Amanda de Cadenet On Deleting Tweets, Defending Gwyneth And Making Her Late-Night TV Debut
Today is a big day for Amanda de Cadenet. The television host, photographer and multihyphenate mom of three (including Lucky style crush Atlanta de Cadenet Taylor) may have started her career mic in hand at age 15, but tonight she's set to bust into the boy's club of late night with the premiere of her new Lifetime talk show, Undone with @AmandadeCadenet.
As the name suggests, social media will play an integral role in the series, which makes it all the more fitting that her first two guests are Coco Rocha and Brad Goreski, two of fashion's biggest must-follow names. It will also be completely, 100% live.
Luckily, de Cadenet is no stranger to the live feed, having made her TV debut in the '90s interviewing everyone from Snoop Dogg to River Phoenix on British series The Word. She also, however, isn't one to shy away from the kind of questioning that might raise cable viewers' eyebrows, as we saw on her groundbreaking 2012 Lifetime series, The Conversation, which featured interviews with women like Zoe Saldana, Miley Cyrus, and Alicia Keys on intimate topics ranging from divorce to sexism to body image. (She may be the only person who could get away with asking Jane Fonda about her favorite sex position.)
We spoke with de Cadenet last week as the team pulled together the final details for the premiere, and not only does she have a magic touch when it comes to getting celebrities to open up, she also proved to be just as warm, funny and outspoken as her on-screen persona suggests (plus, she knows the power of a good group of girlfriends, which is probably more than we can say for most of today's late night hosts.)
Read on for de Cadenet's sage advice for calming pre-show nerves, her opinion on the "medieval" media treatment of friend Gwyneth Paltrow, and her ultimate beauty horror story (it's a doozy), plus tune into Undone tonight at 10:30 p.m. on Lifetime:
Lucky: This show is a big moment, for you and for women on late night on general. [Tell me a bit about the process of creating it.]
Amanda de Cadenet: I know! We got it together to make this show last minute in the sense of we didn't know where it would fit on the network. It's only in the last four weeks we've known it will be airing after Project Runway, which is the best possible lead-in we could have. So I haven't been able to do much other than getting this show together, which is interesting because on The Conversation I had like four months of lead time!
So in terms of where you are right now, what are you envisioning the perfect episode of Undone would look like?
Well first off, it's a half hour show. The perfect episode would be one where I don't forget what I'm saying, my guests show up, and there are no awkward silences, and my live feed does not go down. That is my idea of the perfect show. If all of that happens, then we're in good shape.
[What's going to set it apart from all the other late-night shows out there?]
Someone asked me yesterday, 'What is the most unique thing about your show?' And what I had to come up with—and I wish it wasn't the case—but the fact that it is a female perspective is the most unique thing about it. It shouldn't be. If a guy was launching the show, and he was asked, 'What's the most unique thing about your show?' He couldn't say that it's a male perspective, because every show past three p.m. that has a host has a male perspective, other than Chelsea Handler. Although, I am interviewing men as well, so that will be interesting.
How is that dynamic going to be different from interviewing women?
Well, obviously I'm very used to interviewing women in the past few years, but I grew up hosting live TV. My first live TV show was when I was fifteen years old, which is kind of crazy when I think about it now. But I interviewed men for years; I interviewed River Phoenix, Keanu Reeves, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. All of these Hollywood male movie stars. I didn't really interview women. Well, I did interview Brooke Shields—god, I want to see some of those clips now. There are some clips from that show on my YouTube channel. Ultimately I'm really curious about people, whether they are male or female, whether they're well-known people or people I meet on the street or waiting in line for coffee. Funnily enough, I think some of the guys might be a little scared of what I'm going to ask them. Because I'm probably going to ask them questions they're not used to being asked. Like, 'What do you think about women's grooming habits?', 'Are you ok with marrying an ambitious woman?', 'Would you want to date an ambitious woman?' Things that they're probably not used to getting asked.
