Learning Things From People You Think Are Stupid (Or How I Learned to Let Go of My Dislike of Lauren Conrad)
I used to despise Lauren Conrad. Like, couldn’t stand her. But I’ve since realized that I didn’t like LC of The Hills and Laguna Beach. She may or may not be this person in real life, but her character on TV always seemed to be annoyed with everything, unimaginative and dull, dull, dull. I’m definitely in the minority here because I know she has a lot of fans, but to me, carrying a Chanel bag and being obsessed with fashion does not make you “classy”. LC refers to herself as classy but what she doesn’t realize is that the term “classy” is quite negative and you should never use it to refer to yourself. Take this definition of classy from UrbanDictionary.com:
Ghettofied adjective from the late 70s & 80s that somehow became socially acceptable with predominately middle & upper class homogenized White Americans, especially during the last few years. The biggest mistake connected with the use of this term is that it should never be used to describe oneself. Those who use it to describe themselves never are.Example: Excuse me, I am a classy lady! May I please have a paper bag & a straw!
So I usually never miss out on an occasion to bash LC, whether it was her collection of book-shaped objects, terrible first clothing line or misguided attempts to be “classy”. But with my new path of regular posts on this blog and a dedication to discovering more in life instead of just hatin’, I’ve reconsidered LC. Consider this: she’s been by far the most successful person to come out of the Laguna Beach/The Hills franchise. She’s managed to make her career in the Hollywood/fashion/celebrity complex more relevant and current than when she was on air. She’s churning out 1-2 books every year and they’re staying on the New York Times bestseller list (in the children’s section, but still). And she’s doing it without being all that likeable, truly creative, smart or some great personality. Why all the success? I used to think she was just a typical rich OC kid who was being given everything even though she wasn’t the coolest or funniest one on the show. But there are things Lauren did that her costars didn’t and now they all seem pathetic while LC is slowly but surely gaining the sort of respectability that Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen have garnered despite the fact that their original claim to fame is one of the lamest sitcoms in American history. What has she done right?
1) Lauren Conrad works hard. She’s done a lot of different things-from sponsorships to book deals and none of them have been failed music careers or desperate attempts to cash in on her fame. In Hollywood, you don’t have to have 100% artistic integrity. There are those who do and who achieve great success on their own terms (think Chloe Sevigny), but there are plenty of equally if not more successful stars who get what they want because they never stop working. LC figured that out and got the right people on her team (managers, business managers, publicists, etc.) to figure out how she could be successful and she stayed the course. She promotes herself on talk shows and book tours, appears happy in public (now that she’s not on The Hills), and has two popular websites, Laurenconrad.com and TheBeautyDepartment.com.
2) She hasn’t let the fame get to her. Fame is a fate I wouldn’t wish on anyone, but LC managed to take the worst of it, like sex tape rumors and a publicly destroyed best-friendship, and still come out on top. Have you seen Heidi and Spencer lately? They made The Hills entertaining but they have nothing to show for it. LC used her fame and celebrity to boost her brands, products and image and figured out how to reveal less of her personal life even while she was still on air.
3) LC hasn’t let failure keep her from trying again or trying new ventures. The Lauren Conrad Collection in 2007 was unoriginal, overpriced and didn’t fare well in sales. It folded quickly. But because she kept her image positive, she launched a second line with Kohl’s in 2009 with better clothes and greater success and has a third line of aspirational contemporary wear, Paper Crown, that looks poised to do very well, thanks to much stronger marketing and design. That’s impressive to me because I don’t find LC’s sense of style to be very original, but she has convinced a loyal legion of followers that her “classic, simple, pretty” tastes with a California twist are totally creative. Leo Babauta said, “If you have been convinced a product changed your life, then it has. That’s how the magic works.” The same idea applies here–if LC can convince people that she has style, taste and originality, then she has it.
4) Lauren Conrad knows who she appeals to and she markets herself towards that group. I know Lauren Conrad isn’t supposed to appeal to me. I’m too old and have read way too many magazines and commentaries to not see her as just a pretty face with a good eye for putting things together. LC’s target market is 15-23 year-old women. They’ve watched her on TV but also see her as older and thus wiser, especially for getting out of the snakepit that was Heidi and Spencer’s world. She’s kept herself relatable and is obsessed with appearing nice and polite, which this young group rewards.
We can always learn from people. Perhaps we say it but when it comes down to it, we don’t really think we can learn from someone who seems at first glance to be vapid or successful just through luck and looks. I think LC has become successful and found what she likes to do by having a great work ethic and more common sense than most “talent” in the entertainment industry. When the urge is strong to dismiss someone because you don’t connect with them, they’re not like you, or you think you’re smarter than them: try taking one good lesson from them. I bet it will at least be worthy of a blog post!
PS- If you’re interested in all things LC and her businesswoman prowess, check out her Celebpreneur blog at Forbes.