In an industry that has perfected the art of falsity, fashion publicist Kelly Cutrone positions herself as the voice of truth. She doesn't wear makeup. She doesn't brush her hair. She doesn't mince words, even on her reality TV show, Kell On Earth. Cutrone, a natural-born publicist and classic power bitch, works and talks hard. "If anyone really wanted to change the world," she says, "they'd bring in the fashion bitches, because nobody gets things done faster."
Cutrone runs a bicoastal public-relations company, Peoples Revolution, the first branch of which opened in Los Angeles in 1996. It quickly became the premier fashion PR agency. Vivienne Westwood, Randolph Duke, Jeremy Scott, Valentino and Thierry Mugler were clients; of these, only Scott remains. During Fashion Week, Cutrone has been known to produce a staggering five shows a day.
Living in L.A., however, left her open to poaching from rival firms on the East Coast. "Oh, you're with Kelly Cutrone?" her competition would say to clients they hoped to woo. "You know she doesn't live in New York."
So, she moved. Cutrone still maintains a significant L.A. presence, as there is no more visible catwalk than the Hollywood red carpet. "Every two days there's a movie premiere here," she says. "Placements like those are key because they activate sales."
Cutrone has a book on the best-seller lists, titled If You Have to Cry Go Outside. In it, she talks about the importance of developing your own personal brand. The components of the Kelly Cutrone brand are honesty, fearlessness, a willingness to fight when necessary, an appreciation of art and a preference for the underdog. Also: the head-to-toe black outfits she makes her staff wear, and which she sports every day as part of her "Amish psycho-killer look."
Breakfasting at a chic hotel on the Sunset Strip, she orders "bacon, burnt black like my shirt, an omelet with no tomatoes;" her assistant orders "two eggs, split and fried but not overcooked."
"Fashion people are very specific," Cutrone says unapologetically.
She is very specific in what she looks for when picking from the masses of interns who come to her seeking to break into the glamour industry: "I'm looking for somebody who has no other choice." Somebody who will sacrifice everything to get the job done. In the office — aka Cutrone's boot camp for fashion bitches — she and the girls function like a wolf pack. At mealtimes, the alphas eat first. The assistants eat last.
"Fashion is a tricky industry because the business of it is almost the opposite of what it seems," she says. Yes, it is aspirational and encourages self-expression. But it also preys on people's low self-esteem. Straight talk, she believes, is the remedy. Fashion may not be kind, but it can at least have a soul.
Her friends joke that she looks like "the person who's going to fuck your husband and eat your cat." But Cutrone is actually a rather spiritual person. Her role model is the Hindu goddess Durga, the ultimate multitasker, with eight arms, each holding a weapon — one for every possible occasion.
Cutrone recently asked her daughter, "Do you want us to move back to L.A.?"
"If you give me my own Disney show," answered 8-year-old Ava, a budding power bitch if there ever was one.
"What's your pitch?" Cutrone responded, without missing a beat.