door to a chic midtown Manhattan restaurant,
a dozen power-lunching corporate
types crane their heads to stare. And
with good reason: Wearing a body-skimming
burgundy skirt, a sexy black bustier
top, and 5-inch Christian Louboutin
heels and with her cascading blond
waves, it's hard not to notice her. But
something's off. Oh, that's right — today,
there are no cameras trailing her.
The Hills, Lauren has lived nearly five
years of her life in the public eye. Still,
she says, "I feel like I'm a pretty normal
22-year-old. An actor friend told me the
best way to deal with attention is to exist
in the 3 feet around you when you're
out with friends — you can't be worried
about people watching you."
But those millions of watchful eyes
have helped Lauren parlay her reality star
status into an endorsement deal
with Mark cosmetics and her own fashion
line, Lauren Conrad Collection —
launched in partnership with MTV —
now being sold in 500 boutiques across
the country as well as at Nordstrom and
Bloomingdale's. (The line will go international
in 2009.) "I didn't do the show
to skip the line at a nightclub," she says
matter-of-factly. "I did it to help start a
business. I'm not
going to be able to
depend on this press
forever. I want to run
my company when
the show is done. I
want people to buy it
for the design and
not the label inside."
Lauren is so hands-on
with the clothing
line — characterized
by simple silhouettes and versatile jersey
and cotton pieces — that she's the
fit model for each design. "I try to think
of things that I or my friends would
want to wear," she says. (She named
some styles after her pals — obviously,
there's a Lo for Lauren
Bosworth, an Audrina
for Audrina Patridge,
and a Whitney for
Whitney Port.) As for
any negative reviews
her creations have gotten,
she says, "It's business.
with it. Even if people
are rude, at least they're
talking about it!"
While she certainly
has a few detractors,
young women gravitate
toward Lauren because
they see themselves in
her. She is surprisingly
relatable for a girl who
grew up in affluent Laguna
Beach, California —
which is to say
she's fun-seeking, mildly insecure, tight
with her girls, and at times, boy crazy.
Lauren credits her normality to her
close-knit relationship with her family.
Growing up, she spent weekends going
fishing with her dad, who now weighs
in on her business decisions. She is also
close with her younger brother, Brandon,
and sister, Breanna (who appeared
on season three of Laguna Beach), and
admits to telling her
"I don't bother being
like, 'Mom, I met the
cutest boy last night!'
because she always goes 'I already know,'" Lauren says,
Besides, it might
track of those crushes.
In the past four years, Lauren's dated
costars Stephen Colletti, Jason Wahler,
Brody Jenner, and Doug Reinhardt. She
was also recently linked to My Boys'
Kyle Howard. "I don't have the best
dating track record," admits Lauren,
covering her face with her hands and
giggling. "I get bored easily. I can't
even commit to shoes right now!"
Like most young women, Lauren is
reluctant to settle down. "Dating is all
about the chase. It's fun! I'm at a point
where I feel like I need to be selfish."
But her single status also has to do
with the fact that being on a reality
show has made meeting men more
complicated. "I've tried dating guys
off the show, but it's hard. I'll do it to
have a seminormal relationship, but it
usually only goes for a date or two."
A few highlights — or should we say
lowlights? — from those dating adventures:
One dude ran out on the bill,
one was mute for the majority of the
date, and yet another (she later found
out) had made out with one of her gay
friends. "Whatever, bad dates make a
good story," she says, shrugging.
Ultimately, Lauren says, she's looking
for someone with a sense of humor.
"I make fun of guys when I like them.
I act like I'm 10 years old. I do it as a
test to see if they can laugh at themselves.
If they get sensitive, then it's
like, Um, this isn't going to work." Is
she the jealous type? "No," she says.
"That's why I always get cheated on...
by every boyfriend I've ever had."
It can be assumed that Lauren is
forgiving, since she's maintained ties
with her exes. "I'm always friends with
them," she says. "You loved something
about them; you just don't work as a
couple. Plus, exes give the best guy
advice." She continues: "I've asked
them what I did that annoyed them.
Brody said I'm too sensitive. Another
said I was too available. I met one guy
I liked, and I called Jason every time
the guy texted me to ask how to respond.
No one knows guys better than
guys — especially ones who know what
you're like in every situation."
like in every situation — that is, until
news broke that The Hills is actually
faux reality. Lauren readily owns up
to the fact that some of what viewers see is scheduled by a production team. "But it's never not me. It's just sometimes only a portion of me," she says. "We'll have the best night, but they're never going to use that because it's boring. It would be silly to
complain, because then we'd be on
a show nobody watched."
Currently, 4 million people tune in
each week, and for now, Lauren is
trying to come to terms with viewers'
perceptions of her. "I come off as
playing the victim a lot," she says. "It's
annoying. I had to stop twirling my
hair on camera because I looked like
an airhead. Sometimes I seem a bit
judgmental," she says, visibly cringing.
"I really do get along with 90 percent
of my friends' boyfriends! It was
just two in a row I didn't care for."
Clearly, one of the boyfriends she's
referencing is ex-BFF Heidi Montag's
boyfriend, Spencer Pratt. The feud
began when Heidi allegedly started a
rumor that Lauren had made a sex
tape (which she denies). So does Lauren
still believe Heidi instigated that
lie? "I know," she says firmly. "Some
people have no shame."
As the lunch crowd dwindles, Lauren
leans back in her seat, looking
contemplative. "The one thing I've
learned about friends is that the good
ones are rare. It's awful to have to
question someone's motives," she
says, then looks up and scans the restaurant
for the very first time. "I'm in
a world where I'm always being
judged. It forces you to purge some
insecurities, and it creates new ones.
But in Hollywood, you develop a