Wednesday, March 17, 2010

PR mogul's self-help debut an honest wake up call

It’s not often that I’ll admit to liking anyone who’s had anything to do with “The Hills.” Nor is it a frequent occurrence that I reference a former meth addict as a role model. But I’ll make an exception for all of the above for fashion PR maven Kelly Cutrone.

After all, this is someone who once said of Lauren Conrad, “She didn’t really have the sense of how to do things. She wanted stuff to fall on top of her and into her lap. I don’t know how she’ll do [in the fashion industry.]”

Well, thank God someone who counts said it out loud.

Kelly Cutrone is the founder of People’s Revolution, a PR firm responsible for landing clients like Vivienne Westwood and Longchamp on the pages of Vogue. To fashion insiders, Cutrone has been a legend for a long time. She came to mass fame, however, when she appeared on “The Hills” as Whitney Port and Lauren Conrad’s cutthroat boss. These days, she has a reality show of her very own — a Bravo series titled “Kell on Earth” — and a new book. I figured this was something I needed to read.

So I took a trip to Borders when I was home for spring break. I scanned the “New Hardbacks” section but couldn’t seem to find what I was looking for. I went to the customer service desk. “Excuse me,” I said, “Could you help me find Kelly Cutrone’s new book?” I spelled out her name and tried to recall the exact wording of the title.

“Ah yes,” the Borders employee said, “‘If You Have to Cry Go Outside.’ Well, that’s an interesting title. Yes, yes we have it. It’s in self-help.”

“Are you serious? I thought it was a memoir,” I muttered half under my breath and half loud enough for the guy to hear so he didn’t think I’m the kind of girl who reads self-help books. Mortified, my eyes nervously darted around the store making sure no one I knew in high school was watching me get assistance locating a self-help book. I stifled the urge to pull a Charlotte York in that episode of “Sex and the City” on which she tried to find a copy of “Starting Over Yet Again.”

She chickened out when she saw the collection of weeping basket cases in the self-help aisle and instead said aloud, “Travel? Is this the travel section?” and ran home to order the book on Amazon.

No, I am not a middle-aged, teary-eyed recent divorcee, but I am a 22-year-old, soon-to-be-graduated senior in need of some life guidance. I read Cutrone’s “If You Have to Cry, Go Outside: And Other Things Your Mother Never Told You,” (named after her token advice for employees) cover-to-cover in nearly one sitting. And you know what? It turns out I am the kind of girl who likes self-help books. Cutrone details her life of partying, divorce, spiritual rebirth, addiction and pregnancy out of wedlock. This woman has done and seen it all.

In an age when fashion has been glorified as an industry full of free samples and celebrity shoulder rubs, Kelly Cutrone has swooped in to show that fashion is not a cakewalk. Not even a carb-free cakewalk. It’s gritty, mean and takes a whole lot of hard work.

“Fashion,” the way most people see it, is different from the way industry insiders see it. Listing “Fashion” as an interest on Facebook — particularly when listed before or after “working out,” “hanging with my besties” or “Living. Laughing. Loving.” — does not mean you’re going to be Vogue’s next contributing editor. Being able to turn heads with a denim mini skirt and tube socks (think Holly Madison) does not mean you’re going to be Nylon magazine’s next “It Girl.”

While the fashion industry is a less penetrable social circle than “The Plastics,” their standards are a little different than Regina and the gals’. Gretchen Wieners might demand pink on Wednesdays, but the fashion world demands originality and ruthless determination. The industry is competitive, and not many people are willing to offer tips about how to break in. So it’s refreshing to watch and read Cutrone’s words of wisdom.

At first glance, girls who are looking for a step-by-step guide for how to make it to their magazine dream job may be disappointed that there aren’t explicit instructions in Cutrone’s book. What she does offer is a suggestion for some soul searching and tough love. “I believe that the universe constantly rearranges itself to support your idea of reality. If you’re always thinking, ‘Life sucks, and I suck,’ you’re definitely going to see a lot of dismal sh*t out there,” she says in the book.

As for the people who just want to know how to get a job at People’s Revolution, Cutrone says this: “Your pitch letter should be something more than, ‘I love fashion, please help me manifest my dream.’ Do not use rhyming words on your resumé, as in, ‘My passion is for fashion.’ This works only if you’re applying to work for the estate of Dr. Seuss, Nickelodeon or the Scholastic Company.” And that is why Kelly Cutrone is my favorite b*tch in fashion.

1 comment:

Amanda said...