Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times (mbt1rqp720121019151435/600 )
Lauren Conrad isn't just a celebrity. The blond from Orange County, with her trademark cat-eye makeup, is a cottage industry.
Conrad, 26, hasn't appeared regularly on television since exiting the MTV reality show "The Hills" in 2009, but off-screen, she's been quietly building a lifestyle empire. (Her net worth is estimated to be about $12 million.)
She's written two bestselling series of young-adult novels that play with Hollywood stereotypes. She runs an eponymous clothing line sold at Kohl's and a second fashion collection called Paper Crown that's available at 120 boutiques nationwide. She's launched two lifestyle websites and, most recently, penned the how-to book "Lauren Conrad Beauty," a companion to her 2010 guide, "Lauren Conrad Style."
Only a handful of other starlets have been able to parlay their flash-in-the-pan fame to a similar level of success.
"Beauty," released Tuesday, is primarily about relatability, as Conrad shares personal stories that acknowledge her good fortune — and her foibles. She offers practical advice on skin and hair care, and writes about the often overlooked effects of diet and exercise on a woman's appearance and well-being.
"It's always fun to share knowledge of an experience other people can't have," says Conrad, who, in the eight years she's been in the public eye — starting with MTV's "Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County" in 2004 — has been primped and polished by a team of makeup artists, hairstylists and aestheticians from whom she has learned "so much."
The beauty guide, she adds, is a chance to take all those things and share them with others.
Conrad opens the book with a photo gallery of her "beauty evolution" that demonstrates her transformation from a Southern California teen with overly blond hair and mismatched foundation to a young woman with a more natural look. She writes candidly about her struggles with acne and skin discoloration — and her solutions — as well as her experimentation with hair colors and styles.
"One of the messages of this book is it's really important to figure out what you love about yourself and what you want to focus on. It's different for every person," says Conrad, who, as a teenager growing up in Laguna Beach, didn't always hold such a belief. She bleached her hair, spent too much time in the sun and dressed like her friends, she said, "because it was easy and safe to blend in."
These days, Conrad lives in Los Angeles. She hides from the sun. She's a devotee of sunscreen and ChapStick and vitamins, as well as the stalwart curling iron she uses to tame the locks she describes as "straight with a couple weird bends."
Sitting on a rococo settee in the lobby of her Paper Crown office in Westwood, Conrad epitomizes the message behind her brand: Accessible glamour. She's dressed in a flirty yet elegant metallic tweed party dress anchored with a pair of suede stiletto pumps from her LC Lauren Conrad line for Kohl's. Her makeup is predominantly French, as is her handbag, a quilted black Chanel.
"I like anything that has romance to it, and I think a lot of French things do," says Conrad. (A recent post on LaurenConrad
.com revealed the contents of her over-the-shoulder bag, including Cle de Peau concealer, Dior Addict Ultra Gloss and Chanel Chance perfume.)
Though her new book is thorough in its explanations of product ingredients and techniques for makeup application, it steers clear of naming specific products.
"I didn't want this to be a book that applied specifically to this year and in two years is not very helpful," she says. "Products change often." She regularly changes her own mix, especially facial cleansers and shampoos.
Not surprisingly, Conrad is considering extending her brand with a beauty line at some point.
"We looked into it last year," she says, but decided against doing so in the short term because "you're dealing with chemicals that go on someone's skin or hair. If you're going to do makeup, you have to do it right."
Until then, there's "Lauren Conrad Beauty."
Conrad is slated to appear at a book signing at 7 p.m. Monday at Barnes & Noble, 1201 Third Street Promenade, Santa Monica.