It’s the early throes of the coronavirus outbreak when Kristen Doute takes a break from filming to join our scheduled phone interview. Neither of us were aware the background noise of people hustling on set would soon become a foreign novelty.
In her upcoming book, “He’s Making You Crazy,” co-written with Michele Alexander (author of “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days”), Kristen talks about her relationship history and the lessons learned, which serve as the backdrop for our conversation.
Growing up in Michigan, did you ever fathom being in entertainment?
Kristen Doute: As a kid I was always in the theater. I was a total choir dork. At the same time, I was what they’d call a “burn out” now. I was kind of a jack-of-all-trades. I was a cheerleader, I smoked a lot of pot in high school when it wasn’t legal, and I was a musician. I was all over the board, in a lot of different friend groups, unsure of what I really wanted to do. When I graduated high school, I wanted to focus on music. Music was my first love, but I strayed from it when I moved to Los Angeles. I fell into acting and loved it. Before “Vanderpump Rules” became a thing, I did independent films, extra work, acting classes, and everything else you do to try and build up your craft.
I got a job at SUR Restaurant three weeks into moving to LA. If anyone thinks they don’t need a real job with a real paycheck, they’re absolutely insane. It was three-plus years after working at SUR that we were given the opportunity to shoot the pilot for “Vanderpump Rules,” and my honest inclination was, “This is a terrible idea.”
At the time, I was dating Tom Sandoval—who was on the show—and we were both actors, and we said, “What’s the worst thing we can do?” We try a pilot, pilot doesn’t launch, no harm no foul. We could try one season and if it doesn’t land? Again, no harm, no foul. No one’s going to remember that we did this. I couldn’t be more grateful that we took that leap because of everything it’s created for me today.
Did that experience stretch the muscle of diving into the unknown, taking risks and not being fearful of an outcome?
Kristen Doute: I don’t think anyone—our producers, camera crew, our audio guys—really knew what we were getting into. Even our production company—they had an idea of who we were as people, our relationships that we had built, the restaurant that we worked at, everything Lisa [Vanderpump] had explained to them—but at the same time, it’s like, “Who are these people?” We’re not casting them, we’re not scripting them, we’re not guiding them at this point at all. So they really just watched and we just lived our lives.
As a cast member in reality tv, you become comfortable with the camera being around all the time. You really forget about it, hence all the messiness you see on the tv show. If you were conscious and maybe calculated about it, you wouldn’t see all that messiness. It’s the one thing I’m very proud of “Vanderpump Rules,” although we’re messy, we really just live our lives and they capture it.
There’s an authenticity to the messiness.
Kristen Doute: Absolutely. That’s real life. Obviously we’re all one dimensional—maybe 2D—on the show because they’re taking the strongest part of who you are as a “character,” if you will. They have a story to tell. They obviously cannot show every minute of every day of everything.
I think doing reality tv is by far the best improv training I’ve ever had, the best press training I’ve ever had, the best media training, just speech in general training because it’s so off-the-cuff that you become much more comfortable in your own skin, being who you are and speaking your truth. You [become] much more conscientious of what you’re saying as well.
For example, if I’m having lunch with my girlfriends [on the show], obviously there are camera crews around and obviously we have all call times. It’s a television show. But the content of what’s happening in that lunch situation is really on us and what we want to talk about. You don’t always know what a person is going to say, and you become used to not running away from a conversation. [Running away] doesn’t fly on reality tv, so you’re forced to sort of deal with whatever is in front of you. It’s a very easy out to say, “I don’t know” or “I don’t care.” But how boring is that? Have an opinion and stick by it.
And it doesn’t mean opinions can’t change. They do. Obviously. [Laughs] I’ve watched many of my opinions where I’m like, “Eh, hindsight is 20/20.” It’s very – dare I say – character building. When you’re in a conversation with someone, let’s say a disagreement with a significant other, there’s that person’s side, your side and probably the truth. On “Vanderpump Rules,” we get to watch what that truth is. So maybe your side doesn’t really…you get to see all the facets that are going on.
Is the show’s version of “the truth” more or less in line with the actual truth?
Kristen Doute: The bottom line is, if it comes out of your mouth, it happened. There’s no way to spin that. Of course there are moments where I go, “Yes, that happened, but I kind of wish the sentiment around it—maybe the before or the after—had been shown a little bit more.”
How did you become self-aware of your own type of crazy?
Kristen Doute: In its early years, “Crazy Kristen” had a really negative connotation to it given to me by the people calling me by that name. In hindsight, I’m the one who owned [“Crazy Kristen”] as a negative connotation. Although it was their purpose to be like, “She’s crazy, she’s psycho, she’s irrational, she’s emotional, she’s outlandish,” I owned their opinion and their feelings of what that meant. As I’ve grown older, as I say in the book, I’ve taken the “C” word back. Like, “What does crazy really mean?” Is it because I’m passionate, because I feel strongly, because I stand up for something that I believe in? Do those things make me crazy? You’re damn right. And now I’ll wear it as a badge of honor.
You touch on this in your book, but do you think there’s a difference between how men’s crazy is perceived versus women’s crazy?
