Feature writing


This Is Why Lauren Conrad Should Be Your Lifestyle Guru

The Daily Beast

March 30, 2016

There is no contest, and no dispute.

The best line ever uttered in a reality show was because of Lauren Conrad, so do not expect any dissing of the Conrad here.

It came in the magisterial The Hills, which is also the best reality show of all time, and there shall also be no dissing of The Hills here either.

It came after Lauren had chosen not to go to Paris for the summer for a Teen Vogue opportunity, and her buddy Whitney had. Lauren wanted to stay with boyfriend Jason “at the beach.”

Cue the first post-summer scene, and Lauren and Whitney’s editor, Lisa Love, uttering those amazing lines: “Lauren didn’t go to Paris. She’s going to always be known as the girl who didn’t go to Paris.” As judgmental lines go, it remains devastating and unmatchable–no-one wants be ‘the girl who didn’t go to Paris.’

Well, in the long run, things didn’t work out so badly. Later, Cinders Conrad did get to go to Paris, and it was way frothier and better than when Carrie did the same in Sex and The City.

And in the super long-term, it worked out really well, because Lauren Conrad is one of the most successful reality TV stars, conqueror of many ‘platforms,’ and now transformed into a celebrity lifestyle expert.

She has a new book out called Celebrate—this after Lauren Conrad Style and Lauren Conrad Beauty—which is a one-stop shop (and shop and shop) for anyone planning a party of any kind, from birthday to New Year’s Eve via housewarming and clambake.

Spookily, this new book shares its title with Pippa Middleton’s much-mocked party planning book of 2012.

Middleton was mocked because of her flat-toned stating of the glaringly obvious, like, “Do use ordinary jars or pitchers for flowers if you’ve run out of vases.”

Conrad isn’t that bad, and she’s not telling us to steam our vaginas like Gwynnie, or proclaiming, “Our goal has always been to touch millennials through storytelling, and the idea is to create a shoppable lifestyle,” as Blake Lively did with ‘Preserve.’

There is no need for “drawing boards,” as Kate Hudson demanded of us, and no mention of ‘mind-body doshas.”

Conrad-world is a slightly aged-up version of The Hills, minus the axis-destroying presence of ‘Speidi.’

Evenings out are always colorful, her guests are smiling and never rolling their eyes at one another, or face-down-on-the-table drunk.

There are light dishes served in pretty bowls. Her beach parties happen at the best time of day, with the sunset just bleaching the right amount of color around tousled hair.

The shellfish, though dead, all seem happy to be there.

That’s the kind of host Lauren Conrad is—even that which has lost its life to make her table full-to-groaning wouldn’t have sacrificed its invite to be there.

Pictures of Lauren looking cutely Lauren-like are scattered like the pretty flower petals that furnish Celebrate’s tasteful pages. These take us in many fragrant directions—from the necessity of candles to some pretty ‘Don’t fuck with me fellas’ instructions around etiquette.

“Never cancel on the day of the event. Unless it’s an emergency, it’s never an okay thing to do. Be mindful of how much work he or she is putting into hosting you… Be on time… Don’t ask if you can take home a floral arrangement… Follow the dress code… Don’t bring an uninvited guest.”

By the end of this set of instructions, I imagined turning up at Conrad’s place and begging to be told where to sit, and only asking for a glass of water, which I would sip nervously and slowly in case that asking for a refill could lead to court martial.

In order to plan a party like Lauren Conrad, there can be nothing else in your life for weeks around it.

Wow, she doesn’t party hard in excess terms, but she does in the planning. Just for the clambake, she writes, “Since the feast is intended to be very hands-on, I wanted to provide everyone with a way to wipe their hands, so I filled woven apple baskets with wet linen hand towels rolled and wrapped with twine and sprinkled with lemon juice.”

You finish that sentence feeling an absolute dolt for not having woven apple baskets, and then question the point of living realizing you’ve never sprinkled hand towels with lemon juice.

Actually, you don’t have hand towels. Where’s the cliff? See ya.