So how have you gone about selecting your guests this time around? Obviously in The Conversation you had some very high profile women involved.
I would say everyone we've booked so far are high profile women and men. Because it's a half hour show, I'm only having one to two guests per show. But what I am having is full social media integration in the show…maybe in the form of a screen with tweets. I wanted to find some way to let the audience participate, because that's really important to me, as it was in The Conversation to have women on the street, because I really do believe that most people have something valuable or smart or funny or insightful to add to the conversation.
Do you have any tricks that you've picked up over the years for calming pre-show jitters?
The only thing that I can think of is, ultimately, being nervous is not going to give you suddenly some kind of wisdom that you didn't have five minutes ago. You've got to kind of know that you have everything you need, and the chips will fall where they may. You've got to be as prepared as you can, and then just show up. And you've got to let go of the results of it, you know what I mean? I'm sure that something will go wrong at some point—we're a live show! But that's kind of what I love about it. I do love imperfection. I'm not someone who strives for perfection because I don't believe it exists. I'm ok with something going wrong or being awkward—I'm fine with it, that's life.
That's interesting actually with the social media tie-in. Do you ever tweet something and then regret it right after? Have you ever deleted a tweet?
Actually, I have deleted a couple of tweets. Wait a second—this is a really good segment for my show. Hold on a second. [to someone in the background] Interesting segment idea: asking people if they've deleted tweets and what was it—I quite like that. I think it's funny. What's the last tweet they deleted? [back on the phone] I mean, I'm not kidding you when I say we're just putting this show together. Yes, I have done that. I don't do it often, because I do think about what I tweet and what I share, but I've done it on occasion when I felt like either it would hurt someone's feelings, which I don't like to do, and/or I wasn't really committed, and I didn't want people thinking that that was my idea of something. I'm not a big deleter.
Has anyone called you out on it?
No, I do it so fast. I tweet it and then I'm like, uhp! I go back in, delete. I then check that it's been deleted.
If only you could do that with email, eh?
I wish I could do that with email. Don't you remember with AOL you used to be able to do that? Oh my god, that was so good!
Do you have any must-follow social media accounts?
I love Jezebel, I love HelloGiggles, there's a woman called Ann Friedman. I love her newsletter. I also love a newsletter by Lauren Zalaznick called the Sunday Paper. It's really good. It's kind of all the news in the women's world you need to know about. I also love Caitlin Moran, she's awesome. She's a writer who wrote called How To Be A Woman and now she just published a book in the UK called How To Build A Girl. She's great. Also, Lena Dunham.
Anything on Instagram?
I follow a lot of weird food accounts, which is interesting because I don't really cook. You know, like restaurants and bakeries and stuff like that. And Ballet Bodies makes me feel like I need to get into shape really badly. Here's an unusual one: this is a doula service. A home birth organization called Carriage House Birth. I love them. They're really good. They post birth pictures, and I know it sounds really weird, but it's kind of amazing, all these newborn babies.
It's funny–my friend and I were just talking about that, because her sister-in-law did a home birth and posted a picture on Instagram with #homebirth, and we were like, 'I wonder what's under #homebirth?' But I guess that's what it is. Any famous pets? We just did a roundup of 50 animals to follow on Instagram.
Oh my god, I have some for you! Did you do Marc Jacobs' dog?
Definitely—he's actually in the August issue in a shoot we did with famous internet animals and accessories.
Oh, here's another: JennaHipp. She does awesome nails.
Are you into nail art?
I am, totally. I'm into nails, but you know the problem is, I like long nails, and they poke my kids really badly, and my kids keep telling me, 'These are not mom nails.' So I have to cut them.
You've interviewed some amazing women—Jane Fonda, Lady Gaga, Diane von Furstenburg. If you could interview anyone in history, dead or alive, who would it be?
