IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Lauren Conrad stays cool in ‘The Hills’

‘It just seemed like a cool opportunity’ says star of her reality TV venture
/ Source: The Associated Press

There were no cameras following Lauren Conrad as she entered the West Hollywood cafe.

That’s notable. Since she was a high-school senior, much of the life of the now 20-year old aqua-eyed, blonde Californian has been filmed, videoed, tape-recorded and put on air.

“It just seemed like a cool opportunity,” Conrad says, recalling why she signed on for such exposure. It’s not something she or her friends consider particularly odd. “I mean if you go to any high school, you are going to get a lot of people who want to be on TV.”

Conrad became a central character in “Laguna Beach,” the MTV series that chronicles teenage life in her hometown, an upscale Southern California beach community. Now she’s left school and home and has moved up the coast to Los Angeles, where she’s the focal point of the spin-off series “The Hills” (Wednesdays, 10 p.m. ET).

The cameras capture Conrad’s lifestyle as she hangs out with new friends, including a volatile roommate, 19 year-old Heidi Montag, and tries to balance the demands of study at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising and an internship at Teen Vogue with the youthful need to party and talk about relationships.

The series is shot in a glossy style that might be “The O.C.” goes “Melrose Place,” except, of course, it’s for real.

Conrad and the show’s creator and executive producer, Adam DiVello, don’t believe there’s artifice in the process.

“Everything they are going through is real. She’s really moved up here, she’s really moved into that apartment, and Heidi is her best friend, and Audrina lives in the building, and Whitney is her fellow intern,” says DiVello, when asked if there is any point where reality ends and scripting takes over. “We film with them for extremely long periods of time, so we do capture everything as it happens, but we have to mold that into a story, of course.”

There’s some need to pre-plan, particularly to secure access to the locations where Conrad works and plays, dines and dances. But once entree is granted the cameras are positioned discretely. DiVello says there’s no need to fictionalize because, “Whenever you get a group of kids in their early 20s together, living on their own for the first time in a city, stuff is going to happen.”

‘A trouper’ with a ‘clean start’DiVello first worked with Conrad on “Laguna Beach.” He calls her “a trouper” and says “she’s definitely become extremely relaxed and comfortable in front of the cameras.”

Conrad says that “the clean start” of doing a new show allows her to reveal what she’d learned from the previous venture.

“I think, like, a lot of times you put up a shell when you are filming. You don’t want people to know a lot of things, but what I’ve learned is that people always relate to your problems ... So you shouldn’t be afraid ... If anything it makes for better television if you open up, so I definitely think I let down my guard in filming this show.”

The series does well with viewers aged 12 to 24, who also log on to “The After Show” to dish with the stars and avidly discusses the content in online chat rooms.

Conrad doesn’t check out the online chatter.

“I used to .... but they are really brutal. So, no. They don’t have too much nice to say ... but it’s like anything else, people love you or they hate you.”

She doesn’t watch much TV, but thinks that reality series have caught on because “television shows are so predictable.” With a show like hers, “You don’t know what is going to happen. Life isn’t predictable, and what they have done with this show is make it look as good as a drama.”

She says she is “pretty critical” of herself on camera — questioning her hair and fashion styles and wondering why in one recent episode she appeared “really grumpy.”

She not grumpy this day. Polite and low-key, she’s prettily dressed in a black empire-lined, camisole-strapped summer frock, which her boyfriend, Jason, helped her pick out. She’s wearing ballet flats. There’s a tiny anchor on a thin gold chain around her neck. Another chain holds a glittery star, a gift given to each of “The Hills” girls. It’s the only flashy thing about her appearance.

Unlike her friend Montag, a dedicated party girl who wants a film career, Conrad has no plans to become an actress. She insists, “I can’t act.” But she hopes to achieve her goal to work in the fashion business, possibly in concept development or as a stylist.

She says the close ties between entertainment and the fashion industry made “The Hills” too good an opportunity to miss out on. That’s one reason she signed on. Another is, “It’s lots of fun.”