what was surely the most self-assured California girl drawl I'd ever heard, I was quickly pulled into the very appealing drama of the show, fake or not.

When The Hills returned just a few years later with Conrad and new best frenemy Heidi Pratt (née Montag) at the center, audiences including myself were already more hip to what they were being sold. Keeping Up With the Kardashians would come on the air just a year later, turning reality TV into a viably lucrative career path, but first there was unfinished business of manufactured feuds to complete. Once again, Cavallari was called upon to play the Girl All the Bad Guys Want (and the good girls hate), reflecting a feminine binary that still somehow made sense in the waning years of the early aughts (her return episode was literally called "The Bitch Is Back"). The planet of young, hot LA kids intersected the Kardashian world with the addition of Brody Jenner, who Cavallari and Conrad were set up to fight over. When the series ended with the curtain being pulled back to reveal a literal Hollywood set, it was as shocking and surreal a revelation as any in TV finale history, if not because we truly thought it was real all along, but because we could never pretend to believe so again.

That still left Cavallari with nearly a decade's worth of branding as a mean party girl shadowing her every move. She pivoted right, moving to the Midwest with her new husband, NFL quarterback Jay Cutler, and quickly became a mother to three children and the designer of a jewelry line, Uncommon James. A recent return to reality television has her reflecting on the impact the format has had on her career and her own personal development. In a candid interview, PAPER caught up with Cavallari about her new show, Very Cavallari, which focuses on Cavallari's life now as she runs the Uncommon James flagship and raises a family, the scripted nature of reality and why being cast as the mean girl was all for the best.

Paper Magazine did a short interview with Kristin about her reality show Very Cavallari:

You were this prototypical LA girl who moved to the Midwest and became a wife and mother in the middle of your twenties. What was that transition like?
When I was becoming a mom, I really felt that I was doing the right thing for the first time in my life. I had Camden when I was 25 so I was very young, but I had done so much by that time and had gotten everything out of my system. Becoming a mom was truly the next natural step for me. I would've never thought in a million years that I would be the first one to have babies and get married, but it's been the best thing that has ever happened to me, truly.

A lot of people don't know this but I lived in a suburb in Chicago all throughout junior high and before that I was in Colorado. So, I would say I am more from the Midwest than I am from California. Moving back to Chicago was actually really nice because my mom was there along with all my cousins.

What's it been like to be back on the air with your life out to the public?
Right before we started filming, I had a moment where I wondered if I had made the right decision, but that quickly went away. The producing team that I'm working with are a dream because they appreciate my creative direction and they really look at me as someone who is on the same level. Sometimes people will just give you the executive producer credit that I have but won't actually include you in the creative conversations, but they really did and they treated me as if I were one of them.

I think that security blanket too, of having some control over things, was such a freeing feeling for me, coming from The Hills where I had no real say. I don't think I would've ever gone back to reality TV had I not had that, only because it's one thing when I was 17, 18, whatever and it was only me to look out for — but now I have three kids and I'm a wife. It's not just me anymore that I have to be responsible for, I have a whole family.

Being creative on a reality show, what does that look like?
It's really deciding what stories are interesting. Right before we started filming, I sat down with all the producers and we just talked about everything I had going on in my life, and specifically what Jay and I were and weren't willing to put out there. You have a storyline; unless you're filming a show like Jersey Shore, you're not just shooting for hours on end hoping that you'll get something. With that being said, everything on the show is based on real emotions and real circumstances. Everything on Very Cavallari is from a real place and that's the first time I can really get behind the reality show that I am on and say that.

The beauty about Very Cavallari compared to Laguna Beach or The Hills is that there are interviews — which are pretty standard on most reality shows — where you can connect the dots from one scene to another. Laguna Beach didn't have them and so we were doing a lot of scenes that weren't really happening to try to connect those dots.

Audiences can mostly see through scenes like that now anyway. The audience is so in-tune to authenticity now because there have been so many fake shows. E! was adamant about everything on the show being real and I was too. Because I came from a world of such heavily manufactured shows, I wanted this to be true. I think it's so easy for the audience to tell what's real and what isn't. It was a conscious decision that we made in the beginning, there was no other option really.

Spencer [Pratt] famously compared himself and Heidi to the Kardashians, saying that they were an early version of that. Do you feel if social media had been around back then that would've been true for you?
I think the Kardashians are at a different level. I would never compare myself to them. If I could have just a little tiny bit of that success then by all means, sign me up. I think they're really different.

