When Whitney Port made her debut on The Hills as a 21-year-old fashion intern in 2006, she had no idea where the show would take her. Nearly two decades later, it’s brought her an ongoing career in fashion, a popular podcast and even a lifelong bond with costar Lauren Conrad.
“Lauren and I got along so well from the get-go,” Port, 38, exclusively shared as part of her Us Weekly cover story. “We were very much SoCal girls who, at least for me, felt, like, a little bit out of our league in this Vogue world. So I think the two of us could bounce off of each other. And neither of us at this time took fashion so seriously and I feel like you can see that.”
Port and Conrad, 37, became an instant fan-favorite friendship on the Laguna Beach spinoff, sharing their secrets and recapping the latest feuds in the Teen Vogue closet before eventually moving on to jobs at fashion PR agency Peoples’ Revolution. But their first meeting was a surprise to Port.
“I had watched Laguna Beach so I knew who [Lauren] was [but] I thought I was just interviewing for some random reality TV show,” Port told Us. “And then Lauren walks in and I’m like, ‘Oh, my God, I’m on her spinoff show!’ I didn’t know how often it would be or what the show was going to be like. I didn’t know if I was a main person or a background person, it was still all very up in the air.”
Port eventually became the main character when she landed her own spinoff, The City, in 2008, a show that sprang out of a Hills trip to New York. “We were doing a fashion show and I met [future boyfriend] Jay [Lyon] really organically while we were filming,” Port recalled. “And I really liked him. I think that’s what prompted [executive producer] Adam DiVello to have the idea to move me to New York.”
Even being the center of attention, Port felt like she was able to represent herself accurately — and is grateful producers presented her as someone viewers could root for, too.
“Lauren and I were edited to be the hero and everything was happening to us,” she told Us. “So we got the good end of the stick in terms of the editing.”
On Her Relationship With Lauren Conrad
Port said she “adores” her former costar, though adulthood has set them on different paths. “I haven’t spoken to her in a year maybe,” Port told Us. “She moved out of L.A. and started her own life, as we all did. And we just don’t chat as much anymore because we’re not in each other’s lives.”
While Port said she was always on Conrad’s side during the show, she described the duo’s dynamic as “very much work friends” rather than BFFs.
“When we weren’t filming, I was in college,” she explained. “I had my own best friends. I had a boyfriend. They would go out and film and they would invite me, and I didn’t really want to be a part of that.”
Still, Port said, Conrad was always looking out for her: “I definitely remember off-camera moments where she would be like, ‘Be careful.’”
On Returning for ‘The Hills: New Beginnings’
Port was initially hesitant to participate in the MTV revival, which premiered in 2019, because of how “reality TV has changed so much” over the years. While she wanted DiVello, who created The Hills, to serve as executive producer, she knew there was “no way” that was going to happen.
“[Reality TV] has just gotten so much crazier and people say and do so much more extreme things,” she said, “and the production company [overseeing the reboot] had done a lot of Real Housewives, so I was like, ‘Oh, my God.’”
Her husband, Tim Rosenman, wasn’t interested in doing the show, and the couple felt their son, Sonny, was too young at the time. Given the stage of life she was in, Port wondered if The Hills universe was best kept in the past.
“I felt like, ’Is this cheesy?’” she said. “Like, ‘Is this a desperate look for me to go back and do this?’”
Ultimately, the L.A. native decided she could be part of the series and remain true to herself.
“I could still show up and be a voice of reason for Audrina [Patridge] or just a familiar face that people were used to,” she told Us. “But then when they got picked up for the second season, and that was all during Covid, I took a step back and I was like, ‘This isn’t really worth it for me anymore.’”
On the Lack of Fan Enthusiasm for ‘The Hills’ Revival
It’s all about authenticity, according to Port. “They tried to get us back into the world that we weren’t in and have that same kind of drama at nightclubs,” Port shared. “And we’re, like, 35 now, most of us with kids. None of us really talk to each other anymore.”
Port noted that many successful reality TV shows feature a group of people who are actually best friends — something that creates higher stakes because “you can really hurt someone if you’re best friends.” No one on The Hills: New Beginnings, however, actually spent time together outside of filming. That left things feeling “fake or staged,” Port explained.
Another issue? The fear that footage would be manipulated for drama. “Everyone was so nervous about how they were going to be edited and portrayed,” she said. “People had gotten burned. So I don’t think people were really showing their true selves.”
For Port, delving into “what each of our lives really looks like” would have helped the show see more success. “Show a little bit of Audrina at home, show Heidi and Spencer [Pratt] as parents,” she said. “Not, like, let’s all meet up at a club or whatever and talk to Mischa Barton, you know? It was just so not the reality of what our lives were. And I think [audiences] can feel that.”
On Her Most Embarrassing Reality TV Moment
Port looks back on her famous fall on Good Morning America — where she tripped down the stairs on live TV while modeling a gown — with appreciation, despite it being hard to swallow at the time.
“I remember pleading with the production to not show it,” she recalled. “Like, I was so embarrassed. And they were like, ‘Whitney, you don’t realize this is going to be OK. You’re going to come out on top.’ I was mortified and so afraid for that to air. And then it did and, like they said, it ended up being people just wanting to see real s—t happening to real people.”
On How MTV Manufactured ‘The City’ to Reflect Her Life
Some of Port’s life on her spinoff series The City was authentic — but like The Hills, much of it was crafted for the cameras. That included her drama with coworker Olivia Palermo.
“Some of the producers were in my ear about what [OIivia] was like,” she said. “I had preconceived notions about her because the producers were really my best friends, as much as I fought with them. It was like a brother-sister thing. I was spending most of my time with them.”
On Where She Stands With People’s Revolution Founder Kelly Cutrone
After their time at Teen Vogue, Port and Conrad got jobs working with famously temperamental Cutrone at her PR agency. Port and Cutrone initially forged a close bond but found themselves at odds after The City wrapped.
“We got into a little work thing and she kind of went Kelly on me,” Port explained. “I’d seen her do that before, but never to me. And I was like, ‘Whoa.’ This was right after my dad had passed away, and I was like, ‘I need to take a step back here.’”
Port said the pair didn’t talk for a few years before eventually reconnecting at a recent Fashion Week event.
“ I went to a show that she was doing and I saw her and it was just like nothing had happened,” Port shared. “We both had realized that we were under so much stress after [The City] had ended, and we let emotions run high, but she was like, ‘I always loved you and I will always love you and you were like a daughter to me.’ So now everything’s great.”