About two dozen reporters and photographers huddled in the middle of the 17,000-square-foot Spirit Halloween store in Manhattan on Thursday. We were all there because Kristin Cavallari, of mid-2000’s reality TV staples Laguna Beach and The Hills, would be there judging a costume contest.
I’ve probably seen every episode of Laguna Beach, and maybe half of The Hills; since I was in high school around that time, I identified with the shows in some small but strong way (even if I tended to spend less time planning hotel parties and more time trying to find clever ways to beat the Elite Four in Pokémon Silver). I was excited to see Kristin as she was now, years older and seemingly done with that phase of her life.
When I asked her if she felt different from the person she was on Laguna Beach and The Hills, she said she didn’t. “I’m still me,” she said. “I’m just an older, more mature version of myself. Where my life is heading is in such a great place, and I couldn’t be happier. Having a baby is just so much fun.”
A bloodcurdling shriek rang out across the room, followed immediately by nervous laughter. It was a Halloween store, after all, and sometimes things jump out at you.
“Sorry, people who’s behind me!” a photographer in a backwards baseball cap shouted, only half-joking. “I don’t give a shit! I shoot like THIS!” He hoisted his gigantic camera over his head and flailed it around for effect. I was reminded of the iconic “I’m not here to make friends!” line made popular by every reality show since the genre was invented. (Except, maybe, for Laguna Beach.)
Kristin had arrived with her publicist and a bodyguard. She was beautiful, in the shockingly normal way that somebody you work next to or do yoga with is beautiful. She was also tiny, especially considering that she gave birth in August. Her son with fiancé Jay Cutler is named Camden. He’s going to be a lion this Halloween, “because he’s a Leo,” Kristin said, although she and Jay don’t plan on dressing up.
Asked about those hundreds of hours of footage, some of it probably not something you’d want your child to see, Cavallari was matter-of-fact: “I’m going to try to hide [the shows] from him. But kids are gonna do what they want to do. It’s impossible to hide anything.”
“She’s good,” one of the event coordinators muttered to another as she gracefully fielded questions from reporters. She was.
Kristin said that she and Jay didn’t plan on pursuing any kind of reality show for their family, noting that reality TV ruins relationships. However, she did say that after her son was born, “Audrina [Patridge] sent a huge basket of goodies, and Stephanie [Pratt] and Heidi [Montag] were at my baby shower.”
A number of reporters asked about how she managed to get back in shape post-baby. She runs six miles every day, and added that “breast-feeding burns 500 calories a day.” Kristin wasn’t eager to talk about the election. “Either way, I’ll have half of America hating me,” she said in response to a question about her politics.
Spirit Halloween, however, wasn’t so reserved. While we waited for the costume contest, the reason for Kristin’s appearance in the first place, to begin, a PR rep for the store named Angela Miller told me about the “Mask Presidential Index.” Spirit sells masks of each of the candidates’ faces, and apparently whichever has higher sales will also win the votes of the entire country. According to Miller, the Index has “accurately predicted the outcome of the past four elections.” So far this season, Obama is winning.
Other popular costumes this year include superheroes, characters from “Adventuretime,” and, unsurprisingly, Big Bird. “It’s too bad we don’t have a binder full of women costume,” Miller added.
The rules for the contest were simple: contestants had five minutes to grab whatever they wanted from the store and assemble their looks. “Nothing too provocative!” the host added. Its full name was the Bing It On Halloween Costume Contest, and it was sponsored by the search engine Bing. Kristin would judge the contestants and give the winner tips for improvement.
In order to participate, the contestants had had to complete the Bing It On Challenge, where they searched different queries and selected which of two sets of search results they preferred. At the end, it would be revealed whether they were more inclined toward Bing or Google.
The store didn’t close for the event, so normal civilians (right) continued to shop even as contestants (left) sprinted past with their swag.
This guy was eager to see what all the excitement was about. He quickly lost interest and moved on.
They got really into it. After the allotted five minutes were up, contestants were dressed, from left, as “Leatherface after an accident in the kitchen,” “just a big flower,” Little Red Riding Hood, and “a hot dog pimp.”
The flower won, because, as Kristin said, “It takes balls to wear that.” (Literally.) His name was Gary Wapnitsky and he was a surprisingly mild-mannered guy from Manhattan.
As for tips for improvement? “A [protective] cup,” Kristin suggested. “And some shoes.”
Pictures by Alanna Okun for BuzzFeed.