The Hills & Me: A Career Trajectory

Written by Sophie Stekel

Illustration by Phil Ly

Staring at the blank page before me, I was trying to figure out how to put into words the profound effect that MTV’s The Hills had on my dreams.

The Hills was MTV’s idea of a social experiment where they followed college-bound Lauren Conrad (colloquially known as LC) as she cruises down the California coast to embark on a fashion career in Los Angeles. She moved in with her bubbly friend Heidi, began school at FIDM and started an internship at Teen Vogue. 


You probably remember The Hills that included catfights, pointing and screaming matches, and seemingly sucky, shallow blondes who cried about not being on the guest list at Les Deux. However, the version of The Hills that I remember is fashion-forward and career-driven. 


I did not know it was scripted at the time I watched it - trust me, it was a confusing and dark day when I found out. But I am not jaded. I still viewed The Hills as nothing short of aspirational.

Before The Hills, I never realized a career in fashion was possible for someone with humble beginnings. A career like that was never presented to me in school. After all, it wasn’t a doctor, lawyer, or accountant. After I watched The Hills, I knew that if LC and Whitney could do it, then I could too.


Now let’s be clear: I resonated with a select few characters. Not party-girl Stephanie, social-butterfly Heidi, or boy-crazy Audrina. I resonated specifically with Lauren Conrad and Whitney Port: the ones who had goals to get somewhere in the fashion industry and knew that they had to work hard for it.

Their careers at Teen Vogue and People’s Revolution respectively were what dreams were made of (to quote another aughties queen Hillary Duff). The duo fixed Lady Gaga’s broken zipper seconds before she stepped onstage pre-The Fame. They were both sent to Paris to cover the Crillon Ball, an event for international debutants and consequently got to tour the city of love from the back of a French musician’s Vespa. 


The Hills inspired thousands of young hopefuls to apply for internships at fashion magazines, including myself. Luckily I landed an internship at ELLE Canada and like Lauren and Whitney, I became BFFs with my co-interns (Hi Ebonie! Hi Michaela!).


The Hills opened my eyes to the elusive world of the fashion industry and prepared me for all that was in store. It took me behind the scenes at fashion shows and photoshoots and let me catch a glimpse of the Teen Vogue fashion closet, where Lauren and Whitney’s desks were conveniently situated. 


While yes, The Hills taught me to never date a homeboy who wears combat boots to the beach (Justin Bobby) and to always be the girl who goes to Paris (always choose Paris!), it also taught me that you have to start at the bottom and work hard to achieve your dreams. 


Maybe the show was not the most realistic. I mean, who sends someone on a redeye from LA to New York simply to hand-deliver a dress? However, the alleged fakeness of the show is irrelevant to me because it allowed hundreds of young girls, including myself, to dream big. I don’t know about you, but I want to live in a world where we do send out interns to fashion week. 


In my opinion, The Hills was kind of over after Lauren left in the middle of season 5. When Conrad announced that she would not return for the reboot (insert mascara stained tear here), I knew The Hills: New Beginnings, would not be the same. 


And I was right. The Hills: New Beginnings does not have me hooked like the original did.


There’s something so pure about watching the old seasons back. The girls were still in school and had no idea what the future would hold. The reboot is a little less hopeful and seems to exclude the characters’ fashion endeavours completely. It’s simply about the social dynamics of the group and how they have changed since the show ended nine years ago.


This has deeply worsened the show as they are leaving out a huge part of the narrative! The majority of the women from The Hills have built hugely successful lifestyle empires by utilizing the platform given to them by MTV. 


Lauren has a clothing collection at Kohl’s: LC by Lauren Conrad. She became a New York Times Bestselling author. She is the co-founder of a non-profit called The Little Market: an online shop for fair-trade goods from around the world. She is also the editor of a blog and has become a lifestyle expert in her own right. 


Audrina, as spacey as she seems, created and designs an auspicious swimwear line called Prey Swim. 


Kristen Cavallari, the villain that replaced LC after her departure, is the CEO of Uncommon James: a jewelry, housewares, and children’s clothing brand. 


After The Hills, Whitney Port moved to NYC which sparked the spinoff The City, chronicling her work at Diane von Furstenberg and the launch of her own fashion line, “Whitney Eve”. Port is currently serving as creative director of Bloom2Bloom, a philanthropic flower delivery service, and Bundle Organics, which provides pregnancy support products.  


Lest we forget, “Star Intern” Emily Weiss of Glossier fame, started out on The Hills too.

I don’t know about you, but I think that is pretty #Girlboss. 


Someday, I hope to meet Lauren or Whitney or Kristen at an industry event or book signing or meet and greet of some sort to tell them that The Hills meant more to me than cheap entertainment. 


Slowly, it is becoming my life. 


And although it’s somewhere in the distance, it is so close I can almost taste it.