Kelly Cutrone: Burning in Kell Fire


By Carole Pope

Kelly Cutrone is many things: a mentor to young women and many a young gay man in the cutthroat world of fashion; boss lady of fashion-forward PR firm People's Revolution; reality TV pro; purveyor of tough love, rapid fire F-bombs, and her own brand of Kell-bent wisdom. Cutone got her start in PR while she was homeless and crashing on raconteur/socialite Anthony Haden-Guest's couch. He hooked her up with PR wiz Susan Blond who 'broke her in and broke her down.' She has a 7-year-old daughter, Ava, with actor Ilario Calvo.

Cutrone's new book If you have to Cry, Go Outside: And Other Things Your Mother Never Told You is a raw, no bullshit, drama and drug'filled autobiographical joy ride that preaches spiritual self-empowerment over self-sabotage. And now she's the star of her own Bravo reality show, Kell On Earth. We caught up with Cutrone to chat about the cutthroat fashion world, anal dilators, and why being Cruella de Vil isn't always such a bad thing.

You're a regular on The Hills and The City and your own reality show on Bravo, Kell on Earth, is about to debut. Are you a fame junkie? An exhibitionist? What's your deal?
Kelly Cutrone: I'm a communicator. I want to communicate to people. In my life I've been a tarot card reader, a nursing student, a spoken word artist signed to Atlantic records, a public relations executive, and now a television person. All of those things are about wanting to touch and communicate. I want to talk about what I find interesting. I want to bring that to America -- sideways, forward, upside down -- anyway that I want.

Bravo calls you one of the 'coolest, scariest and New York-iest people ever.' How do you pull off the sexy, threatening, abrasive thing?
[Laughs] I'm not sure abrasive and threatening are sexy.

It's all part of the package.
We all are given opportunities to find out what we are by figuring out who and what we're not. Most of those prototypes for the feminine really didn't interest me and it was a great loss as I went through that. I was taught [I should be] this girly, cheerleader, feminine, sexy, typical booby and legs [type girl] ' revealing -- what we call a Cavalli girl or a Dolce girl in the fashion world. I didn't know any better. I'm from Syracuse. My role model was you get married, you have three kids, your husband works, and you stay at home. So I went through all of those things that were all fads only to find out none of those shoes fit me very well. I found out the ancient feminine interested me, truth interested me, and partnership and equality interested me, in the same gender and the opposite sex. And not making myself less than so somebody else could feel better. It's a struggle because people all want us to stay in our place. I see now that doing PR, being on TV, and having a book come out, people are like 'Well, are you going to give up PR?' I'm like 'Why?' Did Donny Deutsch have to give up his company? Did Donald Trump have to stop doing real estate deals? No, but I'm a chick and I'm supposed to fucking give up doing PR to make other people comfortable.

That's insane. What makes you go off about the fashion world?
[Laughs] My God -- that's like a theater show that we could do together. I think the fact that it's so judgmental toward others based on what it is that it does. I always harken back to the whole Ashley Dupre' thing that happened with me and Yigal Azrou'l. I got fired for letting someone who gets paid for sleeping with men into a fashion show when we work in an industry that creates images of 18-year-old girls getting gang-banged to get a Vuitton bag. The insanity of that is like you've got to be kidding me! At the same time, the thing I love about the fashion world is people are seriously committed to pursuing, wanting, and demanding that they bring beauty into the world. When you're in the pursuit of beauty, you sometimes have to meet ugliness.

You're intelligent, astute, and articulate, which is not what we often see on reality TV. Do you think that's part of your appeal?
I think that people haven't seen somebody real -- like Rosie O'Donnell, Roseanne Barr, and Ellen -- on television for a while. There aren't that many women who don't wear makeup who are powerful working on TV. It's easy for me to be in TV. These girls are PYTs and I'm like the Cruella. I'm the crone in the show but I think more people remember Joan Collins from Dynasty than J.R. or Linda Evans.

Your new book, If you have to Cry, Go Outside: And Other Things Your Mother Never Told You, drops this month. What makes you an expert on what young women need?
I'm think I'm an expert because I was somebody who was programmed the same way most women are -- to believe in this thing that's really a crime against women and it starts with their mothers. They preach things like 'first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes a baby in a baby carriage.' Who the hell says that? From the time we were born our own mothers are singing these songs to us. Now my mom says, 'We used to think you were crazy but you're the only sane one, living alone with your daughter and dating who you want -- it's amazing.' For me, I figured I was that girl from a suburban neighborhood. I married Ronnie Cutrone at 21. I kind of married into the Warhol family. I tried all these things that society says you should do and you're going to live happily ever after. It didn't work for me and I'm not resentful about it. I realized I'm not that kind of person who can make those kind of commitments because to me they're really outdated. I went searching for what it means to be feminine and those answers I found much more interesting in, oddly enough, in places like India where women are still in the backwoods. I discovered goddesses like Durga and Kali and what it was that they had to offer and how they were on lions and had scepters and discuses in their hands and were killing buffalo demons. I thought what happened to this image in religion and society and how did we as a group allow this to happen to us? If we're the life-bringers how can we favor this? We're not even represented. I started searching for things internally and externally and recreating a life that held something more than the patriarchy.

I can't believe the crap women put up with from their boyfriends. Do you think women are conditioned to have low self-esteem?
I think if you're going to live with anybody -- regardless if it's another woman, or two guys living together, or a man and a woman or even if you're by yourself -- there are going to be times when you just can't stand it. It's the human condition. I think that women have been taught to not take as much food, to let other people eat before them, to not ask for themselves, and to sit back, which I think is sad.