The stunning transformation of Kristin Cavallari

Kristin Cavallari has been a fixture on our TV screens since 2004, when she burst onto the scene as a sassy love rival to queen bee Lauren Conrad on MTV's hit reality show, Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County. She's remained in the public eye ever since, transforming from wild teenager into respectable adult woman via a variety of well-placed cameo appearances, as well as the requisite return to The Hills after Conrad graciously vacated her seat. 

Fifteen years after becoming famous for the uniquely grating way she said "Ste-phen," Cavallari is a happily married mother of three with several successful business ventures to her name. She's also, naturally, back on our screens fronting her very own reality show — and this time, Cavallari is rightfully calling the shots as a producer, too. This is her stunning transformation from drama-hogging Laguna Beach party girl to well-established Nashville business owner. 

She wasn't always a California girl

Considering our defining image of Cavallari is as a bronzed, bleach-blonde teen in a jean skirt and flip flops, it's surprising to learn she's not originally from California. According to Yahoo!, Cavallari was actually born in Denver, Colorado. The reality star is of German and Italian descent, revealing to Us Weekly that Christmas is a particularly big deal for the Cavallaris with celebrations beginning a week early. 

She spent many of her formative years worlds away from the warm climes of Laguna Beach. Speaking to CV Lux, Cavallari explained, "I lived in a suburb of Chicago throughout my entire junior high years." Although she'd settled back on the west coast with her father by the time the MTV cameras rolled in, Cavallari subsequently went east again before ultimately landing in Nashville, where she's based as of 2019. "Moving back to Chicago wasn't a shock for me because I had experienced it before. But… it was still an adjustment," she explained of her lack of winter clothes. 

When MTV came calling, she wasn't around to answer

During a trip home to Laguna Beach, Cavallari reflected on how she almost didn't end up on the titular show, because she wasn't in school the first day producers came by. As reported by E! News, Cavallari's father also revealed how eager she was to be on reality TV: "Do you remember when you were a junior in high school and MTV came to town and you came home all excited?" he recalled, on a Season 2 episode of his daughter's show Very Cavallari

Cavallari was adamant about being cast in the then-fledgling show, marching back into school the next day and demanding her shot. Although Laguna Beach was a mega-hit, Cavallari's father was puzzled by its appeal. Kristin understood the show's popularity, but she was upset about her portrayal. "No one ever told me like, 'Hey! By the way, you're the villain. …I was so young, I mean, I was 17, 18. So, to all of a sudden have people saying what a b*tch I was, that was really hard actually," she admitted. 

She was "obnoxious" on Laguna Beach

As hurt as a teenage Cavallari was about being a TV villain, now that she's all grown up, the businesswoman and mother acknowledges she didn't do herself any favors. Buzzfeed did a hilariously candid deep dive with her, loaded with juicy behind-the-scenes info on Laguna Beach, during which Cavallari reveals "the entire thing" makes her cringe because, "I was so obnoxious!" 

When pressed about whether she could ever bring herself to watch it, Cavallari was definitive. "NO. God no. I do not watch the show. …I was on Access Hollywood this morning and they showed a clip. I was like, 'OH MY GOD.' I hate it," she said. The reality star admitted to People she was naive about being on television at 17, noting, "I didn't know what I was getting into. I was just going about my life and doing what producers were asking me to do. When I saw the first season, I was devastated."  

She doesn't actually hate Lauren Conrad

Cavallari often points out the elements of reality television that aren't actually real, taking particular aim at her infamous feud with Conrad. In an interview with Huffington Post, Laguna Beach producer Gary Auerbach maintained the two really couldn't stand each other. However, the publication notes Cavallari made it clear to them that wasn't the case, explaining she and Conrad, "[Were] never as big of enemies as they wanted it to seem. It's just one of those relationships that loves to get played out, but it's not quite as it seems." 

Cavallari told People she felt the situation was manipulated, particularly the supposed love triangle between her, Conrad, and Stephen Colletti, admitting she "felt as though my real-life boyfriend [Colletti] was being put in situations he normally wouldn't have been in." Although Cavallari admitted to HuffPost that Conrad was never her best friend, MTV allegedly blew things out of proportion for ratings. For her part, Cavallari said there's no bad blood between her and Conrad, maintaining, "If I saw her we would give each other a big hug and catch up and carry on with our lives." 

Laguna Beach left her reluctant to trust men

Considering the (alleged) manipulation at the heart of Laguna Beach, Cavallari's time on the show understandably left her cynical about romantic relationships. As she discussed in her autobiography, Balancing in Heels (via Elite Daily), the way her relationship with Colletti was tested during the show seriously affected her.  