I would say Marilyn Monroe. I would probably try to get her with a really good therapist, and some proper girlfriends who could tell her the truth about what's really going on in her life. That's what I would probably try to do. I feel like she's a woman who did not have girlfriends. Her main connections were with men, and I think that can create an imbalance for a woman.
What's the most outrageous thing you've ever asked someone?
Well, I don't really tend to ask people things that I don't think they're going to answer, because I think part of being a mindful interviewer—and I am mindful—is I don't ever go into an interview with an agenda. I really collaborate with people. I could have a guest that has some huge breaking news story, and if they come and say, 'I don't want to talk about that.' I'd say fine, let's talk about something else. So I'm journalistic in the sense that I really want to find out who the person is, but I'm not about what is the biggest headline, or what will get the most clicks. I'm not that kind of person. I'm way too empathetic—and I know what it's like, since I was on the other side for a long time. I don't like being put on the spot or feeling cornered or awkward by the line of questioning, and more and more, I do it and do friends see it, where people ask you things that are intrusive or stupid, and you say, 'Why are you asking me that?' I doubt that's happened to you because you don't seem like the kind of person who would ask offensive or stupid questions, but it does happen quite a lot where you're asked these questions and you're like, 'Why? Who thought it was a good idea to ask that?' And I've seen people say publicly, 'Don't ask me that or this interview is over.' And I like that, so I'm never going to be that person.
That was something I noticed in The Conversation, where you're talking to these huge celebrities that we never really hear speak candidly, and it really humanized them in a way. We were talking about Gwyneth Paltrow earlier in the office and how she gets so much flak in the press for seeming unrelatable, and maybe it's because the two of you are friends, but that wasn't how she came off in your interview at all.
I've always been frustrated at the public perception of Gwyneth, because it's nowhere close to my experience of her as a friend and as a woman. And I've always been very confused as to why who she is and the perception of her is so misaligned. In my interviews with her, I've always wanted to let people see this woman who is so supportive and smart and loving and caring and creative—she's achieved so much in her life, and that is to be celebrated, not shamed. And I very much feel like what I've witnessed certainly of late with her is, it's almost cyberbullying. It kind of dawned on me recently where I was like, 'Oh, she's getting bullied.' This is on a much larger scale, but if you look at what the goal is and what the intention is, it's the same thing that happens in the schoolyard with kids that don't like the other kid because they don't like how their hair is, or they don't like what they've said, or maybe that kid is too pretty or too smart, or whatever it is. It's the same thing. In medieval times, they would put people in stocks in the town courtyard and people would come and throw eggs and rotten food at them. I was like, 'Oh yeah, well that's what's happening to her.'
That's one of the downsides to social media, right? It's kind of this quick fire abuse from all sides.
Right, but it's also incredibly cowardly, because I'd love to see anyone actually come up to a person's face and speak to their face those same words that they typed in 140 characters. It's like, 'You really feel that way?' Look them in the eye and say that and if you can do that, sure, you mean it. You own it. But no one is owning what they're saying when they're hiding behind a fake avatar. It's quite cowardly if you ask me. It's cowardly for invisible people to take shots at a real person.
You've interviewed Miley Cyrus, too, and she's definitely had her own way of responding to media criticism.
When I interviewed Miley, I found her to be incredibly smart, very wise, and totally tuned in to where she was as and what she was doing. Women in our culture are encouraged to be sexual. That is the currency that is most applauded in this country, it is not intellect, it is not achievement, it is sexuality. You're encouraged to be sexual and then you're shamed for expressing it. She and I spoke about that—I said, 'Is this not confusing to you? You're supposed to take your clothes off to be this provocative teen and then you do it, and you get nailed to the cross.' It's very confusing. You can't let society dictate what you do or what you show or don't show. I do believe that young woman is being true to herself. And I would also say that her life today, the life today and they way it looks is directly proportionate to how much she was oppressed and controlled for a large part of her life. I believe in freedom of expression, as long as the end goal is not to hurt yourself or anyone else. Some people would argue that she is hurting herself, but that's their debate. I sat with her and I did not walk away thinking, 'I need to find her a therapist.' I was like, 'She's going to make it. This one's going to make it through this transition.'
