Success in the City: MTV's Whitney Port is the real-life Carrie and co

By Amy Williams

If you haven't heard her name yet, you soon will. Whitney Port is MTV’s latest star. She appeared in the hit reality show The Hills, which followed a group of young women battling it out on the cut-throat career ladder in LA. Then MTV asked her to appear in the New York spin-off The City, so she relocated to the Big Apple, landed a job with Diane von Furstenberg and became the star of the show. The City is already compulsive viewing for fashionistas across the globe – and take it from us, you’re going to want to make it your new guilty pleasure. YOU’s Amy Williams met the 24-year-old style queen to get to the bottom of all the bitching, back stabbing and boy trouble…

Doing what she does best - Whitney Port enjoys some serious retail therapy while visiting London

To people who have never heard of The City or Whitney Port, how would you describe the show and what you do?
I am a TV personality and I star in a reality soap opera that follows my life in New York City. So the things I do every day – going to work, having a drink with friends – are filmed and then turned into a TV show. But I’m also a fashion designer – I started my own clothing line last year by utilising all the opportunities and exposure that being on the TV show has given me.

What a gig! How on earth did it all come about?
It was by accident. Three years ago I heard that Teen Vogue in Los Angeles was looking for interns, so I went along to the offices and presented myself, and they were, like, ‘Yes, there is an opening, but you need to know that it will involve being filmed by MTV. Would that be a problem?’

To be honest, I just really wanted to work at Teen Vogue, so I said, ‘Sure, no problem!’ As well as the job interview, I had to do a screen test, and luckily it was a yes from the Teen Vogue editor and a yes from MTV. It was only when I turned up for my first day at work and saw Lauren Conrad [star of the hit reality show Laguna Beach] sitting at the desk opposite me that I realised what I had signed up for and that I had walked into a part on her new show The Hills. I was, like, ‘Ohmygod, what is this?’

A free pass into the world of a young person’s dream…
I guess, but I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into, and to begin with, when I was on The Hills, there wasn’t a focus on me, I just got on with my day job. But I became genuine friends with Lauren and I got to know the gang – Heidi Montag, Spencer Pratt, etc – who were already well-known. But in terms of attention,
I just wasn’t in their league.
But then they relocated you to New York and gave you your own show.
I never expected this; I am the most drama-free, non-attention-seeking person out there. When the MTV producers asked me to do The City I said, ‘Why me?’ I am so not the reality-TV-show type.

Perhaps that’s what appealed to MTV; you keep a sense of reality about you.
And what’s a reality TV show without some reality? I think they recognised that I am a neutral person, that they could base The City on me and I’d be the solid one, the one that people could relate to. And I gave them a disclaimer; I said, ‘If you guys are looking for me to start the dramas, then I’m not that person.’

Lucky that they brought in Olivia Palermo [who stars with Whitney in The City], then…
Yes, she’s good at creating drama out of nothing. Olivia is a socialite and she can be difficult, cold and aloof, but I like to think that I balance that out.

So is Olivia for real or is she all sweetness and light when the cameras are turned off?
She’s for real. She acts like everyone’s the enemy and no matter how hard you try, it’s difficult to get through to her or become her friend. She thinks she is above everyone else.

How do you feel that so much of the buzz surrounding The City focuses on Olivia? Over here she’s the style crush of the moment.
Well, she has good style, I’ll give her that. And I’m happy to give her some of the buzz because it takes the pressure off me! And there’s no competition. I’m not like that – whatever makes the show successful…

'When MTV asked me to do The City, I said, "Why me?" I am so not the reality TV show type'

Do you read your own press?
Not really. I’ll see the photos of me in magazines, often in those style pages – ‘Has she got it right? What do you think of her new handbag?’ – but I never read the comments. I think if you read that stuff and take it to heart, you are taking yourself too seriously.

But doesn’t the constant paparazzi attention drive you mad?
I’m not so vain that I want to get dressed up for the cameras all the time. I’m happy to leave my apartment without make-up – I just put on some big sunglasses or, if I’m having a fat day, I’ll wear a baggy T-shirt and jeans and just get on with it.

Unlike Olivia, who looks so made up in the new series that she must get up two hours early to get ready each day.
I think it’s three hours, actually. But we do have to do our own hair and
make-up – see, it is all real.

You wear your own make-up, but don’t you get the clothes for free?
I get sent some cool things for free – I’m very lucky – but it’s not like MTV gives us a wardrobe each season. We do have to log all the brands that we wear because they get put on to the website after each episode – a kind of ‘Get Whitney’s look’. And it’s not all designer – Olivia wears lots of Topshop and Zara. You’d be surprised.