The tabloids used to cover your every move, but they've mostly been replaced by social media (and blogs). Do you think that's for better or for worse?
That was one thing I used to hate — the fake articles and the crap that they could just come up with. They would literally just make up stuff. So, do I miss that world? Hell no. Is it really nice to leave my house looking like shit and not having to think twice about paparazzi? Absolutely. I also love it though when I do go to L.A. I like to have my picture taken and put some thought into my outfit. But right before I met Jay, as The Hills was ending, and I was so exhausted. I couldn't leave my house without paparazzi catching it. I felt so trapped and hated that feeling.

How were you able to rise above negative things said about you?
When Laguna Beach first came out I was just 17. I would go on those chat rooms and people would talk about how they hated me. I was really upset about that. It definitely affected me, but because of that, at such an early age, I had to learn how to shrug it off and think, "It's just a show, these people don't actually know me."

The person you were portraying on the show wasn't necessarily who you were anyway.
I was really upset when I saw the first episode of Laguna Beach because I had been edited in such a way to be the villain that I was just shocked. I was so young too, and we didn't really know what reality television was. Would I change anything now? No, I wouldn't change anything. Obviously, I eventually wrapped my head around it because I did another season of Laguna Beach and learned to embrace it. Though I don't remember ever making a conscious decision like, "Can I do season two?" I never even thought that I could walk away. I think we had a contract. But now in hindsight, I probably could have.

How were you able to separate that character from who you were becoming as a young adult?
My on-screen persona really made me look inward and really try to figure out who I was. At 17, you really don't know who the hell you are, but it made me grow up and realize, "I don't think I'm this girl on the show. I know I don't want to be this girl." I ultimately think the show made me a better person and helped me figure out who I was.

Do you keep in touch with anyone from those shows?
I talk to a lot of people. I talk to Brody, Stephen, Audrina, Heidi and both Alex's from Laguna Beach. I definitely keep in touch with most people I would say.

Would you say you were playing even more of a character on The Hills? I don't know if it's just because you guys were older but it did have a more scripted feel, and then of course the infamous ending with the Hollywood sign being pulled back
With Very Cavallari that's 100% me on the show. I'm really happy and proud that I can stand by that. Before, with The Hills, I had my show life and show persona and then had a completely separate life off camera. The Hills was easy because we only filmed three days a week. We knew exactly what scenes we were going to be filming and what it was going to be about. I had fake fights and fake relationships. I was playing up the villain and was acting essentially. I had a really great experience. Then when the tabloids would write articles and judge me based off of what would happen on the show, I wouldn't get upset because I was so removed from it. It wasn't my actual life.

The people you were working with were also in your orbit socially. How did the show affect your relationships off-screen?
With The Hills, those people weren't really in my life until I joined the show. I had known a lot of them, but they really weren't in my circle of friends. It was very separate, which made it easy in that sense. Laguna Beach was tougher because Stephen [Colletti] was my real boyfriend, and then all the sudden we're being put in situations that we really wouldn't normally be in. That was really hard because you would see things on the show and then take it personally, and it would only make the problem bigger. When I did The Hills, I knew I had to keep things separate because it's very easy for the lines to get blurred and I didn't like that feeling.

I think now for me it's different because of a few things. I'm not in the middle of the girl drama anymore; that's not my life anymore and it's great. I'm executive producer, so I've seen the whole season and can have something taken out if I need to. We're not going to put anything out there that could potentially damage us, it is what it is.

Would you ever do a different show like The Real Housewives or something, where you weren't in control?
No. I wouldn't only because I am too old for that shit. I don't want to have those catty girl fights, that's just so not my life anymore. I had to go back and watch clips from Laguna Beach and The Hills and it made me cringe because, ugh, that was my world! Fighting about the dumbest shit on the planet. Whether it was amplified or not, I was still doing it and I want no part of that anymore. So, would I do the Housewives? No. Will I watch it? Sure, but I want no part of it.

Are your kids on the show?
They're not. You'll see me talk about them a little bit and Facetiming them, but no. That was a conscious decision that Jay and I both made. They're so young, my oldest is about to turn six, and then they're four and two. We want them to make the decision when they're old enough to have their lives plastered everywhere, we don't want to make that decision for them.

If they came to you in 10 years and there was going to be a show like Laguna Beach at their school, would you let them be on it?
If they were under 18, no I wouldn't. It's hard enough to be a teenager, why put that added stress on them? I don't regret my decision to do it. I really had a great time and I would go back and do it again. I just think for my kids, they're so young and I just want them to focus on being kids. After they graduate high school and they want to do a reality show, okay then we can talk about it. As long as I can say no, I am going to say no.

