Kelly Cutrone, the plain-spoken head of a PR firm with a high-minded name, People’s Revolution, has spent the last few seasons berating her vacant employees Lauren Conrad and Whitney Port as a peripheral character on MTV’s reality soap operas The Hills and The City. Now, she has her own show on Bravo, Kell on Earth, which chronicles her life as a fashion publicist. Watching Cutrone admonish her idiotic underlings is psychic relief for the engaged TV fan: For once, everything you’d like to shout at the screen is being said for you by a woman who dresses exclusively in black and has the pallor of someone who eschews both under-eye concealer and sunlight.
But Cutrone is not just a pedestrian reality TV bitch in the mold of evil Apprentice star Omarosa. She’s actually an earth mother/guru with a newly released book called If You Have To Cry, Go Outside: And Other Things Your Mother Never Told You, which was published by HarperOne, the spiritual/personal growth imprint of HarperCollins. She frequently refers to herself in the third person as Mama Wolf and informs readers that she has “died several times while in the same body, each time paving the way for an amazing rebirth.” I have often fantasized of having her swoop into my life and tell me, in her harsh manner, exactly what to do with myself.
Cutrone’s spiritual side is not immediately evident to the casual viewer. Her particular brand of genius is best delivered in response to her employees’ ineptitude, innocence, or inexperience. “I got really tired interviewing blond girl after blond girl,” she said on the pilot episode of her reality show, affecting a Valley Girl drawl: ” ‘Hi, I’m really excited to be here.’ And I just think, oh God.” In the second episode, she gets so irritated at a group of interns for botching the packaging of gift bags that they’re all exiled from the office as punishment. During a press call to promote Kell on Earth last month, Cutrone was asked whether she had learned anything from her subordinates. “From our interns? I’ve learned that I don’t want to send my daughter to college,” she deadpanned. For this statement, one commenter on the Awl called her a national treasure.
Like infamously icy editor Anna Wintour in the recent documentary about Vogue, The September Issue, Cutrone comes across as someone devoted to getting work done correctly and with a minimum of complaining. And her attention to detail is impressive—much of the drama on the show revolves around the seeming minutiae of seating charts and RSVP lists. “The fashion industry is a war,” she says. “Which is why we have a take-no-prisoners attitude.” She even praises obsessive-compulsive disorder as an “amazing” character trait.
Though on her TV show Cutrone’s outer bitch is ascendant, in her book, we’re introduced to the softer side of Kelly, a girl from upstate New York who once majored in nursing. She invites her demographic—which she identifies as girls under 30 and gay men—to follow their dreams instead of getting married and having babies young. In her encouragement of this impressionable group, she is prone to New Age platitudes like, “Celebrate the magic inside of yourself.” This hippie affect is a delightful surprise coming from a woman who also swears like a sailor.
Cutrone is also emphatic about the fact that she is a girl’s girl. She refers to herself an “ancient feminist” and is prone to declaring things like “I LOVE JUSTINE BATEMAN - MY NUMBER ONE SISTER” via her enigmatic Twitter presence. In Cry, she writes “We don’t have to stab each other in the back, we don’t have to take things personally and break down when we’re criticized, and we don’t have to advance at each other’s expense.”
As the subtitle of her book implies, what Cutrone really wants to do is mother us—her audience, her charges, her actual daughter, which is obvious to anyone who is really paying attention to Cutrone’s behavior on her show. She tells Andrew, her grunge-goth assistant, that she is “actively looking” for a sexual partner for him; she even makes a few inquiries about a male model he has a crush on. When an intern from Northern Ireland, Tim, calls home, Cutrone gets on the phone to praise him to his mother. She seems like a genuinely devoted mom to her 7-year-old daughter, Ava, as well. Cutrone is shown helping Ava pick out an outfit for her first day of school and reminding her to say “please” and “thank you” when at a friend’s house.
Perhaps due to her maternal impulses, birth is a recurring theme for Cutrone in her book, whether it is figurative (“You can’t be birthed again until you’ve died”) or alarmingly literal (“Birthing one’s placenta can only be compared to putting a flaming drink from Trader Vic’s onto your vagina after a marathon night of banging a football player”). She also has a penchant for practical—if not traditionally motherly—advice. In her book she covers all of the following: “How to use a vibrator; how to go to a loan shark and pull a loan at 17 percent that’s due in thirty days; how to hire your first divorce attorney; what to look for in a doula should you find yourself alone and pregnant.” These are all useful tidbits for the women in Cutrone’s desired demographic (and at least amusing for the gay men she says she wants to influence).
With her book and television show both apparent successes, the Cutrone juggernaut does not seem to be anywhere near done; she says that what she really wants is a talk show. She deserves one. Her bitchiness might be played up for the cameras, but it’s probably a very smart business move. After all, Oprah is retiring in 2011. The nation is hankering for a straight-talking woman with a heart of spiritual mush for the 21st century.