In 2013, Lauren Conrad was apparently one of the “Best-Selling Magazine Cover Stars,” just behind newsstand standbys Jennifer Aniston and Sarah Jessica Parker. In the 10 years since The Hills debuted, L.C. has been on the covers of Cosmopolitan, Redbook, Marie Claire, People StyleWatch, Elle, Lucky, Redbook, Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, Marie Claire, Women’s Health, Glamour, Allure, Seventeen, and Shape. (Everything but Vogue, basically.) Before the Kardashians, L.C. probably was responsible for all of Us Weekly’s profits.
Her ability to sell a magazine cover is not easily explained — it’s not like L.C. has done that much since The Hills. A quick journey through the cover lines reveals that she knows lots of party recipes; has body hang-ups, but overcame them; has haters, but can ignore them; has personal style, but not so much style that you couldn’t have it too. L.C. has sustained a cover-worthy status by being a better version of the girl who earned “Most Likely to Succeed,” “Secret Party Girl,” and “Best Hair” in your high school yearbook.
This point was driven home by last night’s very boring extended ad for L.C.’s life, or as MTV called it, The Hills: That Was Then, This Is Now. It was nominally a 10th-anniversary special, but there were no Real Housewives–style showdowns; there were no Audrina, Justin Bobby, or Speidi; Natasha Bedingfield did not perform live. Instead, the special alternated between old show footage and boring interviews with L.C. and her parents. It was a one-hour tribute to how L.C. peddled doe-eyed, flat-ironed-haired likability into real fame and success.
Which, it should be said, she has: L.C. is probably our third-most-enduring reality star, after Kim Kardashian West and, god help us, Donald Trump. She is the extra-regular icon — the girl you always thought you could be, because she wasn’t that special. I remember watching the first season of The Hills and feeling like L.C. and I were living parallel lives: L.C. had Jason, and I had a boyfriend whose name also started with J and whom I also should’ve dumped. L.C. had an internship at Teen Vogue, and I had an internship at Teen Vogue. L.C. had nights at Le Doux, and I, too, had just discovered the siren song of “bottle service.”
While I am beyond embarrassed to have written that last sentence, I know I’m not the only one. (Be brave. Join me.) The reason that L.C. pulled ahead of the rest of the Hills cast is because she has managed to bottle that “me, too!” feeling and sell it for 10 years straight. She was smarter than the other cast members, less produced, familiar in an uncanny but reassuring way. L.C. is like one of the former classmates you watch on Facebook, but with better hair and more purchase opportunities. (Raise your hand if you also own a pair of Lauren Conrad–branded high-waisted pants. They fit well!)
At least 10 times in last night’s 45-minute special, Conrad reminded us that she didn’t want the fame, and every time she did, the MTV producers would shadily use a clip of Heidi Montag standing on a red carpet, or giving Kardashian West a tour of her apartment. Yes, Kardashian West’s fame comes with an Anna Wintour endorsement and an insane amount of money — but it also involves relentless criticism and deeply uncomfortable dresses. Kardashian West’s arc is so impressive that it borders on performance art, but it definitely isn’t attainable for the average person, and the jury’s still out on the sustainability.
But you could live L.C.’s life, in the sense that it is yours, but just a little better. L.C. fame is free Tibi; it’s maybe getting VIP tickets to a Taylor Swift concert, but probably not getting to meet her. L.C. fame means puff pieces written in magazines that give her a cat eye, so that you can learn to do one too. She’s living the dream while convincing us that all we need to achieve said dream is a set of LC Lauren Conrad Bedding components. An empire built on not going to Paris — truly, it is the most relatable fame of all.