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Once upon a time, the name Nicole Richie may have evoked the unmistakable image of an early 00s Hollywood club-bound party girl, swathed in a tight, hot pink mini dress, rocking an orange-hued fake tan, and with a teeny-tiny Louis Vuitton hanging from her shoulder. Yes, before Miley, before Lindsay, there was Nicole, star of Fox TV’s fish-out-of-water reality TV mega-hit The Simple Life alongside hotel heiress BFF (at the time) Paris Hilton.
After becoming an American pop-culture household name and resident tabloid darling thanks to her wild child antics on and off the show through the mid-2000s, Richie did the most difficult thing a celebrity could possibly do—she re-branded herself, and quite successfully.
Today, Richie’s name rarely conjures up images of her rambunctious, 20-something earlier self. Instead, a new image has emerged, that of a hard-working entrepreneur, an esteemed fashion designer, a bonafide red carpet style icon recognized for putting the quintessential “boho chic” look on the map. She’s also a loving mother, a dedicated wife, and somewhat of a Suzie Homemaker, placing pride and emphasis on her beautiful home and love of gardening. Of course, Richie hasn’t strayed too far from her television roots: she’s also the star of VH1’s pseudo-reality docu-comedy series Candidly Nicole. And yes, the girl is still as funny as ever.
With the second season of her hit show under way, and herHouse of Harlow 1960 fashion empire growing by the moment, I spoke with the reality-TV-turned-fashion queen about everything from raising chickens to social media to the influence of music on style.
Hey Nicole! So Candidly Nicole went into its second season in July. I imagine it must be validating to have a show get picked up for a second season! A lot of shows come and go and they don’t live on. How do you feel about it getting picked back up? Do you think it’s a cool little testament to the success of season one?
It’s so exciting. I started this show out as a web series because I didn’t even know how many people were going to be into this concept. When I first met with Telepictures, they really wanted me to do a TV show. It’s why I did the AOL episodes. I just really wanted to test the waters and see if this would be something people were even gravitating towards. Then, to get picked up not only on AOL for a second season, but then VH1, it’s just so exciting for me. I have the best time doing this show. I get to have fun, I get to learn, and I’m around all my friends, so it’s just so much fun.
It’s a really upbeat show. And though it’s upbeat and funny, it’s still kind of intimate and gives glimpses into what you’re up to in your life. We get to watch you do all of these things that maybe you haven’t done before, in different situations and scenarios… So on that note, have you learned certain things about yourself that maybe you didn’t know before doing this show?
Well, I’ve learned certain things because I’m constantly putting myself in a situation where I don’t have a lot of knowledge. Actually doing that, yeah, I’ve been learning all the time. It’s weird, things have been happening in my life and on the show kind of around the same time. When I was learning about chickens, I was really in the process of getting chickens. So I’m learning about chickens [on the show], and becoming more aware of what I’m eating, becoming more aware of my body in my life. But it’s all kind of happening at the same time.
You have chickens? How cute! I didn’t know that…
Ha ha, thanks! They are super cute.
Are you raising them for eggs?
Yes, they lay eggs. I get about five a day, and they’re just beautiful and colorful.
I love that, that’s so cute. I always wished I lived on a farm or had a big garden.
I know. I wish I lived on a farm too! I really do.
Well then, speaking of chickens… [Laughs] From what I hear, you’re very environmentally-minded and health-conscious. Does that resonate?
Yeah, it does for sure. I’m not an extremist but I love growing my own food. I grow my own vegetables for health reasons obviously, and also I just love watching these things come to life and caring for them and watching them grow. It’s super cool. I love it, it’s my favorite hobby.
But you’re so busy. You have your brand, your show, and all these other endeavors, so I really love that you make time to be able to nurture your home, yourself and your family by doing little things that make you happy. How important is it for you to be able to put time aside for those things?
It’s my first priority. My first priority is taking care of my home, and that includes my family and my garden and my chickens. I love it! I like a place and a space for myself and that’s what that is.
I think a lot of people honestly lose sight of that so it’s great to hear. So, getting back to the show—is there a particular moment or episode during this season that is a stand-out for you?
There’s definitely a few. I’m trying to think like how much I should say… Well, it’s the idea of forming a gang, but forming it in the right way. [Laughs] It’s actually positive.
I’ll keep an eye out for that! Now, obviously you’ve led a very high profile life and have had cameras on you for, I can imagine, a good chunk of your life, especially filming The Simple Life and other things. Doing this show, does it ever feel strange to have cameras back on you? Or is it comfortable?
Well, in terms of The Simple Life, that show was one of the coolest parts about it. It took us out of our regular lives for thirty days and that’s what the whole show focused on. As many shows as I’ve done, I always been able to maintain a level of privacy that I feel like evenThe Simple Life didn’t even have access to. I’ve been able to really just have fun and Candidly Nicole is not really a reality show; it’s more of a mission-based comedy. It’s a job, you know? I love it and I have so much fun doing it. But as far as cameras on me, that’s very much my professional life, so I’m able to appreciate that for what it is, but it’s definitely not my entire life.
