Dark Angel of The Hills

The viewers of MTV’s wildly popular kind-of reality show The Hills, which will begin airing its fourth season in August, first glimpsed fashion publicist Kelly Cutrone in season one, when series star Lauren Conrad was dispatched by her boss at Teen Vogue to procure 11th-hour tickets to a fashion show being produced by Ms. Cutrone’s company, People’s Revolution.

“They said, ‘Don’t make it hard, but don’t make it easy,’” recalled Ms. Cutrone, 42, on a recent evening, sipping cabernet and working her way through a three-tiered antipasti platter at the Soho Grand (where, as the hotel’s former publicist, she eats for free).

Ms. Conrad, who appears easily flummoxed and favors headbands, found Ms. Cutrone backstage at the fashion show, but couldn’t name the Vogue editors who would be using the extra tickets. “You’re going to need to move a lot quicker than this if you’re going to work in the fashion business,” Ms. Cutrone snapped on camera.

“Which I meant, because she was slow,” recalled the older woman, back at the Soho Grand munching prosciutto.

Ms. Cutrone was an immediate hit with the show’s producers and fans, and became a regular midway through the third season when Whitney Port, Ms. Conrad’s coworker at Teen Vogue, left the magazine to work for the L.A. office of People’s Revolution. In recent weeks, Ms. Port has been in New York filming the show’s fourth season, which will feature Ms. Cutrone even more prominently. Ms. Cutrone calls herself the series’ “antagonist.”

She also functions as a kind of antidote to the series’ dreamy plasticity, portraying fashion as an actual job where one works, rather than an excuse to rustle through racks of clothes while discussing your roommate issues. And, bitchy or not, as a powerful female whose authority is never questioned or mocked, she is a near-anomaly on television. She boasts a what-the-fuck attitude that betrays punk-rockish roots. Any scene in with her in it is more interesting: it’s actual drama.

In person, Ms. Cutrone looked more polished and rested than she ever has on The Hills. She wore Prada heels and head-to-toe black. She has jet-black hair and wears no visible makeup atop her startlingly pale skin, which gives her the look of Wednesday Addams 30 years later. On The Hills, she is drawn and demanding, an East Coast Queen of the Night to Ms. Port and Ms. Conrad’s ditzy blond Californian Princesses.

So far, her increasing notoriety has not hurt her business. “Your clients, they don’t want you to be more famous than them,” she said. “But at the same time, they want to have a powerful publicist.” People’s Revolution currently reps 46 clients, including Longchamp, Yigal Azrouel, Vivienne Westwood and Sass & Bide.

Ms. Cutrone is brash both onscreen and off, but The Hills has edited her into a “power bitch,” as she says, focusing on incidents like a public scolding of West Coast People’s Revolution publicist Jessica Trent, who was subsequently fired. (“If you think about Donald Trump on TV, like, ‘You’re fired,’ everybody’s like, ‘Yeah!’” said Ms. Cutrone, disagreeing that her behavior was at all unwarranted. “It’s like, do you understand what the job is?”) But ambivalence about her Hills portrayal is minimal. “I’ve been called [a power bitch] so many times that it’s like an inner-slang situation,” she said. “People are gonna look at you and project onto you what it is they want. Power bitch is a generational thing.

“I think that people hate women,” she added. “And I don’t think they like powerful women, and I think it really goes back to Salem, I really do. I think it really goes back to this concept of, you know, hysterical coming from uterus. …”

Ms. Cutrone leaned forward on the couch, where she was perched before her spread of proteins, rolling up thinly sliced bites of meat and popping them in her mouth between rapid-fire points. She seemed to be trying to outdo each statement with the next.

“I think that people really have to look back to Egypt, and this concept of women being in power is not a new thought. With the advent of religion, you saw the demise of the female in the godhead. In Christianity, Mary gets pregnant on her own, she doesn’t even get fucked.”


PEOPLE’S REVOLUTION EMPLOYS 24 people, most of whom, unsurprisingly, are women in their 20s. The company occupies three floors of a building on Grand Street in Soho, and Ms. Cutrone lives in a spacious loft in the same building with her 6-year-old daughter, Ava, and an Argentinian male model named Demian, whom she met while casting a fashion show in Mexico City and brought back to New York on a visitor’s visa to shoot an ad campaign for a client with the photographer Mary Ellen Mark, Ava’s godmother. Ms. Cutrone later introduced Demian to photographer Bruce Weber’s booker, a friend, and he was soon posing for L’Uomo Vogue and V magazine spreads. (Mr. Weber, auteur of the Abercrombie & Fitch catalog, is a noted discoverer of international-caliber pectorals.)

Since February, Ms. Cutrone has also housed and schooled a 7-year-old Native-American girl from a reservation in South Dakota, the granddaughter of John Trudell, a Native-American activist and former boyfriend who happened to be dating Angelina Jolie’s mother at the time of her death (Ms. Bertrand left him $100,000 in her will). Ms. Jolie produced a documentary on Mr. Trudell.

But though she lives with two schoolgirls and a male model, Ms. Cutrone has been dating music producer Jimmy Boyle, 40, who lives in Los Angeles, for several years, and she also remains close to her first husband, pop artist and Warhol affiliate Ronnie Cutrone, 60, to whom she was married briefly in her early 20s and who still crashes on her couch. (Ava’s father was an Italian she met in Paris and left three months into her pregnancy, shortly after leaving her second husband, an actor.) Another presence at le château Cutrone is Paul Morrissey, Warhol’s filmmaker and the former manager of the Velvet Underground, whom she met though Mr. Cutrone years ago, has reconnected with, and now considers an “uncle.” (It has been reported he is making a film about Demian.)

Dark Angel of The Hills