Kristin Cavallari’s ‘True Roots’ Cookbook Is All About Quality Ingredients — And This One Is Her Favorite

She may have gotten her start as a lead cast member of MTV reality shows Laguna Beach and The Hills, but these days Kristin Cavallari is up to something a little different. Her new cookbook True Roots comes packed with different recipes that don't contain many common allergens like gluten and refined sugar, but are still full of flavor. The one ingredient she says she will never give up? Sheep's milk Manchego cheese.

I just love cheese. I always have. It's one thing that I could never give up — but I have a sensitivity to cow's milk that just makes me feel awful when I eat it. Sheep's milk, though, is easier on the digestive system, and this Manchego cheese is very mild and similar to Parmesan, so it's a great alternative that's really easy to incorporate in so many different ways into so many different dishes. It's very versatile.

I have known about my sensitivity for eight years or so, but I only discovered this cheese three or four years ago. I went to my grocery store and I just tried every single kind of sheep and goat milk cheese that they had to offer, and this was my favorite.

My dad is full Italian, and I grew up with my full Italian grandma always making pizza fritte, the best apple pie on the planet, and just pasta and meatballs — all that really great stuff. Her apple pie recipe is actually in my cookbook. I cooked a lot with both of my parents while I was growing up, too, and my mom made dinner for us every night. I used to bake with my mom a lot too, and I always knew that that was the kind of mom that I wanted to be: I wanted to be the mom that cooked dinner for her children every night.

So, once I had kids, I really just started cooking all the time, and I wanted to cook healthy, but I wanted it to be good, too. I think there's a stigma that eating healthy means being boring and like you're missing out on stuff. I eat everything: I eat pasta, I eat cheese, I eat sweets. And that's why I like the sheep's milk Manchego cheese — it's so versatile, but also healthy.

I'm by no means a chef, I'm just a mom who likes to cook healthy. So, I worked with a private chef, Mike Kubiesa, in Chicago, who helped me with the cookbook — he gave me a ton of private lessons and I truly credit all of my food knowledge to him. He is a food genius, and he really helped me a lot, and helped elevate me as a cook.

One of my favorite ways to use the sheep's milk Manchego cheese is in the cookbook: It's a cashew ricotta cheese that I make a veal braciole with. While I don't use milk or cream — I make the ricotta with cashews — I do put some of this cheese in there, and it gives it a great flavor. It's so good, I could eat the ricotta with a spoon.

My kids and husband also enjoy it — they eat the same way I do, so the cookbook is a very good representation of how my family eats on a daily basis. I frequently make most of the recipes for them, and they love it.

Kristin Cavallari for CVLUX Magazine

Kristin covers CVLUX Magazine for the Summer edition.

Mother. Actress. Writer. Designer. Entrepreneur. Yes, reality television alum Kristin Cavallari is doing it all, but don’t let her superhuman resume fool you—she's definitely one of us.

In preparation for our phone interview, I spent some time looking over everything Cavallari has done in the past few years, which turned out to be everything from competing on Dancing with the Stars, to guest starring in television shows and small films, to charity work involving PETA and HIV/AIDS. When I bring up her go-getter personality, though, she's quick to point out that it's not a one-woman show. "The fact that Jay is home all day, every day right now ... he's the reason I'm able to do half of what I do," she says, referencing her husband of two years, Miami Dolphins quarterback, Jay Cutler. Make no mistake—the hard-working mom of three loves her work, but her real passion is her family. "Five o'clock comes and every night we're eating dinner as a family—that's the most important thing to me," she says. "It's important for me to wake up in the morning and make the boys' breakfast, pack their lunches ... I make sure that certain family things are a priority. Everything else is secondary."

Looking back on Cavallari's life, this state of mind isn't surprising. While most of America still recognizes her as the perky teenager from the MTV reality show Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County, and later The Hills, Cavallari wasn't born into a life of glamor and glitz. “I lived in a suburb of Chicago throughout my entire junior high years and my mom lived here," explains Cavallari, who settled in both Los Angeles and Chicago before finding a home in Nashville with Cutler. “Moving back to Chicago wasn't a shock for me because I had experienced it before. But I do think, because of living in L.A. and Southern California for so long, it was still an adjustment." What kind of adjustment? “I remember I had no clothes!" Cavallari laughs. “No winter jackets ... I had to buy this stuff. But to be honest, I prefer having my kids grow up in a place that has four seasons. Snow days for me were part of my childhood, and I love that my kids are experiencing that. It's just a different way of growing up."