Can you take me through the brainstorming process of deciding what to do for the show?
The show is based off my tweets; that’s where the concept comes from. Basically, I am always using Twitter to make fun of myself for not always being caught up on the latest and the greatest. [Laughs] I get a lot of responses that are like, ‘Me too!’ That’s where the whole idea came from. When we started the show we would pick one tweet and we would focus on that for an episode.
It’s actually kind of genius. Your Twitter account in general, in my opinion, is one of the funniest, entertaining accounts there is. Can you talk a little about your relationship to social media and technology in general?
I don’t know exactly what my relationship would be. Like I said, I use Twitter to kind of make fun of myself. I really use it in that kind of spirit, sort of sarcastic and humorous, and I use Instagram in the same way. I love photos, so to me it’s definitely a lot of fun. I think it’s unfair to say that social media or the Internet is necessarily good or bad. You know, like everything else there are good parts and there are bad parts. It really depends on the individual and it depends on what they’re using it for. I don’t feel one way or the other about it. I’m just able to use these social platforms in a very fun way and that’s been my experience with it.
I find that I get very caught up in the need to update on certain things. I’ll be like, should I tweet about this? Should I talk about that on Facebook? Sometimes I find that I’m becoming too dependent on my phone or I’m forgetting to be in the moment. Do you ever find yourself having that struggle?
As far as technology goes, then the answer is yes for sure. It’s not necessarily social media for me, but it’s just being on my phone in general. I find myself getting sucked into this idea that I need to answer every email and every text right away. It’s almost like that’s what people expect of you, of course. But it’s very important to me, especially when I’m around my family, to be present and not have anything around me to drag me anywhere else. I really love to be present. Sometimes I will just turn my phone off because I definitely want to be here.
I think that’s very healthy. I also think that this show is progressive in how it interacts with social media, engaging in conversations that are going on online. The other thing that’s important to note about this show in is that everything is really grounded in humor and, no pun intended, being candid and open. Do you feel people take things too seriously or forget to laugh in their daily lives?
Thank you! Yes, for sure. I think laughter is the most important thing for me.
Why bother doing it if it’s not going to be fun right?
Absolutely! That is the entire point.
Let’s talk a little about your fashion company, House of Harlow 1960, which I see all the time in out shopping. You had a debut pop-up event over the summer at The Grove in Los Angeles. Where are you with the brand as of now?
The pop-up at The Grove was such an amazing experience for me because I got to look at the store as a blank canvas and really take the opportunity to paint what House of Harlow really is—what the brand stands for, what my inspirations are. We designed the entire store. Marsha Gordon, who has been my best friend since I was two, did the interior decorating. It was just the best experience ever.
If you had an inspiration mood-board for your new products, what would be on that?
Music is the first inspiration for me. I love classic rock; music of the 60s and 70s. I’m always definitely led by music. From then on it varies season by season and that’s what differentiates every collection.
We have to chat about music now! What artists are on the Nicole Richie playlist?
Oh, there are so many! I love The Turtles. I love Janis Joplin. I love Eric Clapton. There are so many.
Are you on Spotify? You should do playlists!
I know! I should. I just learned you could do that. I have Spotify but I only use it to look up things.
Oh, you’ve got to do it now, I feel like people would really vibe with your taste in music. And you know, Spotify’s one of those places where you can get completely lost. You just like kind of go down the rabbit hole with finding new music…
I didn’t even know this was an option! All I do is just look up the music I already want to listen to. I had no idea that you can use it to find new music to explore. See, I’m learning things!
Now you’ve really got to! It’s so good. Now, other than Candidly and House of Harlow, what other projects are you working on or would like to work on?
I’m going to start going into home wares and possibly children’s apparel next.
That’ll be really cute! Finally, when people think about who Nicole Richie is, I think that people immediately think business woman, entrepreneur, designer—someone who wear those hats. What wisdom or advice would you bestow on other women trying to make it on their own in those worlds?
First it’s about finding what you’re passionate about, what you’ll love doing. You’ll know that based on how you feel doing it. The second step is figuring out, how do I make a job out of that? That’s new for us. This whole thing where you create a job out of your passion is something we didn’t have back in the day. My best friend Katherine started Who What Wear, and it’s so interesting to see her as the head of this company that didn’t even exist ten years ago. The fact is people now have—especially in the design and entertainment space—so many options for expressing themselves. And look, I just found out how to share music on Spotify, so I’m definitely not the person to say how to do these things, but it’s the younger people that are inventing all the different things. And that’s just so amazing to see.
velvet suit, silk blouse and shoes, Barbara Bui.
metallic gown, Houghton. shoes, Barbara Bui.