What’s your latest fashion find?
I have an obsession with tights. There are so many cool patterned versions around. I love the ones Henry Holland has done for Pretty Polly.

Yes, they look great on people like you, with legs to die for, but we’re not sure about the rest of us.
I think tights are great for everyone. You don’t have to do the patterned ones; maybe mix things up and try deep purple rather than black. It’s the easiest way to update an outfit.

'The most embarrassing moment of my TV career was when I found out that my boyfriend was cheating on me'

Let’s talk boys. On the first series of The City we watched you fall for and break up with Aussie musician Jay Lyon. It can’t be much fun living out a relationship on camera.
The most embarrassing moment of my TV career to date came when I found out from a friend that my boyfriend was cheating on me. Whoever you are and however it happens, that is a humbling, horrible moment, but when the cameras are on you, waiting for your reaction, you just feel pathetic and totally naive. And you wonder, did the producers know he was cheating? It gets very difficult to know who to trust.

Who do you trust?
I trust my gut feeling and my oldest friends. Producers are a different matter – you never know when they are trying to get a rise out of you.

So with Jay gone, you’re now playing the part of single girl
about town. Could you be the new Carrie Bradshaw?
Oh, I love Sex and the City, but I’m more of a Charlotte! I love being single but, however much MTV would love it, I am not going to go on a different date every night.

You could probably take your pick of the city now. Who would be your dream date?
Ryan Gosling. I don’t really have a type, but I have a big crush on him. Hasn’t everyone?

What would happen if you fell for someone who refused to be a part of the show?
Thankfully, I haven’t had that situation yet, but I can’t imagine how it would work right now. I just know I couldn’t keep anything secret as I have given the producers full access – I can’t get away from sharing a thing.

You’ve dated Americans and an Australian on the show. Have any British guys taken your fancy while you’ve been in the UK?
I wish! I’ve been far too busy to notice boys. But I’d be up for dating a Brit. I don’t discriminate.

You’re in London with your sister Jade – how does your family feel about you living your life on camera?
Jade has loved being here with me. We’ve done Topshop and stuff; even though there’s now one in New York, it doesn’t compare with yours. But sometimes I do feel awkward being the centre of attention. I’m the middle of five children and my parents have always been careful to make us equal. They are very grounded, so they’d say something if they didn’t think I was being myself.


I have a beige vintage Chanel bag that I take everywhere with me.

Of all time? Valentino. His designs are so classic and beautiful.

I still listen to Jay’s band Tamarama. But that’s because we’re friends and I don’t get the heart-wrench any more.


Gym. But I’ve not been for six weeks — I find it really difficult to get back on the wagon. Once I’m off, I’m off for a while.

Dove Milk Chocolate Bars. It’s too bad that you don’t get them
over here.

Oh, Brad. George is way too old for me.

Still Brad Pitt.

Angelina, but we’re talking purely on a looks basis, right?

The second series of The City is on Sundays at 9.30pm on MTV. It is a spin-off of The Hills, which was itself a spin-off of Laguna Beach, the original MTV reality TV show, first shown in 2004. Laguna Beach followed the lives of teenagers at high school in Orange County. When they graduated, they moved to Beverly Hills in LA, and the cameras followed. The City follows the stars’ next relocation — to New York.


She is a nice-as-pie fashionista and the show’s star and narrator. During the first series she worked at Diane von Furstenberg, but has since moved to PR company People’s Revolution. Now single, Whitney wears her heart on her sleeve.

She is the uber-groomed NYC socialite with an acerbic tongue and a wardrobe to die for. She and Whitney used to work together at DvF, but Olivia is now ruffling feathers over at Elle magazine as the accessories editor.

New to the cast this series, she is an old school friend of Whitney’s. True to form, thoughtful Whitney lands Roxy a job at People’s Revolution and a bed in her flat, but Roxy repays her by undermining Whitney at work and throwing parties at her apartment.

Another newbie, she is Elle’s PR director. All-American and super-stylish, Erin takes her work seriously and demands the best from her team, which sees her coming up against Olivia, the new girl at Elle, again and again…

  • The City is filmed three or four days a week. Some characters, such as Whitney, are followed in every part of their lives, while others, such as Olivia, have contracts which state that they are only filmed at work.
  • The stars don’t receive a clothing allowance and they have to do their own hair and make-up, though they often receive gifts from designers now that they are celebrities.
  • Despite allegations to the contrary, neither The City nor The Hills is scripted, but the producers do plan each day of filming. They will scout appropriate restaurants, clubs and cafés, and the stars then go to the locations that are scheduled for that day. So, not scripted but not spontaneous either.
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