Exclusive: The Kelly Cutrone Conversation You Didn’t Hear in Office Hours|
Kelly Cutrone, founder and CEO of fashion PR powerhouse People’s Revolution, stopped by Levo League for Office Hours Thursday and it. Was. Ah-mazing! (Missed it? Watch it in the video below.)
The advice she doled out and stories she told to the group of about 40 women (and some men!) truly are priceless, and we witnessed countless heads nodding in agreement to every sentence she uttered. After the video chat ended, the Levo League team was lucky enough to talk with Kelly (read: bask in her glory and try to pretend like we were old friends catching up) and she answered some of our biggest career questions. Here’s what she had to say once the camera stopped rolling.
On Her Management Style
Kelly told us she has a very different management style that she won’t change for anyone; one that is more entrepreneurial than managerial. “The difference between an entrepreneur and a manager is like the difference between a bounty hunter and a cop,” she says. “A cop gets a paycheck every week and a uniform but a bounty hunter has to chase down the criminal and get the money. My style is very off the cuff, but I am an amazing teacher.” And that she is. Former Kelly Cutrone proteges have gone on to run PR for the likes of Louis Vuitton and The Row, and don’t forget the respective successes of her former interns Whitney Port and Lauren Conrad.
She did warn that when you are a mentor, you should always keep in mind that your mentee eventually will “spit in your face,” meaning they will outgrow you. Think of them like a precious child who looks up to you but will eventually become a teenager that tries to steal your credit card. It only means you are doing your job well.
Kelly also feels that honesty — brash honesty — is the best policy when it comes to people making mistakes. “If someone makes a mistake, I feel it is my responsibility to tell them,” she says. “My company is not for everybody and I’m not going to change my management style because my employees don’t like it.”
She says that sometimes employees, especially ones just starting out, feel that a good boss needs to really care about their personal lives, but Kelly argues this isn’t true. “I really don’t care about your personal life. I don’t care what a 22-year-old did over the weekend,” she says. “Sometimes I can barely say, ‘Hi, how are you?’ and nine out of 10 times, I really don’t care about the answer. You give people work, they give you a paycheck. Anything else is gravy or no gravy for me. It’s the Kelly Cutrone Show.”
People’s Revolution is the Kelly Cutrone Show, but this doesn’t mean Kelly doesn’t know when to step back and let someone else take the lead — especially when she is on their television show. She compared working on America’s Next Top Model to being a backup singer. “I sit behind [Tyra Banks] and look at her ass and tell her she’s great,” she laughs. Same goes for Dr.Phil, who jokingly reminded Kelly whose house she was in when he pointed to the “Dr.Phil” sign when she was a guest on his TV show.
On Starting Out in Your Career
At this point, Kelly really focused on young women who come to New York to make it in the Big City. Kelly — who admitted she has been so poor she had to figure out if rice or potatoes was going to last her longer — says to get over those rough humps the usual things like watching Bravo and drinking wine definitely help (and that is true) but so does “realizing you’re not a Kardashian!” You may have to be a bartender or work at a hotel front desk and get treated terribly by every power woman who stays there, she says.
“Everyone who moves to NYC thinks they’re supposed to be living on the Lower East Side and you just can’t,” she says. “Your generation should be living in suburbs and in Hoboken and Jersey City. Everybody wants to be the girl in a bar that meets the cool banker guy and gets a pug or whatever that dog is. A yorkie? But it isn’t realistic! Thirty-thousand dollars is a great amount of money for a person right out of school because so many in your generation are out of work. Forget about fashion! You don’t need it right now! Forget about Gucci and Tory Burch. Don’t subscribe to this whole [fashion, perfect lifestyle] thing. You have to do the work. There’s nothing wrong with not having a lot when you’re young. You’re not supposed to have a lot!”
Kelly insists she is not a successful business woman but instead is a “punky businesswoman.” She says her company could make a lot more money, but she didn’t want to do certain things like talk about lipstick or sailor shorts. “I’m not the most successful publicist, I’m an excellent publicist.”
When asked, “Why fashion?” Kelly says she got into the industry because “I thought it was gonna be the new rock-and-roll.” And, she adds, it is just a really fun industry. “People think I’m very calculated, but I’m not calculated at all.”
As for her fashion strategy, her goal is to “universalize a very snotty world.” Her offering was to bring fashion down off the high hill and bring it to the masses. “How come everyone can’t go to a fashion show? It’s ridiculous!” she says, comparing it to Steven Spielberg making a movie and then saying only red-carpet people could see it. She says that Anna Wintour actually very quietly did this first by putting Teen Vogue editor-in-chief Lisa Love (and that whole side of the industry) on The Hills in its very first season back in 2007. (Kelly basically replaced Lisa as the boss figure/fashion titan on the show.)
What did you think of Kelly Cutrone’s Office Hours? Tell us in the comments!