Kristen Doute: Oh absolutely. And don’t get me wrong, I’m not like a crazy feminist. I’m not bashing men. There are so many wonderful men in my life. Friends, family and whatnot. I do think overall, there’s a “himpathy”—sympathy, but for guys—where it’s like, “Oh, he’s a guy. He’s allowed to lash out or do this or do that.” But if she does that, she’s crazy.
Another example, if a guy is single and he’s dating around, not committing to anyone, sleeping around, that’s [seen as] totally fine because he’s a dude. But if a girl does it, she’s a ho. Women in general need to be given more of a break. If we sleep around when we’re single, it doesn’t mean we’re a slut. If we choose not to sleep around, it doesn’t mean we’re a prude. And because we have passionate emotions and stand our ground it doesn’t mean we’re insane.
I just got to experience—as a real grown adult—my first single time. And I was thinking, “Why don’t I get to do this? This is so much fun,” as long as there’s honesty and I’m not leading someone on to believe we’re more than what we’re being at the moment.
If everybody wasn’t so afraid to have legitimate conversations and express what they really wanted, they’d realize you can have your cake and eat it, too.
Kristen Doute: My POV on being an adult and engaging in any sexual relationship is if you can’t talk about it, you shouldn’t be doing it, no matter what it is. If you’re embarrassed to talk about it, if you’re going to hide it, you shouldn’t be doing it. It should be an upfront thing, and if you don’t both agree, then that’s not the right fit, whether it’s a casual fling or something that you’re maybe working toward a relationship. It’s just all about communication. Be honest with who you are. If you fake it, you’re going to get the opposite of what you want.
Such a simple formula.
Kristen Doute: At the end of the day, if you don’t want to be with someone, if you don’t want to sleep with them anymore, if you don’t feel like dating them, there’s no point in ghosting. Just be honest. And if the honesty doesn’t work for the other person, that’s on them. At least you did your part in the kindest, most mature way you could. You can’t control how someone else feels. And honestly, what someone else thinks of you is really none of your business. That’s on them. They have to carry that weight. It’s all about self-love, bottom line.
You mention in the book how when you were younger, you changed who you were for a guy and things didn’t work out. Has it been easier to identify when you’re sacrificing who you are for someone else because of that experience?
Kristen Doute: It took me roughly 30-something years to get to that place and I think that’s kind of the whole point of writing this book. Looking back on all these stories and experiences, Michele [Alexander] and I unpacked all of my history and were like, “Did it lessen as I grew older?” Which it did, I think, in certain aspects. But then there were certain moments that I talk about in the book, where I fall right back into that pitfall. There were times where I was like, “Oh, that’s a red flag, I know better.” Other times a “red flag” was white as hell, just waving away at me. It took a moment for me to really look into myself and understand none of these [bad times] were the end of the world.
I think when you look at a partner, you say to yourself, “We’re always going to disagree about something and there are always going to be things I don’t like.” And then you have to ask yourself, “Are the things that bother me changeable or fixable?” And I don’t mean change who they are, I mean if it’s so minuscule, is it something you can work on together? And if it’s not, can you live with it? If you can’t, then it’s on to the next.
So unless a dude is constantly being a dick and is aware of it, being a dick is probably in the DNA of his personality.
Kristen Doute: I can think of someone who I’ve dated before who I don’t find to be an asshole. I think he’s a good person, I just don’t think he’s found his journey of really loving himself and owning [himself], so there’s a lot of deflection. In my personal experience with men, a lot of deflection has happened, which then turns into, “Well, you’re crazy and you’re emotional.”
I feel like [we’d be in a better place] if we were to all find our own self-love journey, fill up that love tank and know our worth in a healthy way, not in an ego-driven way. There’s a very big difference between loving yourself and being obsessed with yourself and having your ego take over.
How has cannabis played a role in your life and what relationship do you have to it now?
Kristen Doute: I love it. I love that it’s being legalized, especially in my home state [of Michigan] and the state that I live in now [California]. I hope it becomes federally legalized. I think [weed] is such a positive thing. All that “gateway drug” bullshit, I can’t with that. I love how now, there are edible options, there’s CBD. And medicinally, it is absolutely fantastic.
For example, my younger brother has Crohn’s disease. He’s had it for many years and when he was at his worst, the only thing that made him feel better was cannabis and THC. It was one of the only things he was allowed to do that wasn’t an opioid or a painkiller. Tincture oil became his favorite thing.
For me, [cannabis] relieves my anxiety. It helps me sleep at night. I like it on road trips, I like it for a Sunday-funday. I love how there are so many options for anyone who wants to indulge. There’s lower doses and higher quality strains and generally a greater awareness amongst people as to what works well for them.
My absolute favorites are blunts, but I’m terrible at rolling them. My friend Brittany [Cartwright] who’s on “Vanderpump Rules”—we call it “Blunts by Brittany” because she’s fantastic at it, and we love to use grape blunt papers.
When Brittany rolls a good blunt, we all just relax and watch a movie in our cozies. It’s now this adult way for us to spend our evenings together without going out and getting shitfaced at a bar. Not to say we don’t do that on occasion, but for us, it’s so much more fun to all have dinner together, smoke a little bit and watch a movie. No hangover and you get up early. It makes me feel really good.
Follow @kristendoute and pre-order her book “He’s Making You Crazy,” available everywhere June 2nd, 2020.