Why Every Young Woman Needs to Work for a Kelly Cutrone-Type Boss|
Kelly Cutrone (or K.C., as I have started calling her) has been the buzz word at Levo all this week — not just because she is hosted Office Hours this week, but also because she has gotten us thinking about her management style. You can see it very clearly for yourself on any of the TV shows she has appeared on: The Hills, The City and Kell on Earth. And you can definitely get a sense of it when you read her books.
But studying the art of Kelly Cutrone made me wonder if I ever worked with a Kelly Cutrone-type boss and what it meant to my career. I had to sit and think about it for a minute until I realized my first internship, and first real exposure to the working world, came with my very own Kelly Cutrone Starter Kit.
I was doing an internship at MSNBC as part of completing my master’s degree in journalism. I worked for a team of producers on the Dayside team, but I seemed to always end up with one in particular, who was confident and intimidating. Though she was only in her early 30s, she already had a very accomplished career as a news producer and had even won an Emmy.
Now, just so you know a little bit about me, I wouldn’t call myself shy or a wallflower, but it takes me a little while to warm up. I also am not that person who wants to work with the Really Intimidating Person, which is the style of many in journalism. But somehow, even as this woman kept picking me to work on projects with her, she still scared the bejeezus out of me. She would yell (not always at me) and tell me I had to do everything faster. I recall one day where we were running around the building trying to get a clip ready for the show that was starting in 20 minutes, and she yelled at me to run faster. (I think I may have stepped on Tucker Carlson’s foot in the process.) When we were in the control room during the actual airing, I felt like we were trying to launch a spaceship.
She would point out my mistakes and then remind me that she had an awesome career and had been doing well for a long time. But then she would say things like, “I can tell you are really smart, and that is why I know you can do this,” — and then she would go back to yelling at me.
Still, these were words I needed to hear. The other intern on my team was three years younger than me and an Amazonian blond who just seemed to naturally steal the show. (Partly because she was extremely smart and nice, but partly because I think it was just easier to see her.) So to have my boss recognize me was all I could ask for at that point. Unlike some of the other producers who gave me tasks I could complete in 10 minutes, she gave me real things to do that actually contributed to the broadcast (and my resume). She actually gave me confidence, even though she did it in a rather unconventional way.
And you can see that that is how Kelly operates as well. There is a real blunt harshness to her, but then there is a maternal side that comes shining through and pleasantly surprises you. Look at her relationship with Stephanie Skinner on Kell on Earth: The girl had been her assistant and then she became a junior executive. Kelly was really tough on her (the girl looked like she hadn’t slept, like, ever) but her toughness also made Stephanie more prepared and confident to take on a very difficult job. She did the same thing with Lauren Conrad and Whitney Port: When we first met Kelly on The Hills, she told Whitney during her job interview she was making a deal with the devil; she told Lauren she was “so slooowww,” and then we saw Lauren make more motion in one scene than she had the entire first season of the show. And whenever Kelly told them they did a good job, both of those young women had the most genuine, huge smiles come across their faces, because they knew they were earning it from someone who actually had built an amazing career.
Bottom line: Having a Kelly Cutrone-type presence in your life is beneficial. It is easy to get a compliment from someone who just doles out compliments, but it feels so much better when you get it from someone who usually has the opposite of a compliment coming out of their mouth. It helps you work harder, and it gives you more confidence. I left that internship knowing that someone who had a great career thought I was smart and capable of the same. And when you are 22 and pretty clueless, you need to have people like that in your life.
Have you ever had a Kelly Cutrone-type boss? Tell us about it in the comments!