According to Cavallari, she, "Felt threatened. On one side, it seemed like the producers were trying to break us up, which was intimidating. On the other side, I was worried that my relationship with Stephen was becoming less stable, even though I knew if we hadn't been on television, he wouldn't have been spending time with another girl."

They worked through it, but couldn't fix everything. "What Stephen and I had together was real, and that's what made me get through the producers' attempt at manipulating us. We talked about everything the entire time. …But that still didn't make it easy. I think always having my guard up for those couple of years filming made me reluctant to trust men," she wrote. 

She relished playing a reality TV villain the second time around

There are moments Cavallari wishes she could erase from public memory, but Laguna Beach didn't completely put her off reality TV. In 2009, after Conrad vacated The Hills, Cavallari rose to the occasion and happily took her place. It was "an offer I couldn't refuse," but this time around, she treated it as a job, telling People, "I had my life on the show, and the lines weren't blurred. So it was really fun for me. I took control and I had a good experience doing it." Likewise, Cavallari knew how she was going to be portrayed and acted (up) accordingly.  

In an interview with Momtastic, she explained the difference between starring on the two shows. "Laguna Beach was really our lives being manipulated by being put in situations we never would have been in normally. And when I joined The Hills… we filmed three different scenes, three days a week. I had my life on-camera and a completely different life off-camera. I knew the character they wanted me to play, and this time I was game. …It was fun to play up the villain," she explained.

So The Hills wasn't exactly an accurate representation of her life

As much as Cavallari was happy to live up to her reputation as a reality TV villain, the star also wasn't shy about revealing which parts of her tenure on The Hills were closer to fantasy. During an appearance on Watch What Happens Live, a caller referred to fellow Hills alum Whitney Port's revelation that one of the biggest cliffhangers in the show's history (her decision to go to Paris, while Conrad stayed home with then-boyfriend Jason Wahler, who also appeared on Laguna Beach) was completely fabricated. 

Cavallari acknowledged that, although Port's story-line happened before her time on the show, she wasn't surprised at all to hear it was faked, noting, "I can tell you, most of my stuff wasn't real. So I'm gonna take that road and say maybe it's true. I'm just happy that more people are finally coming out saying that stuff isn't real because for the longest time it was just me." 

She found her Prince Charming off TV

Cavallari never had a problem getting dudes on either Laguna Beach or The Hills, however, she found her husband far away from the cameras. In Balancing in Heels (via People), the reality star details her unusual courtship with now-husband and father of her kids, Jay Cutler. Cavallari originally broke off their engagement back in July 2011, but quickly reconciled with the since-retired Chicago Bears quarterback, subsequently announcing she was pregnant that November. They got married in June 2013, less than a year after welcoming their eldest son, Camden Jack. 

"Relationships are hard work, especially with kids. But those couple months of being broken up showed us how much we meant to each other and how much we were both willing to do whatever it takes to make our relationship work," advises Cavallari in her book. Thankfully, Cutler has never seen either Laguna Beach or The Hills, with Cavallari telling Elle, "I think MTV played them one summer and he put it on as a joke. …He's seen little bits and pieces but never a full episode." 

Having kids changed her outlook on life

Cavallari and Cutler have three children together, with second son Jaxon born in 2014 followed by daughter Saylor the following year. Speaking to Today, she explained how motherhood completely changed her for the better. "I really feel like I'm finally in a place where this is what I'm supposed to be doing, this is what I'm meant for. This is where I'm the happiest. I felt like I really came into my own when I became a mom. My entire world changed," she gushed.

In particular, Cavallari's previous insecurities melted away as she appreciated her strength, noting, "What my stomach and my body went through is truly a miracle. …It's pretty marvelous that our bodies are able to do that." Cavallari wishes other moms were "a little bit more real" about the difficulties of parenting, however, advising, "It's hard, and we're all just doing the best job that we can, and so I wish people were just more open and honest about the struggles we all face as moms." 

She celebrated being Uncommon

Saying goodbye to her glamorous TV life after The Hills wrapped in 2010, Cavallari turned her attention to more creative pursuits, designing a shoe line for Chinese Laundry in 2012, and releasing Balancing in Heels in 2014, followed by super-healthy cookbook (and New York Times bestseller) True Roots in 2018. In 2017 she launched her own jewelry company, Uncommon James

Speaking to The Skinny Confidential, Cavallari advised that launching her super chic jewelry line just made sense in the trajectory of her career. "I've loved being in the accessories world since I think they make or break your outfit. Jewelry was the next natural step for me and Uncommon James is very special since it's my own company. It's the first time in my life I have complete creative freedom which is the best feeling in the world," she enthused. 

