Normally it's Kristin Cavallari supporting fiance and Bears quarterback Jay Cutler on game day from the suites at Soldier Field, but during Cavallari's promotional appearance on behalf of her Chinese Laundry shoe line Saturday at the Von Maur store in Yorktown Center in Lombard, it was Cutler, father to their 6-month-old son, Camden, playing the supporting role.
Cutler waited in the next room as Cavallari met with media in the employee lounge and discussed the women's shoe line she said she's been dreaming of designing since she was 19, and he was on hand as she posed for photos with her mostly female fans, some of whom began lining up for the 2:30 p.m. appearance when the store opened at 10 a.m.
"I think a lot of girls look up to me because I'm a strong woman," Cavallari, 26, said of her appeal. "I say what's on my mind. I go after what I want. In that sense, I'm a good role model. (Also,) when I was in high school and on TV, girls that were my age were going through the same problems I was and could relate to me."
Cavallari -- whose shoes are available at ChineseLaundry.com and vonmaur.com, and who has her own jewelry line for glamboutique.com -- rose to fame when she appeared on the California-based MTV reality shows "Laguna Beach" and "The Hills." Cavallari spent part of her upbringing in Barrington with her mother. But you wouldn't know it from her accent, which, to invoke "Saturday Night Live," is far more "The Californians" than "Bill Swerski's Superfans." She's charming and refreshingly honest, though she had a hard time answering why she's one of the few "Laguna Beach" and "The Hills" cast members who has managed to stay relevant.
"I don't know," Cavallari said. "That's probably a better question for the fans."
It helps that Cavallari's love life has always been a hot topic among tabloids. Also, she elevated her profile over the years by making cameos on CBS's "CSI: NY," FX's "The League" and UPN's "Veronica Mars" and competing with ABC's "Dancing With the Stars." And then there are those sharp opinions of hers, which turned her into a reality TV villain and helped her stand out in both casts. She has said in interviews that she was playing up her reputation on "The Hills," but as her 1 million-plus Twitter followers can tell you, she's not afraid to speak her mind.
Still, Cavallari said you shouldn't expect her to single out Cutler's teammates or opponents in public. While supermodel Gisele Bundchen, wife of the New England Patriots' Tom Brady, blamed the Patriots' 2012 Super Bowl loss on the receivers on camera and Anna Burns Welker, wife of the Patriots' Wes Welker, slammed the Baltimore Ravens' Ray Lewis in January via Facebook, Cavallari said she'd prefer not to meddle in the football side of things.
"I think it's probably best I stay out of that area," Cavallari said. "It's very easy for me to lose my mind. But out of respect for Jay and the profession, I don't think it's my place to say anything."
Cavallari will, however, stand up to sports fans and writers who question their personal life. When the sports world mocked Cutler last week over the E! story that he proposed to Cavallari via text message and sent her the ring via mail — keep in mind some of these people are the same die-hard fans who feel proposing on the jumbotron during sporting events is romantic — a frustrated Cavallari took to Twitter to point out that Cutler had proposed the first time around in Cabo San Lucas (they called off their first engagement months later but are now set to wed sometime this year).
"I get so heated," Cavallari said. "I could sit here and say it doesn't bother me, but it does bother me. It makes me so mad writers can write whatever they want and get away with it and people will believe it. That's the part that drives me crazy. Headlines are so great in a sense that they can take a little bit from an article completely out of context and blow it into something it's not. Some people really only read headlines. And from there it's an awful game of telephone."
Of course, if it was the more fan-friendly Peyton Manning of the Denver Broncos who had proposed over text message, the reaction would have been different. Cutler's attitude and body language have always been heavily criticized; he landed at No. 4 last week on Forbes' "10 Most Disliked Athletes in America" list. Cavallari continues to stick up for him publicly and insists there's another side to him we don't see.
Cavallari too had a "rep" after "Laguna Beach" and "The Hills." She seems to have since overcome it and is now concentrating on a new chapter of her life — one that involves motherhood, marriage and her shoe and jewelry lines. With Cutler likely listening in the next room, I asked if she had ever encouraged him to soften his image the same way she did.