Surely, the rational part of you cries defiantly, if you had messy hands after eating something on the beach you could just go down to the sea and dunk your hands in that, which Conrad should know as she’s from Laguna Beach, where—she insists—she is “pretty casual (think: sandy feet, cozy, oversized sweaters; and minimal makeup).”

Every party Conrad plans is lovely, let’s be clear. And for real sartorial dummies, she even has your ‘look’ covered, with mood-boards made up of sensible jeans and wedge heels.

This is to say nothing of her love of the color pink, the wonders of Ikea, and the moments of the day not given over to cocktail experimentation being spent in an extended arts-and-crafts class. “Instead of a traditional vase, I decided to use cored-out pineapples for the arrangements to complement the tropical theme,” she writes of the décor for her bachelorette party.

The most barnstorming chapter, where all party planning roads lead, is inevitably Conrad’s wedding to her (magnificently named) husband William Tell—the invite was dusky pink, naturally.

Tell’s proposal featured a candlelit pathway in the living room, and a bottle of Conrad’s favorite champagne, chilled, and in a silver bucket—which tells me that together these two are a ruthless party planning tag team.

Conrad has your wedding planning running to a 12-month plan. Even though I am single, I am obsessed with this timetable, and may just follow it in the hope that someone comes along and joins me for the ride at some point, such as at 6 months, when we are instructed to have the ‘should we elope?’ conversation.

At 4 months, me and (me?) will undertake “hair and makeup trials.”

At 2 months, I will purchase ‘day of’ accessories (and just try getting in my way that day!), although I think Conrad deciding on her seating chart with only one month to go suggests a group of way-too-amenable family and friends. I say 2 months, allowing time for bribes to sent to you.

Conrad is her own wedding day’s uber-terminator, taking charge of everything, even pie-making.

This activity led to one of the most stunning sentences in Conrad’s tome: “Two weeks before the wedding, I locked myself in an industrial kitchen space with two girlfriends and 280 Granny Smith apples.”

Do not mess with Lauren Conrad.

Their wedding sounds delightful, though the book ends with a holiday party and a New Year’s Party, where I discover that Conrad and I share only one party planning golden rule in common: on December 31, only champagne will do. Bubbles, bubbles, bubbles: the only way to go.

For Conrad, out also comes the gold home décor craft kit and scissors. Under her cheery decorations, her guests are not arguing, having dark nights of the soul about the year just gone and what lies ahead, but simply wrinkling their noses playfully, or laughing merrily, and playing nicely.

The book ends with a divine picture of her and Tell, bathed in the shiny entrails of golden streamers and tastefully white and golden balloons.

Remember to give your New Year’s Party host a gift, we are told sternly. Indeed, I love how stern and certain Conrad’s party counsel is, because it recalls how she could be the same in The Hills, when people’s behavior irked her.

Conrad’s tone throughout Celebrate reminds me of Miss Grant in Fame telling her students, “Fame costs—and right here’s where you start paying. In sweat.”

Party planning, Conrad suggests, is a similar strive for perfection: for the glory, first you need to bake, chop, cut things up, sew, tape, and sharpen. Good parties do not just happen.

No, Lauren wasn’t the girl who went to Paris. Instead, she parlayed her image of the wholesome, morally upstanding, sweetly sexy core of a daffy reality show of warring girls and horny, wastrel boys into a lucrative career.

As any fan of The Hills knows, it was impossible for this group of shiny, whiny twentysomethings to have a happy night out.

At the beginning of every evening escapade, as hair was teased and eye make up applied, the vow would be, “Let’s just have as fun night, and no drama.”

And then, of course, every evening would end in tears and recriminations, and a pounding rock ballad. (The same pattern has been repeated in every Bravo reality show since.)

With Celebrate, Conrad is breaking her Hills partying curse. Look at the pictures: our wavy-haired princess of nice is finally having multiple happy, beautifully designed, drama-free nights out, with not a “sucky person” in sight.

Go Lauren. Screw Paris.