So is that something you try to pass along to your own daughters as well?
Absolutely. And it can bite you in the ass when they turn around and do it. It's funny, because I did this interview and the lady was asking me about my kids, and I was like, 'Oh yeah, I encourage them to express themselves.' And my little girl came with me to a big fashion event, because quite frankly I had no child care and I had to bring her. And she dressed up in the craziest outfit you've ever seen, it was like spandex leggings and a tutu that was pink and black polka dots, and electric blue leggings, and a flowery t-shirt and then a Pocahantas jacket. And I was like, 'Oh my god.' And she was like, 'Mom, this is my outfit! What do you think?' And I was like, well, do you feel good in it? And she said yeah, so I was like ok, let's go. You see these kids beautifully turned out in these awesome outfits. And I could dress my kid up really nicely, but it wouldn't be her style. It wouldn't be her. And I look at my eldest daughter, who had free reign of my closet from a very young age and I dragged her around to vintage stores and flea markets and fashion shows, and stuff like that, because I was so young when I had her. And she has beautiful style. It's actually very classic.
Did you ever give her any style-related advice, or did she just pick it up along the way?
You know, I don't think you can give style advice. I think style is something that is your own, and you develop it through your influences and your environment—and I have a pretty good wardrobe. I love clothes and I love great designers. I love Alaia. I love Vivienne Westwood. And I love vintage, so I'll wear a dress that I got for twenty bucks from the bargain bin with a pair of Valentino heels. I love mixing stuff. It's not about a head-to-toe look. And I think all of my kids are growing up with the freedom to connect with whatever they want that works for them–as long as it's appropriate, obviously. If my seven-year-old wanted to go to school in hot pants and a crop top that would not be happening. She was joking with me the other day, actually. She has this doll and she took the top off—it was like a one-shoulder purple lurex thing–and she came out and was like, 'Oh mom, I'm going to wear this to school today.' And then went, 'Kidding!! I know it's inappropriate.'
So on the style and beauty front, what is your haircare routine like? We've been talking a lot around the office about going blonde or going blonder—there's a lot of platinum going on.
Well, I am definitely nothing but a blonde. I don't blow dry my hair particularly often, or use heating tools on them unless I absolutely have to, because that kills your hair and I like my hair natural. I remember when I interviewed Diane von Furstenburg, she has this great curly hair, and I showed up and I happened to have it blow-dried that day, and she was like, 'Oh, why? It looks so much prettier natural. I love your curls!' And I was like, 'God, you're right!' I just thought, 'Make an effort and clean up for once, Amanda. Get a blow dry.' And that was Diane's response. It was so affirming for me.
Do you have any beauty horror stories?
One time, I was curling my eyelashes in the car and my husband was driving, and he braked suddenly and I pulled half my eyelashes out on one eye. It was awful. And then I had almost no eyelashes on one eye for a really long time. That was the worst thing that's happened. And another time I bleached my eyebrows, and I just looked like a freak. I looked like I should be in Blade Runner or something. I also cut all my hair off for Brokedown Palace with Kate Beckinsale and Claire Danes. We were in a Thai prison for three months shooting, and I cut all my hair off. It was the worst mistake of my life. I was like, 'Oh, I can handle it! Jean Seberg style.' No. Wrong. I just looked super butch.
Any crazy spa treatments you swear by?
Nope, not my thing. I don't have time! I mean, if I get a leg waxing once every three months, I'm in good shape. My friends do complain that I need to wax my legs more. They say it's like sitting next to a man. Which I'm ok with.
So one last thing: it seems like you're so comfortable talking to such a range of people. Is there anyone that you've been completely starstruck or intimidated by?
I was really worried that I was going to not know what to say with Lady Gaga, but then we got to talking right away about excessive cocaine use and underage sex, and I felt right at home.