Kelly Cutrone Interview

Forget sugar-coating. PR maven Kelly Cutrone has made a career out of knowing that constructive criticism is a dish best served raw. As the head of People’s Revolution, a top fashion public relations and marketing firm, Kelly is one of the hardest working women in the fashion industry. She made her first big impression on mainstream America as a mentor to Whitney Port and Lauren Conrad on The Hills and The City. Next week, she reunites with Tyra Banks for America’s Next Top Model Cycle 19: College Edition, which premieres on August 24th. Kelly’s tell-it-like-it-is approach puts other notoriously hard-hitting reality TV stars like Gordon Ramsay and Simon Cowell to shame. It’s also why she’s our favourite judge on reality TV. Kelly spoke to about what it really takes to make it as a model in the fashion industry, truth-talking and the latest cycle of Top Model.

You are our favourite judge on the show!
Yay! I’m not taking a backseat to that Tyra Banks!

Sophie was our favourite contestant last season, and you were always a big supporter of her. Do you know what her career is like now?
She’s doing great and shooting a lot. She’s best friends with Emma Watson. I think they’re taking an apartment together in New York. I’m sure that, between the two of them, they’ll manifest good times together personally and professionally.

Did they meet after Top Model?
I think they’ve actually been really good friends [for a while]. When we’re shooting Top Model, we can’t really talk to the contestants. We have to be a little distant with them, more distant than I would like at times. I actually called her the night that it was announced that she won and the show was airing. She’s was in London. It’s so funny that everyone thinks you’re the meanest on the show, and you’re the one calling people! My daughter is a huge fan of her, and unfortunately she’s memorized the song “Stop, Drop & Tooch.” Between that song and thoughts of Annaliese, I’m still being haunted!

When it comes down to physical specifics, what should a girl really consider before she goes into modeling? What are the physical requirements?
Does she photograph well? Does she have an incredible amount of stamina? It’s a very physically hard job because you can be on set, sometimes for 8-10 hours. Do you have an emotional make-up where detachment is something that you’re familiar with? Do you have the ability to be care-free about what others think of you? It’s hard for a young woman because we’re so programmed to please other people. But most importantly: Do you photograph well, do you like clothes and do you like to have your picture taken? Ding, ding, ding! Three things that make for a good model! And be over 5’9, if not 5’10 and like to be the center of attention and light up more when the camera comes on than when you walk into a bar.

Who are some of your favourite working models?
Tyra Banks is ridiculous when you see her model. One time, Tyra had to shoot these crazy housewife scenes. It was her in this short dress with a vacuum cleaner. She does 20 different poses all at once. Aygness Deyn is still one of my favourite girls. When she comes to a shoot, the whole room elevates. There’s nothing more stressful than being at a photo shoot with a model who doesn’t know how to model or doesn’t feel like modeling. It’s like going to a race track with a thoroughbred who doesn’t want to run and everybody is crying.

What are some of the biggest mistakes you see new models making?
Falling prey to the seven deadly sins that come compliments of the fashion business. Becoming highly sexualized or utilizing drugs or alcohol to try to keep up with the lifestyle or deal with the feelings that come up. That’s a big one. And over-doing it: Doing too much of a pout and walking down the runway going, “This is a tough collection, so I’m going to squint my eyes!” It’s not the best idea.

The best advice for a model is: Everyone in fashion is crazy!

What are some of the biggest misconceptions about the fashion world?
That everybody is beautiful and everybody is making a ton of money and we don’t have to work very hard. That the real world doesn’t touch us. It’s a very competitive business and you have to be very tenacious and be able rebound very quickly. The one thing we want is elasticity in our egos and elasticity in our skin!

Next season of Top Model is college season. Do you think it’s bad for the girls’ careers to start modeling so late?
I would be lying if I said that 24 is a great age to start a modeling career. It’s not a bad age to start a TV career. I started mine at 40! But some of the girls are younger. I don’t think you’re too old to model if you’re 20 or 21. It’s like, would you start out to be a professional basketball player at 24? No, but it doesn’t mean that no one is ever going to become a professional basketball player at 24. I think the reason – and you can ask Tyra – I think there are legal issues with girls who are under-age [for the show]. There are legal issues with how long they can shoot for, and they need breaks. There are a lot of laws that go into TV and filming and child labour.

What are some of the biggest highlights from this season?
The storylines are pretty deep with some of the girls. There are two or three girls whose parents are in or have been in prison. I was brutally attacked by a photographer at the end of the season. We had a big showdown in 120 degree weather. The judges – Bryanboy cries on almost every episode! He would text me in the middle of the night, “I can’t believe this girl! She was so rude!” When one of the girls he liked got sent home, he cried! Tyra and I were laughing at him. One time he gets really mad and throws wads of paper at one of the contestants. I think some of the girls tried to seduce Rob Evans.

The two Jays are gone!
Yeah, the two Jays are gone. Johnny Wujek is the person who replaced Jay Emmanuel. Have you seen the Katy Perry movie?

So he’s Katy’s stylist. He’s really cute, fun and cool.

What would your advice be to any girl who is trying to break into the modeling industry?
I was at Target. This woman said, “Can I talk to you about modeling?” And I said okay. She was the checkout girl at Target. She said, “What do you have to do to be a model?” And I said, “Well, who were you thinking about?” And she said, “Me.” I’m like, you’re 165 pounds, you’re 38 years old. Are you really going to humiliate me and put me in a position where – I’m somebody who likes to be honest. I don’t want to be like, “Yeah, you should go to the Ford agency tomorrow!” I said, “I don’t think modeling is for you.” She just threw my stuff in the bag! I think I’m just going to start pretending I don’t hear people.

The first thing is, you should figure out why you want to be a model, and hopefully it’s because you love the human form and you love your human form, and you’re interested in keeping in shape, you want to travel the world, you love creative people, you love clothes and you love to have your picture taken… And you happen to be over 5’10 and you have eyes that are pretty wide set and photogenic. If you answered yes to 95% of the questions, then modeling is for you!

We have this theory that it’s better to come in second or third on Top Model for a model’s career. What do you think?
I can’t tell you, at People’s Revolution, how many employees and people we’ve had here over the last 15 or 16 years who thought they wanted to work in fashion more than anything. I think a lot of the girls enter with the idea “What would happen if?” And then when it happens…There’s a difference between TV fame and modeling fame. You have to convert it. If a girl’s a smoking model, she’s a smoking model. But if you’ve gotten a bit of TV fame, maybe you don’t want to be the model on the go-see anymore. The truth of the matter is that just because you’re a star in one part of the industry doesn’t mean you’re going to be a star in another. You have to work and pay your dues. I do think, in fashion, people who have fame are made to work harder, like celebrities who have clothing lines.

I think that most of them just haven’t really stopped to do the work and say, “Okay, now I’m going to commit myself to being a model.” We have one girl on the new season who is super beautiful – you look at her and she looks like an insane editorial girl – and she lives in Boston. I look at her and I say, “Have you ever gone to any New York agencies?” [And she goes], “No.”

“Do you want to be a model?”

“Yeah, more than anything in the world.”

“Okay, so let me get this straight: You live a three-hour bus ride on a Greyhound bus from New York City and you look you do and you want to be a model more than anything and you’ve never gone to New York City to get an agency?” That’s like saying, I want to go to Paris but I’m not willing to get on a plane so I’ll go to a Vegas casino.

Photo Courtesy of: KEYSTONE

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