"Even if Jay came out and was smiling and was incredibly sweet with everyone, people would still find a way to focus on the negatives," Cavallari said, laughing. "It's very difficult to change the perception people have of you. I honestly think it took me having a baby for people to look at me in a different light. I've been me for eight years in the public eye but people like to focus on one part of your personality. It's very difficult to change your image once it is what it is. … It helps that Jay has been doing (ESPN Radio's) 'Waddle and Silvy' (show)."
With other media outlets waiting to speak to Cavallari and fans waiting to meet her, I thanked her for her time and walked out of the room just as Cutler was entering it. Given that I had to walk around the 6-foot-3 NFL star and had made eye contact with him, I said "How's it going?" in passing. Cutler looked me up and down and then kept walking without saying a word.
Maybe he didn't hear me.
Help wanted: ExtraOrdinary Casting is looking for extras for the ABC TV pilots "Doubt" — revolving around a cop-turned-lawyer (from "House" creator David Shore) — and "Betrayal" — about a woman who has an affair with a defense attorney who ends up facing off against her prosecutor husband in a murder trial (from "ER" executive producer David Zabel). According to ExtraOrdinary Casting's website, filming takes place March 11-29 in Chicago. To apply, register with ExtraOrdinary and then email email@example.com.
By the numbers: According to Atmosphere Casting, more than 1,500 people attended the "Divergent" extras casting call Saturday at Cinespace Chicago Film Studios on the West Side. "Divergent," starring Shailene Woodley ("The Descendants"), is scheduled to film in Chicago April through July.
Heads up: Chicago twin brothers and OB/GYN physicians Idries and Jamil Abdur-Rahman and hockey-playing Addison brothers Bates and Anthony Battaglia will compete on the upcoming season of CBS's "The Amazing Race," which premieres Sunday. Jamil said he tried out not only because he wanted to grow closer to his twin and see how far they could push themselves, but also because he wanted the public to see African-American Muslims in a different light. "I was hoping that while participating on 'Amazing Race,' America would get an opportunity to know my brother and I, and that hopefully in getting to know us they would like us," said Jamil, who, like Idries, is a Kenwood Academy alum. "We are all much more alike than we are different."
Elsewhere, Antioch Community High School alum and LuxBar server Kristina Leng will compete for an editorial assistant position with Cosmopolitan magazine on Friday's episode of "The Job." The CBS reality show features five candidates competing for one job each week with companies such as Live Nation, Epic Records and Major League Soccer. "I was craving change in my life," said Leng. "I knew I needed a change of scenery, a new challenge."
Gaga watch: No doubt many will be on the lookout for pop megastar Lady Gaga hanging out while in town for her two shows Wednesday and Thursday at the United Center. Will she join DJ White Shadow — who co-produced her "Born This Way" album — when he DJs Thursday at Paris Club's upstairs club, Studio Paris? Gaga did visit Studio Paris with boyfriend Taylor Kinney ("Chicago Fire") last month. Will she join her opening act, Lady Starlight, when she spins Thursday at Berlin in Lakeview? We'll find out this week.
About this week: Siena Tavern in River North will celebrate its grand opening Friday with a private party featuring chef and co-owner Fabio Viviani ("Top Chef: All-Stars"). … Interior designer Thom Filicia ("Queer Eye for the Straight Guy") will sign his book, "American Beauty: Renovating and Decorating a Beloved Retreat," Wednesday at the Kohler Store in Merchandise Mart.
Sightings: Rapper Kid Cudi dined Thursday at Sullivan's Steakhouse in River North. ... Jack McBrayer ("30 Rock") dined Wednesday at 25 Degrees. ... "American Idol" alum Kimberley Locke had lunch Wednesday at Harry Caray's Italian Steakhouse in River North. ... The Bulls' Joakim Noah dined Jan 23 at Japonais. Fellow Bull Taj Gibson was there Jan. 25. ... Paul Konerko dined with White Sox teammates Jan. 25 at Chicago Cut Steakhouse, and fellow Sox infielder Gordon Beckham dined at Chicago Cut with teammates Jan. 26. The Blackhawks' Patrick Kane dined with teammates Jan. 27 at Chicago Cut. … Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts had lunch Friday at N9NE Steakhouse.Copyright © 2015, RedEye