Confession: I’m a little bit obsessed with Kelly Cutrone. While many of us may only know Cutrone as Lauren (L.C.) Conrad’s former fire-breathing boss on The Hills, Cutrone is more than what lies beneath her infamous all-black uniform and take-no-prisoners attitude. Founder of fashion public relations branding and marketing firm, People’s Revolution, Cutrone has represented clients from Vivienne Westwood to Valentino, has produced six fashion shows in a day and is a single-mom to boot. When she’s not kicking ass and taking names, Cutrone stars in Kell on Earth on Bravo and is credited for helping young entrepreneurs (like Whitney Port) make their career dreams a reality. So when Cutrone wrote and published New York Times Bestseller If You Have to Cry Go Outside: And Other Things Your Mother Never Told You, it was only natural that I ran to my nearest Barnes & Noble to read what the PR maven herself has to say about the world—and what we need to do (and not do) in order to rock it. Below are the top five best tips I read that Cutrone has to offer, so for those ready to hear it like it is, read on.
Rid yourself of negative naysayers
Whether your goal is to climb Mount Everest by the time you’re 25 or you dream of rubbing shoulders with Anna Wintour at the Vogue office one day, chances are, no matter how ambitious you are, there will always be those people who will doubt you. Cutrone’s advice? Forget about them. Though it may sound harsh (disclaimer: most of Cutrone’s advice is harsh—just sayin’), pursuing your dreams is a challenge in and of itself, and the last thing you need is to have people—be it your parents, teachers or grumpy neighbor down the street—telling you “no.” As Cutrone says, “You’ll find as you set out after your dreams that most people don’t really want you to transcend the situation you were born into. Perhaps they’re scared for you, perhaps they don’t believe in you, or perhaps they’re just nasty, negative naysayers. Whichever it is, I advise you to stop sharing your dreams with people who try to hold you back, even if they’re your parents.”
This does not you mean you have to cut the cord from those who care about you (as these people usually have your best interests in mind), but here’s the deal: “if you want to be extra-ordinary you will not get there by hanging around a bunch of people who tell you you’re not extraordinary. Instead, you will probably become as ordinary as they expect you to be.” In other words, if you believe that you’re special and have what it takes to make it, that’s all you need to succeed. So those Debbie Downers and Negative Nancys? Tell them thanks, but no thanks.
This goes hand-in-hand with ridding negative naysayers. Whether it is packing up your life and moving to New York City to jumpstart your career or it’s pitching a new marketing strategy to your boss, if you never take the risk, you’ll never get anywhere. Growing up in blue-collar Syracuse, N.Y., nobody in Cutrone’s family left their hometown to start a career in publicity in the Big Apple. But because Cutrone believed in herself and trusted her instincts, she knew that there was something “bigger” in the world waiting for her. This is why in 1987, Cutrone packed up her belongings in black Hefty bags and drove into the sunset in her Toyota Corolla with just $2,000. While her early NYC experience consisted of living in apartments that were home to “crack addicts, hookers, and everyone else who had come to New York with a crime in their head or a dream in their heart” and couch-surfing at friends’, she toughed it out. Cutrone went for periods at a time where she was homeless, unemployed and without a vehicle (it had been impounded), but because she took a risk, more than 20 years later, she proudly lives in her own downtown loft, has her own PR company with bragging rights to offices in New York, L.A. and Paris and produces fashion shows everywhere from Moscow to Miami.
In order to succeed, you have to fail first
Would you be surprised to know that Cutrone was once fired? I was. Early last year, Cutrone had invited Ashley Dupre, former New York governor Eliot Spitzer’s prostitute, to New York’s Fashion Week. Although she had good intentions, her invitation backfired when Dupre arrived at Yigal Azrouel’s show. Only an hour after thanking Cutrone for her hard work, Azrouel flipped out when he discovered that Dupre had been sitting front-row at his show. In a press release that was released to the entire industry, Azrouel fired Cutrone for “mismanagement.” For a solid week, Cutrone was at the epicenter of the media’s scrutiny. Even though she had developed thick skin and she knew that this scandal would soon become old news, the unexpected backlash from a client still stung.
So what can you do? Two words: move on. Cutrone could have thrown the towel in after having her name “raked through the mud” by one of her clients while the entire fashion industry watched, but that would not have done her any good. Everybody screws up (even if this was never your intention), but pushing forward is how you learn from the situation and helps people ignore it while they look for other gossip to prey on.
At your internship or job, don’t talk smack about your boss
In her book, Cutrone recounts a story about an intern who took the liberty of entertaining readers of her “VERY Devil Wears Prada-esque” summer internship at People’s Revolution. The intern reported, “Interning has taken over my life. We all work at least 11 hours a day, without a proper lunch break…in fact we are not allowed to eat in the office and we sneak food in the back room.” She continued to call Cutrone “nice but crazy” and told of how Cutrone was hospitalized for tripping in her leather Prada boots. Not only were these allegations false (with the exception of being hospitalized), but the intern had broken a non-disclosure agreement that prevented her from writing anything about her company, clients or Cutrone.
Let’s just say things did not end well for this intern.
Cutrone says, “If you fail to treat your internships and early work experiences as the amazing learning experiences they are, you sabotage opportunities with the company you’re working for and you fail to cultivate the friends and mentor who might be resources or might give you recommendations for the future.”
If you have to cry, go outside
If you end up working for Kelly Cutrone one day, this is one of the first rules you will learn, which is why I saved the best for last.
Don’t misunderstand. As Hannah Montana sings, “everybody makes mistakes, everybody has those days.” Trust Cutrone, she gets it. But when you do make a mistake (e.g., dragging a couture gown worth thousands of dollars on the ground), do not expect a sweet request asking you to kindly pick up the dress. Moguls like Cutrone have businesses to run, and the last thing they have on their minds is if your feelings are going to be crushed. Instead, Cutrone wants you to fix your mistake and move forward.
“The last thing I or any other boss wants to hear is, “Wahhhh, I was just trying to help, wahhhh!,” says Cutrone. “That’s why I officially banished crying to the sidewalk outside. You think I’m a bitch? Fine. Go sit on the street and call your friend and talk shit about me all day. Just get out of office and stop psychically blowing my vibe and that of the others who came here to make money and be serious instead of being jokers.”
Hey, at least she warned you.
If You Have To Cry Go Outside: And Other Things Your Mother Never Told Youby Kelly Cutrone