Kristin Cavallari rolls through Chicago’s Studio Paris nightclub on a Saturday morning wearing sky-high heels and — without hesitating — climbs up onto a windowsill. But the former reality TV star isn’t holding court over the party scene she once famously frequented — she’s here for a Splash cover shoot. It’s one of the only things that could bring her downtown nowadays.
“I was here a few weeks ago for my birthday,” she says. “It was 2 a.m., and I was like, ‘Oh my god, I’m so tired.’ That’s when I realized that this part of my life was behind me.”
Cavallari officially closed the door on the party scene six months ago, when she and her fiance, Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler, welcomed son Camden Jack. Now, she’s making another big adjustment: to the life of a working mom. Early this month, she debuted an accessory line with jeweler Pascal Mouawad for Glamboutique.com, featuring earrings made from safety pins, stackable gold bracelets and delicate, multilayered necklaces. And in December, she launched a shoe collection with Chinese Laundry — flats, pumps and booties that she designed with mothers in mind. “Two years ago, I never would have designed the flats. But now, carrying a 15-pound baby around, my feet are killing me at the end of the day.” Cavallari was adamant that the line be affordable. “You shouldn’t need to put on a $900 pair of Louboutins to look great,” she says. Her next potential project follows suit: She’d like to design a nursing bra and tank top line for moms. “There’s nothing cute out there,” she sighs.
Her newfound domestic life is a far cry from her days as hard-partying reality TV royalty. Cavallari, a Barrington native, moved to Laguna Beach, Calif., with her father before her sophomore year of high school. Shortly after, in 2004, she became a household name when MTV cast her in “Laguna Beach,” the network’s hit reality series documenting a group of affluent California teens. Cameras followed Cavallari and her classmates through their senior year, as she fought constantly with on-again, off-again boyfriend Stephen Colletti, exchanged jibes with nemesis Lauren Conrad and, perhaps most memorably, danced atop a bar on a spring break trip to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
Now, Cavallari says most of her behavior resulted from “awful situations” set up by the show’s producers, who pitted her against Conrad by forcing Colletti to court both women at once. “The producers were really crappy to me,” she says. “I felt like everybody was against me and manipulating me, and that forced me to be a bitch.”
After high school, Cavallari moved to Los Angeles so that, as she puts it, “people could forget about the Kristin from ‘Laguna Beach.’” She took several small acting jobs, guest-starring on shows like “CSI: NY” and “Veronica Mars.” But her image was tough to shake. “I was known as the bad girl,” she says. “And once you have that image, it’s so hard to change it.” So in 2009, when MTV approached Cavallari again and asked her to join the cast of “The Hills” — a “Laguna Beach” spinoff set in L.A. and starring Conrad — she accepted. “l decided to have fun with it this time,” she says. “I embraced it, and played a caricature of myself.”
This time, the producers didn’t manipulate the stars — they invented entire plot lines for them. “They did everything short of handing us a script,” says Cavallari. She admits she never dated Justin “Bobby” Brescia, her infamous bad-boy love interest, and claims she didn’t drive a wedge between couple Brody Jenner and Jayde Nicole, who remained together for the duration of the show. “I had two lives,” she says. “My ‘Hills’ life and my real life.” She acknowledges the significant disconnect between the two: “People are always surprised by how nice I am in real life.”
The decision to return to TV seems prescient: Cutler first spotted Cavallari on “The Hills” in 2010 and reached out to her PR rep, offering to fly her to Chicago to go to dinner with him. “I was like, ‘Who’s Jay Cutler?’ ” she laughs. “I was flattered, but I said no.” Months later, Cavallari took her mother to a Bears game during a trip home and bumped into Cutler afterward. “I suddenly felt really nervous,” she says. “He was so nice, and talked to my mom the entire time.” The two hung out alone the next day and hit it off — Cutler proposed just eight months later. Cavallari is mum about when the two will wed, but grins when admitting they have something in the works.
For now, the couple and their son spend football season in their new house in Winnetka, where, as Cavallari puts it, “Our world revolves around Camden.” When Camden’s not napping, she and Cutler run errands with him and take him to mommy-and-me classes. “I’m a suburbanite now,” she laughs. On game days, the trio treks to Soldier Field. “I didn’t know anything about football when I met Jay. But now I won’t miss a home game,” says Cavallari.
In the offseason, the family relocates to Nashville, where Cutler went to college and where they recently bought a home. When he retires, they plan to settle there permanently and raise their family — Cavallari wants to have at least three more children.
To that end, she prefers her new design work to acting because it allows her to be a full-time mother. “If I were still in L.A., I’d never see Jay or Camden,” she says. She also prefers her “normal life” in Chicago. “In L.A. you have to be so careful about what you say and who you trust. It’s such an awful way to live.” But in Chicago, “people want to get to know you for you. I feel like I can just breathe.”
She keeps her distance from the West Coast and her past persona, but she does occasionally connect with some of her “Laguna Beach” cast mates. “Stephen called to congratulate me when I was pregnant,” she says. She’s cordial to Conrad when the two cross paths, but they “don’t keep in touch.”
The Studio Paris photo shoot marks Cavallari’s first weekend away from Camden, but she’s not worried. She left him in good hands: his father’s. “Jay is such a great dad,” she says. “He’s so involved, even during the season.” She checks her phone between outfit changes, occasionally showing off photos of Camden. “Jay’s dressing him in all of his athletic stuff while I’m gone,” she laughs. “I miss him.”
For the girl who once coined the phrase, “What happens in Cabo stays in Cabo,” it’s a dramatic shift in perspective. But the change is a welcome one. “I’ve always wanted to be a mom,” Cavallari says. “I’ve learned that it means I have to be totally selfless. But it’s the most rewarding thing in the world.”
Diet: “I eat a lot, but I won’t eat anything with an ingredient that I can’t pronounce. In the mornings, I’ll have a smoothie or oatmeal or eggs with toast. For lunch and dinner, I like salads, fish, chicken and turkey wraps.”
Makeup Must-Haves: “I love Armani’s Eyes to Kill mascara and Luminous Silk foundation. I’m a fiend for cocoa butter chapstick, and I really love my Chanel eyebrow pencil.”
Workout Routine: “I work out four times a week. I’ll do 20 minutes of walking uphill on the treadmill or elliptical, followed by 40 minutes of light weights. I keep the pace pretty steady so I burn more calories. But breastfeeding helps, too — it burns 500 calories an hour.”
Guilty Pleasure: “I love Portillo’s. Jay and I will go there and I’ll get a burger and fries. And their chocolate shakes are really good.”
Story by Rachel Handler | Photos by Anthony Tahlier
Makeup: Jenny Patinkin, Stylist: Eric Himel, Hair: Lyneé Ruiz for Artists by Timothy Priano, Shoot Coordinator:Katerina Bizios, Venue: Studio Paris (59 W. Hubbard)