A visit from…Kelly Cutrone: Fifteen “normal” minutes

Kelly Cutrone was recently in town promoting her new book, Normal Gets You Nowhere. The fourth floor had the chance to sit down with her for a quick chat before she headed out to her book signing at the Eaton Centre. 
We loved sitting down with Kelly. Not only is she hilarious, but she is a great mom, entrepreneur, boss and friend. It was a blast picking your brain for a bit – thanks Kelly!

Image via Mama’s Rolling Stone.
In the book you talk about not succumbing to being ‘normal’.  What exactly constitutes being normal, to you?
It really isn’t my definition as much as it is Webster’s definition of normal – of average intelligence. Who wants to be of average intelligence?

When you are growing up, people tell you, “act normal, sit normal, why aren’t you normal? Just do the right thing.” And it’s like, what is the right thing? What is normal? Why would  you want to fit it? Because most people that are really successful aren’t average, they didn’t fit in and they transformed themselves and their community – and, ultimately the world.

When you realized you weren’t normal, what was your reaction?
Well I tried to be… When I was young, I was skinny and pretty, I went to college, got a really good job doing PR, and then married a famous artist, Ronnie Cutrone (Andy Warhol’s protégé).

I did all the things that I was told would make me happy, and it just felt really wrong. I knew I wanted to be able to be myself, or otherwise I would die (a spiritual death). So I slowly started peeling off the façade, and arrived at this all-black, no make up look (laughs). I had to start demanding that I live my own life and do things my way.

How do you find people who have read your book are reacting?
The message is resonating. People can relate to the examples that I use. When young people walk down the street and see a homeless person, I want them to think, “This isn’t okay, this person needs help,” not look the other way, then walk into American Apparel and buy a tee.
Sometimes there’s a price to pay [with being your true self]. There was a gay kid, a student at Brigham Young University, who after reading my first book, went home and told his parents he was gay and his parents beat him. So you have to deal with those consequences. It can be dangerous, and there might be a price to pay. But at the same time, there’s also a price to pay for living a life in silence, following someone else’s rules. 

What does Ava (Kelly’s daughter) teach you on a daily basis?
She teaches me to be consistent, keep coming home. Before I had Ava, I was much more of a fly-by-night girl; but since having her, I’ve learned about consistency, and it’s weird – it almost feels like mother nature puts this chip in your head and you stop doing things. Like I cross at the light all the time, and I don’t get on motorcycles anymore.

What is the best advice anyone has ever given you?
When things are bad, just pick your self up and keep going. The first couple of times things went wrong for me, I was devastated. I thought I was losing everything. My mother would say, “Get up tomorrow, hold your head up and do it (or fix it) till you get it right.”
Young people should know that however you are feeling now, things will change. We are not like the seasons, we don’t go from winter to spring. Sometimes we get winter, winter, winter, but spring eventually comes.

What golden rule or rules do you live your life by?
I need a Mary Poppin’s bag full of mantras. For work: time, energy, money. For business: what’s the problem, what’s the solution. Chaos always brings chaos, so I tell my employees “shrink it, fix it, grow it.” It’s really important to simplify things, get clutter out of the way.

Any career advice for someone starting off their career, and looking to construct their own path?
Just know that when your employer hires you, they want you to stay. It’s kind of a surprise to some people because they think they hired you to fire you. 

When you get hired at a company, the owner or management team pour everything into you, so you can become empowered to do your job, with hopes that you will pay it forward when the next new hire comes in. Most people spend half the day wondering in their busy little heads if they are going to be fired because of the emotional climate, or because someone didn’t say hi to them, or acknowledge them or whatever. They don’t want you to leave, that’s why they’ve devoted all this time teaching you about the company (ed note: it’s true. read this twice.).

Golden rules to remember: 
  1. They hired you because they like you, NOT because they want to fire you. 
  2. Be the first one in, and the last one out (within reason).
  3. Schedule time with your boss if you have a question. See their assistant, or request time to chat through e-mail. Note importance level: not urgent, within the next month, etc.
Any upcoming projects that you are excited about?
Yes! I’m starting a clothing company called Electric Love Army (ELA) with Chris Burch who is the founder of Tory Burch. ELA will launch September 2012.

I’ve also got a show developing on MTV, I’m a correspondent on the Dr. Phil show, and now I’m out promoting Normal Gets You Nowhere. Buy it here.

Anything else you want to add?
Yeah, I love rock-it. 

Thanks, Kelly. We love you, too.

To stay updated on all of KC’s projects, check out her website or follow her on Twitter: @peoplesrev