Since the debut of high school reality show Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County in 2004, most of Lauren Conrad’s life has been documented by MTV. But this year, on Laguna spin-off The Hills (its third-season finale airs tonight at 10 p.m.), the 21-year-old and her gal pals became more famous than ever, keeping audiences captivated both on-screen and off: The show averages about 4 million viewers a week, and for proof of their off-screen popularity…well, just scan any celebrity weekly or gossip blog site.
So what makes Conrad’s life oh-so-fascinating? We checked in with the California girl to ask her ourselves. Plus, she admits which silly rumor she’d like to put to rest once and for all, and what really went down the night of the infamous ”nail polish-gate.”
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Looking back now on your life since Laguna, did you ever think you would get the opportunities that you’ve had?
LAUREN CONRAD: None of us knew what we were getting into when we signed up for Laguna, so everything that’s followed has been so crazy and unexpected. We were thrown into the spotlight very quickly [this year]. It was a lot more intense than before. We’ve had to deal with paparazzi following us, and when we go on dates, it’s reported the next day. It’s very weird.
Did you have to adjust your life at all because of the constant attention? Like now maybe when you go out, you’re not just going to wear sweatpants because someone might take your picture. Is there stuff like that you’re more conscious of?
I think it helps that [my friends and I] are all going through it together, so we can all relate. But yeah, you do have to take a second look in the mirror and do all those things. But with doing a reality show, it’s become a habit to do that anyway because you roll out of bed in the morning, and you’re making breakfast and there are cameras in your kitchen.
Is it true you had to move apartments because so many people were coming by?
Yeah. We filmed at an apartment building right next to it, but we filmed the exterior of another building because people found out where we lived and what apartment we had, and so in the middle of the night — whether they were drunk or just crazy — people would come and knock on our door. It was scary for us. So we switched apartments but continued filming in front of the other one so people wouldn’t know where we lived.
Does it ever annoy you how meticulous people have gotten when watching The Hills? Take, for example, what everyone is referring to as ”nail polish-gate” — one scene showed you wearing red nail polish, but then in a scene that was presented as happening a little later that same night, the polish was gone. What happened there?
The Hills is filmed exactly the same as Laguna. So when people started picking out these very little things, it was weird to me because anyone who has worked on a reality show knows how they’re filmed. We’re not filming The Truman Show, we don’t have cameras set up all around our apartment, and they’re not with us 24/7. Basically what they’re doing is taking our lives and telling a story. For example, the night [of the nail-polish incident, while on a date with model Gavin], the cameras stopped rolling, and I went out to a club with [Gavin]. I went home and called someone [Brody], and the next day talked about it. [MTV] was like, Okay, well, we need to get that on tape, and since they’re trying to tell a story the right way, I basically had to go and call [Brody] again, have the exact same conversation on camera. I mean, it’s not lying to anyone, it’s telling what really happened, but it’s just the way they film reality shows.
NEXT PAGE: ”People can sit back and say it’s real, it’s fake, but at the end of the day to me this is real because this is my life.”
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: It must feel weird having to reenact those things, though.
LAUREN CONRAD: No, I think there are just certain things that have become normal. Like, even when we’re not being filmed, if an airplane flies over me, I stop talking. If I’m about to tell someone a secret or sing, I take my finger and feel across the top of my shirt to see if I’m wearing a microphone. Or I’ll do it to rub the top of the microphone, because that messes with the sound and they can’t hear you when you do that.
Would you say that when you see the show and how it’s edited that it feels real to you? It really is your life being portrayed?
Yeah, they’re telling exactly what happened. We don’t have writers on this show. We make our own decisions; we say what we want to say. That’s who we are. People can sit back and say it’s real, it’s fake, but at the end of the day to me this is real because this is my life. Someone else having a lighting crew coming in to their apartment at 8 o’clock in the morning and set up booms and lights is very weird. But for me, that’s real. That’s how I live my life.
When it comes to the Heidi situation, how much do you feel that’s portrayed accurately? Do you ever think it’s maybe overdramatized?
I don’t think so. I think that’s very real. It’s very hard to lose someone who’s the closest person to you in your life. That’s a very real situation. It was very hard for me to be betrayed by someone who I loved and considered my closest friend. It’s especially hard when you’re in our situation right now where it’s very hard to trust people — then when you have the person you trust the most do something to you, it’s very difficult because it makes you question every relationship you have.
It’s just funny because you guys end up showing up at the same places sometimes. Is that at all ever planned by MTV?
Well, we don’t know about it. There was one event we went to, which we were both going to, and MTV knew it, and we had seen her boss’ name on the board of the event, so we kind of assumed she would be there. But there was one incident when we showed up to a restaurant not knowing the other was going to be there, and MTV had set that up. But they only set that up because it was happening off-camera — we were getting into these situations where we were running into [Heidi and Spencer] and [MTV] kept missing them. They just wanted to put us in that same situation and see how we reacted because they didn’t have it on camera. [MTV had no comment about Conrad’s statements.]
NEXT PAGE: ”The only thing that ever really bothers me is that a lot of people think I’m that girl who hates your boyfriend. I’m really not that girl.”
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What do you think it is that makes your life so fascinating to people?
LAUREN CONRAD: That’s one of the biggest questions I ask people when they talk to me about the show, what the appeal is, because I don’t know. I think people are just fascinated with other people’s lives in general. I mean, that’s why we watch any scripted show, or when we’re in high school and we gossip about other people. People are just obsessed with other people’s lives. I don’t know whether it’s kind of a way to escape their own, or something to follow…I really couldn’t tell you.
There must be something drawing so many viewers in each week.
I think we’re relatable. We really are very lucky, the lives we live — we get to live in L.A., it’s very glamorous, we have great jobs, and we have a lot of fun — but at the same time, no matter how great our lives are, we’re still going to deal with the same problems as anybody else.
What is one of the biggest misconceptions about you?
They’re usually really silly things, not a big deal.
But is there anything you hear or read about yourself and think, ”Hey! That’s not me”?
The only thing that ever really bothers me is that a lot of people think I’m that girl who hates your boyfriend. I’m really not that girl. Some of my friends’ boyfriends are my best friends. We just happened to have a very similar situation happen two times in a row on the show [first with Heidi’s boyfriend Spencer, then with Audrina’s boyfriend Justin Bobby], and people were seeing a pattern. It really had nothing to do with me not wanting my friends to be happy or have boyfriends, but I had two friends in a row date guys who kind of sucked.
Speaking of Audrina and Justin: What do you think about them being portrayed by James Franco and Mila Kunis on FunnyOrDie.com?
I thought it was kind of cool that such big actors would go and imitate the show. I think they were just kind of making fun.