Kelly Cutrone on Her 'America's Next Top Model' Gig and the Power of PR
Fashion PR personality Kelly Cutrone is stepping into yet another reality TV gig early next year, when she'll replace Vogue's Andre Leon Talley as a judge on "America's Next Top Model."
She's already publicized her PR practice, People's Revolution, via appearances on MTV 's "The City," her own Bravo reality show "Kell on Earth" and two books. Beyond her semi-goth style and tell-it-how-it-is attitude -- she was also a special contributor on "Dr. Phil" -- she's continuing to show a knack for building brands, most notably her own.
Ms. Cutrone, whose firm works with up-and-coming designers as well as brands such as Bluefly and Planned Parenthood, talked to Ad Age about her new gig, her PR business and how she ties it all together.
Advertising Age: You're a busy lady with a PR agency to run, a soon-to-launch clothing line and now a new reality show to appear on. How do you do it?
Kelly Cutrone: The good thing is , they're all connected to each other. My life is already connected to what I do. I live and work in the same building. We have an amazing team here. In 2012, [the clothing line] Electric Love Army will be on the fifth floor of my offices. "America's Next Top Model" is a four- to six-week shoot time, with two shoots every 10 days. It's not that big of a deal.
Ad Age :Your TV appearances have also at times featured your clients.
Ms. Cutrone: "America's Next Top Model" is great for me and my clients. I've been on TV for three, four, five years, and one thing I found was the ability to go direct-to-consumer. It's a great added value. We don't guarantee it to any clients but if the opportunity arises....
Ad Age : How did the 'America's Next Top Model' opportunity arise?
Ms. Cutrone: They called me and asked if I wanted to be on the show. It was really simple.
Ad Age : Describe a recent week for you.
Ms. Cutrone: In one week, I went to London to work with a client launching in America called Very.com; it's a deal with Whitney Port (of "The Hills"). I went with her as a publicist. Whitney came to a fashion show, did a PA and we talked to Very about a PR plan and then I did a book signing and then Monday I spoke at the TEDX Oxford event. I came back the next afternoon and was in "America's Next Top Model" meetings all day and then I had a meeting for the store launch. All things were seamless. I don't feel like I'm at a point in my life where I have to answer to anyone about my business model.
Ad Age : Have you gotten offers to sell the agency?
Ms. Cutrone: Yes. But People's Revolution is a special little engine. I'm looking at things like apps and software and tours and brand extensions. [The agency] has provided an amazing portal for young people to look into the world. As a result we're seeing more people who want to be in PR. And that number will go up as a result of "America's Next Top Model" and other things. Now I'm thinking about how we can communicate to the kid working in the factory who dreamed of being a publicist, to a young T-shirt designer who can't afford to move to New York and work with [fashion PR firm] KCD; and what kinds of intellectual property we have to offer them.
Ad Age : It has been a tough few years for fashion. How is People's Revolution doing?
Ms. Cutrone: We just came out of a horrible time in fashion. The recession has been really nasty. I think our billings increased 200% to 300% over the last six to seven months. That's more a sign of the economic times than our effort as an agency. The two years before that were really not fun. We have new clients Lulu Guinness in the U.S., Very.co.uk and Ultra Diamonds. We also passed on huge RFPs. We weren't interested in accounts that required us to carry three seasons of a national brand retailer in our office.