Kelly Osbourne on Missing Joan Rivers, Getting Older & Her Critical Role on ‘Project Runway: Junior’

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Photo: Stories….by Kelly Osbourne

“No, not there,” Kelly Osbourne says. “I think my dog peed there earlier.” We’re trying to decide which couch to sit at on an office floor with many couches, and the dog, a teacup Pomeranian named Polly, is running around by our feet. By peeing wherever she wants to, she’s carrying on her birthright. One of the story lines on The Osbournes, the reality show about the Osbourne family that made Kelly famous, was that their many pets were always running rampant through the house, soiling their expensive furniture and rugs. “I’m not picking up dog s***,” Kelly’s father Ozzy Osbourne said on one episode. “I’m a rock star.”

Her dad’s fame as the lead singer of Black Sabbath and as a solo artist was the reason for the show, but Kelly emerged as reason to watch in her own right. Rolling Stone called her, “a wickedly funny, brutally honest, pint-size, potty-mouthed spitfire.”

The show ended 10 years ago, though, and Osbourne today, in a leather motorcycle jacket and rosette-printed Milly party dress with her signature purple hair piled on top of her head, is more weary professional than ingénue. It’s been a tough day. She’s been up since 5 A.M. promoting her new role as a judge on Project Runway: Junior, a competition for fashion designers ages 13 to 17 currently airing on Lifetime. After a day of radio interviews and talk-show appearances, she’s just finished filming what is supposed to be a fun video about her favorite things, where she’s gamely answered questions like: “What is your go-to drink?” Osbourne went to rehab seven times in her 20s, but still drinks alcohol occasionally and says, “If it’s not champagne, I don’t want it. If it’s not fizzy, I don’t like it.” (During filming, an Ozzy superfan walking by yells out, “Kelly, your dad rocks.” “Thank you,” she calls back happily, even though the interruption means redoing the shot.)

It’s been an even tougher year. “The last year, it was f***ing s***,” Osbourne says. “I’m not going to mince my words. I can’t even say it’s been anything else.” First her mentor, Joan Rivers, who brought her onto the E! show Fashion Police and helped her become known as a fashion critic, died unexpectedly during throat surgery. "There is not one thing she taught me that I don’t think about every single day,” Kelly says. “It’s still really hard for me.” Then things got weird on Fashion Police when co-host Giuliana Rancic made a comment about the singer Zendaya’s hair, that it probably smelled like “patchouli” and “weed"—criticism that was largely seen as stereotyping and shaming. Osbourne tweeted that “I do not condone racism so as a result of this I’m seriously questioning staying on the show.” She then abruptly did leave the show, although she’s never confirmed it was over what Rancic said—and today she doesn’t want to reminisce about any of her work on Fashion Police. "I don’t really want to talk about Fashion Police,” she says. “I got manipulated into a situation through the media that turned in such controversy. I don’t ever want to be part of ugliness like that. That’s not who I am. And for some reason it’s what people think I am. It’s really frustrating.”

“I was talking about people who asked you to talk about them,” she continues. “You have to remember that these people are walking down a red carpet, which is basically saying, ‘Hello, judge me. Critique my clothes.’ My role on that show was just my natural reaction to what Joan said and my opinion of the outfit. I was not into character assassination.“

A few months after leaving Fashion Police, though, Kelly made her own stereotyping statement on The View when talking about Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s immigration plan that calls for deporting every undocumented immigrant in the U.S. "If you kick every Latino out of this country, then who is going to be cleaning your toilet, Donald Trump?” she said. Co-host Rosie Perez quickly jumped in, saying, “Latinos are not only the only people doing that.” Kelly later apologized on Facebook, but instead of being seen as a spitfire, she seemed more like a jerk.

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Photo: Stories….by Kelly Osbourne

When I ask her if any of what’s happened in the past year, being criticized for what she’d said regarding Fashion Police and on The View, has made her want to stop being so outspoken, she immediately says, “No.” That doesn’t mean she didn’t learn a lot from her tough year, though, calling it “very educational, although very difficult.”

Now, she’s on a new show—she says Project Runway: Junior called her two days after she quit Fashion Police. “I said, ‘Sure, why not?’ ” she says. “But then I was like, ‘Maybe I shouldn’t have said yes, because I don’t know what I want to do. I was meant to be taking time to figure out what it is I want to do.”

On the first episode, she’s greeted with cheers from the wannabe designers. “I love her,” Petyie, 15, a contestant from Carlsbad, California, says. “She’s so funny and she has such a great fashion sense.” There’s also a contestant who has purple hair like hers, although the teen’s dye job probably doesn’t take eight hours to do, like Kelly’s does. “We do it at my house,” Kelly says. “It is like a bit of a chemistry project. My kitchen gets turned out with all of these mixing bowls with these different lavenders to get the color that we want.”

The rest of the panel includes former Project Runway winner Christian Siriano, Seventeen and Cosmopolitan fashion director Aya Kanai, and model (and Derek Jeter’s fiancé) Hannah Davis (“I have her in my phone as ‘ugly bi***,’ ” Kelly says. “She is smart, tall, skinny, ridiculously gorgeous and nice to everyone. It’s not fair.”).

Kelly’s good at talking to the contestants, in part because she treats them like peers. She tells one contestant, “One of my favorite things about fashion design is when they can mix chic and with kitsch and still remain elegant and that is what you gave me with this.”

“I think people are ignorant to start classifying people by their age,” says Osbourne, who had a very different experience when she was on television as a teen. “I was being filmed 24 hours a day and I had no control.” But still, after Project Runway: Junior was done filming, she advised the kids on how to go from being anonymous to being someone others have an opinion about based on what they saw on television. “The advice I gave them is when you go home, everyone is going to be looking at you and everyone’s going to say this and that,” she says. “Don’t listen to the negativity. Stay true to yourself and always follow your gut.”

Osbourne herself is a fashion designer, although in this realm she comes across as less self-assured than she does when she’s giving opinions about other people’s clothes. Even though she’s been interested in fashion since she was little —“I think I was 12 the first time Vivienne Westwood pinned a dress on me. How many people can say that?”—she’s not as ambitious or passionate about her designs as the kids she’s judging on Project Runway: Junior.

“I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel and become the next Karl Lagerfeld or Alexander McQueen,” Osbourne says. “That’s not what I’m trying to do. I’m trying to make affordable clothing for all women, sizes 0 to 24.” The line, sold by HSN, is called Stories…by Kelly Osbourne. Osbourne also has “Stories…” tattooed on the side of her half-shaved head. This branding is usually visible, since Osbourne often wears her purple hair piled into a mohawk, but she says the ink came before the fashion line. “It ended up looking like I’m a walking billboard, but I didn’t intentionally do that, I promise,” she says.

Of her own red carpet appearances, she says the lilac floor-length gown Zac Posen custom made her for the 2012 Emmys—it was the same shade as her hair, with a single shoulder strap and a fishtail hem—was her favorite. “I could have looked like a Teletubby or Ursula the Sea Witch, but it worked out,” she says.

That’s the same way she feels about the future—it will work out. She turned 31 a couple of weeks ago, and likes getting older. “People are starting to respect me,” she says. “Because respect only comes with age in this industry. You also have to earn people’s respect and seeing that I’m accomplishing that makes me very happy. It makes me realize how much my life has changed and how lucky I am that it wasn’t just 15 minutes.”

With that, she scoops up Polly, and they head off together.

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