As for what kind of woman Cavallari has in mind when designing her pieces: "The modern woman — a girl on the go who doesn't want to spend 10 minutes trying on jewelry. She wants fashion to be easy; throw these pieces on and never take them off."   

She finally settled down in the suburbs

After making homes in Chicago, Laguna Beach, and Los Angeles, Cavallari settled down in the suburbs of Nashville, TN, where Uncommon James' flagship store is also located. Speaking to area publication The Tennessean, Cavallari noted the city has deeper meaning for her and hubby Cutler. "The first weekend [we] ever really hung out we actually came to Nashville. It was only 24 hours but I completely fell in love. …We bought the house with the intention to be here full time and raise our family here when Jay was done playing football," she advised.

The couple spent much of Cutler's off-season, when he was still playing ball, in Nashville, but moved there permanently once he retired, with Cavallari noting: "[It's] a great place to raise a family." She told CV Lux the weather was a huge bonus too, noting, "I prefer having my kids grow up in a place that has four seasons. Snow days for me were part of my childhood, and I love that my kids are experiencing that. It's just a different way of growing up."

She was reluctant to return to reality television

Her flagship store turned out to be even more important than Cavallari initially realized, as it became the basis for her long-awaited return to reality TV. Very Cavallari, the show on which Cavallari both stars and acts as executive producer, debuted in 2018, with a second season following in 2019. She told Elle a few different things had to line up to bring her back into this world, but Cavallari felt the store, and its many eccentric employees, would be a fitting backdrop. 

Still, she was anxious about her return, noting, "I had a little moment right before we started filming of, 'Oh my God, I think I made the wrong decision,' but that quickly went away as soon as we started filming." Cavallari appreciates her new role, noting, "Having that security blanket and knowing I get to see everything beforehand, and that if we really needed to we could change some stuff… that really put my mind at ease. Working with a team of producers that respect and value my creative direction with the show is such a dream come true." 

She keeps it real, but refuses to bare all

Cavallari was quick to note, however, that her return to reality T.V. wasn't primarily focused on her. Cutler only features when he wants to, while the couple is keeping their kids off-camera entirely until they're old enough to make the decision for themselves. She was frank with Elle about her husband's feelings on filming, admitting, "He really doesn't want anything to do with reality TV, to be quite honest. But he's doing it to support me and he understands what a good opportunity it is for me." 

The Very Cavallari star was careful to ensure Cutler was comfortable, while the couple kept certain parts of their home life completely under wraps. "Before we started filming we talked beforehand about what we were willing to put out there, what we weren't, where in the house we could film — you'll never see the master bedroom, for example. We both just wanted to make sure we have some stuff that's just for us, that's private." As for their three children, that wasn't even a discussion, as Cavallari advised, "That was a no-brainer for us, not putting them on the show." 

She's a bonafide businesswoman

With her shoe line, her jewelry line Uncommon James, two books, and a brand-new reality TV show, it's difficult to imagine Cavallari fitting anything else in work-wise. However, in 2019, she collaborated with long-time hair stylist Justin Anderson on a new "blonding brush" so fans could emulate her signature tresses. Still, Uncommon James is her baby, and nowhere is Cavallari's passion more evident.  

She spoke to TV Insider about exposing her business to criticism in Very Cavallari, noting, "Putting those company vulnerabilities out there can be scary, but it's also very real. We're all learning and growing. I feel like I'm working really hard right now to get the corporate things in a really great place." Still, Cavallari knows what's right for her business life, as much as her personal life. "I find I have to do what's best for my company. If I want Uncommon James to get where I want it to be, I have to have really strong, key people to help me. I can't do it by myself. …I'm not doing this just to hang out. I'm really trying to build a huge brand," she explained. 

She's finally comfortable in her own skin

It's difficult to imagine, but the Cavallari of Laguna Beach and The Hills wasn't as confident as she let on (in fact, as she told Elle, that Kristin was, "A mess and… I had a lot of growing up to do"). It's only now that Cavallari truly feels like herself. Gone is the young woman who worried about how producers were manipulating her, or who thrived on playing the villain.   

As she told Bella magazine, Cavallari feels, "Like I've finally found happiness. I'm in a good place and am ready to let people in." She's done playing nice, too, with the publication quoting her book, Balancing in Heels, in which she noted, "I'm comfortable in my own skin and am no longer affected by what others think. This is me; there's no sugarcoating who I am."

In 2019, Cavallari is having the time of her life because, "I have so much confidence and I no longer second-guess myself like I did in the beginning." However, in spite of her newfound self-assurance, Cavallari doesn't have everything figured out just yet. "None of us have all the answers; we're just trying to live our lives and do the best we can."