At the very least, it's different from how Cavallari grew up. After moving to California to attend Laguna Beach High School, fame came calling in 2004. She would spend three years of her life being documented alongside the lives of her friends, and then another six as part of a spin-off series from Laguna Beach castmate Lauren Conrad— but don't expect someone who grew up in the spotlight to share that same glimpse behind the curtain. "It's funny, because yeah, I was on reality TV, but I'm actually a very private person when it comes to my family," Cavallari says. "But I do realize that's what people really resonate with and that's what they connect to, so I try to find a happy medium and a happy balance." Still, there's a line, and that line isn't a surprise. "People ask me all the time why I don't show my kids' faces, but they didn't sign up for this world," says Cavallari. "I did. And I want them to choose if that's a life and world that they want to be in. I don't want to rob them of that decision."

Does she wish that social media existed in the days of Laguna Beach, for her own sake? Well, that's a different matter entirely. "It's interesting, because people will comment with things like, ‘oh you've grown up a lot.' Yes, I have grown up a lot, but also this has always been who I am," says Cavallari. "And in the same breath, yes, of course I've matured quite a bit since I was 18, 19, 20, but the core of me has always been the same."

Fast-forward to 2018, and the girl who was once known for being part of Lauren Conrad's "love triangle" is, in every sense of the word, satisfied. She's happily married, and her wedding day is one that's still fresh in her mind. "Not to sound cheesy, but literally the entire day was so perfect," she shares. "Our reception was so fun. We had about 120 people and it was truly our closest friends and family; it felt intimate to us. We really focused on three things to make it perfect in our eyes, so that was really good food, great booze, and really good music. We had a five-person motown band and every single person was on the floor." She credits her relationship right now as "the closest we've ever been," explaining, "we know each other so well and we're so incredibly comfortable with one another. And I would take our relationship now over what it was in the beginning."

Aside from her children, Cavallari's current pride and joy is her jewelry line, Uncommon James. "I started this company by myself and I've never had that kind of creative freedom in my life, and it's so satisfying," she says, and I can feel the excitement in her voice radiating through the phone. "It's so freeing. It's the hardest job I've ever had and I love every second of it. I love jewelry—I think that accessories make or break your outfit. But it's more about owning a company for me that's so fun. It's the most challenging thing for me, besides being a mom, that I've ever done. Uncommon James hasn't even been around for a year, and I'm already opening my own brick and mortar—which is scary as hell but it's also really exciting."

As we speak, Cavallari is preparing for a short book tour to promote her new cookbook True Roots: A Mindful Kitchen with More Than 100 Recipes Free of Gluten, Dairy, and Refined Sugar. "My cookbook is truly a passion project of mine—I'm such a healthy eater and I'm just excited to share with everyone that being healthy doesn't mean boring," she explains. "You're not missing out on anything. I really think that you can eat anything as long as you're choosing the right ingredients ... this cookbook is how I eat on a daily basis. I honest-to-God make everything in this cookbook all the time; it's how my family and I eat. I'm a home cook who loves to cook healthy and I'm doing this to share that with my fans, who are excited about eating healthy and want to get on track.

Cavallari's tour will take her to New York, Nashville, and Chicago, and she'll take her children with her to Chicago to see her mom. Even though Los Angeles isn't on the list of promotional cities, I have to ask the obvious question— is there a possibility of having a play date with new moms (and former Hills co-stars) Audrina Patridge and Heidi Montag.

"We talk about it all the time!" Cavallari assures me. "It's just hard because they're in L.A., and I'm in Nashville. But I'd love to. Audrina and Heidi both reached out to me a lot and I love that I was able to be there for them because when I had Camden, my oldest, I had no one I could turn to for advice or for any kind of help. So being able to be there for my co-stars and my ‘normal' friends, too, I love nothing more."

Work, family, business success—life seems to be coming at Cavallari fast, and for a while, that's what she always wanted. "My whole life, I always wanted to be older," she says. "I always wanted to be in the next phase of my life, but now I just want everything to slow down. I wish I could've just enjoyed being 18." She pauses, as if she's reflecting on the journey she's had so far, the one that's taken her from small-town suburbia to the beaches of Hollywood and back to the grounded, simple, family-oriented life she knew before all her fame and fortune.

"Just enjoy the journey and enjoy the moment."

For a girl who once wanted to grow up too fast, Cavallari is now making sure it all counts.

Kristin Cavallari for Galore Magazine