Let the rain fall down, because Kristin Cavallari is coming clean.
It's been nearly 12 years (!) since MTV first aired one of Laguna Beach's most defining episodes, "What Happens in Cabo." What happened in Cabo didn't stay in Cabo, of course, but not for the reasons viewers might think. In her new book, Balancing in Heels: My Journey to Health, Happiness, and Making It All Work (available now), Cavallari writes about her relationship with Stephen Colletti (and his relationship with Lauren Conrad) and reveals why reality TV wasn't really real.
Cavallari began dating Colletti as a sophomore in high school. Laguna Beach, inspired by Fox's scripted series The O.C., began filming during her junior year. Producers immediately zeroed in on a love triangle that would involve Cavallari, Colletti and Conrad. At the time, Cavallari writes that Colletti was her "entire" world. "We loved hard and fought hard. My relationship with Stephen went from our own high school romance to the fodder of a hugely successful television show."
"Normal high school relationships are dramatic enough, but ours now had the added pressure of being seen by MTV viewers across the country as well as being manipulated by the show's producers, a set of adults were very suddenly involved in the intricacies of our lives," writes Cavallari, now a married mother of three. "Surprisingly, the producers had a bigger effect, as they controlled and mapped our lives more than we were aware. One of the most hurtful things they did was pressure Stephen to spend time with another girl from the show, Lauren, while he and I were dating. It certainly provided some juicy conflicts, but it also affected me deeply. I 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."
Throughout the first season, Cavallari and Colletti would break up only to make up, all while Colletti was romancing Conrad behind her back—or so it appeared on TV. "Stephen was the most important thing in my life, and there was nothing I cared about more. I hated fighting with him on camera because it felt like I was airing all our dirty laundry. Even then, I knew that couldn't be good for a relationship," Cavallari, 29, recalls. "One time in particular, they showed me adamantly telling him, 'I don't want to talk about it'—meaning, I didn't want to talk about whatever it was on camera, but it sounded as though I didn't want to deal with the issue at all."
Conrad narrated Season 1, inherently making her the most sympathetic character. It didn't take very long for producers to make her the Betty to Cavallari's Veronica.
"The fact that I didn't take life too seriously and was a bit of a party animal didn't often put me in a good light," Cavallari says of being painted as the show's resident bad girl. "On a trip to Cabo San Lucas, when Stephen and I were actually broken up, I jumped up on the bar to dance with my girlfriends. Then I kissed a guy I was seeing at the time, completely unaware of how my actions were affecting Stephen (only teenagers are able to be so self-involved!). Not one of my better moments! Then Stephen started shouting 'slut!' at me from across the bar. It was a scene. There are certainly some clips I wish I could erase from everyone's memory."
It wasn't until the episode aired in October 2004 that Cavallari realized she had no control over her image. "During that same trip to Cabo, I had to go to dinner with the cast—whom I normally wouldn't go to dinner with—and Stephen was mouthing 'I love you' and being incredibly sweet to me even though we were broken up. But during editing, the producers made it seem like he was saying a lot of that to the other girl he was 'seeing' and that I was rolling my eyes at him, which wasn't the case," she writes, referring to Conrad. "Pretty deceptive! Producers also had Stephen go up to this same girl's house to hang out, which they made me believe was all on his own, so the joke was on me. Later I would out they told him to go."
Though Cavallari and Colletti remained a couple on- and off-screen, being put in made-for-TV situations put a strain on their relationship. "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. When we saw each episode, it was clear to us what was real and what was fake...but that still didn't make it easy," she writes in Balancing in Heels. "I think always having my guard up for those couple of years filming made me reluctant to trust men."
For more stories from Cavallari, pick up a copy of her new book, Balancing in Heels: My Journey to Health, Happiness, and Making It All Work, available now.