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“I don’t like watching myself on TV,” Nicole Richie admits. It’s a strange sentiment to come from a woman who has spent over a decade gracing television screens on shows like The Simple Life and reality competition Fashion Star. Richie, who unequivocally identifies herself as a fashion designer rather than a TV star, currently appears on Candidly Nicole, a notably hilarious VH1 series where she’s done everything from get drunk while chaperoning her teenage sister’s pool party to invite an Uber driver to dinner. “Listening to your voice back is like ‘No, no, no,’” Richie says. “Doing it is so fun. But watching myself is something I don’t do.”
Her collaboration with VH1, which will air the second season of Candidly Nicole next year, has led to new opportunities as well. Richie will host VH1’s annual You Oughta Know Live In Concert on Thursday at New York’s Hammerstein Ballroom. The concert highlights the channel’s monthly You Oughta Know artists, including Sam Smith and Tove Lo.
“I’ve never been a host before,” muses the 33-year-old. “Have I? Oh, well I was one of the hosts at the Soul Train Awards. So if I can do that then this will be a breeze.”
It’s hard to pin Richie down, despite characterizing herself as a designer. She’s run her fashion line House of Harlow since 2008, expanding the brand from jewelry to apparel and shoes in recent years. She spends a lot of time shooting her series, which she says is more like an unscripted comedy than a reality show. She’s a mom to two kids and a wife to her husband, musician Joel Madden. Her latest endeavor is to bring House of Harlow into the home with a line of candles. The House of Harlow 1960 Home Fragrance Collection, which launches Nov. 20 exclusively on Gilt.com, will initially feature three scents: Winter Kate, Saint James, and Midnight Moon.
“Candles are a huge part of my life and a huge part of my aesthetic,” says Richie. “To me, every room has to have a candle in it. How something smells just means so much – it can take you back to a certain time, it can make you love a room, it can make you hate a room.”
Exploring new things is a big part of Richie’s life right now. The premise of her show is to engage with subjects she’s unfamiliar with and learn more. She has raised a garden and worked in fashion editorial. Richie responds to her Twitter followers and hopes the show reflects their interests as well as her own. “I know that it’s important to stimulate your brain. Especially the older you get,” she says. “To try new things and step outside of your comfort zone.”
It’s all meant for televised entertainment, but a lot of the show’s plot lines have seeped into her everyday life. For example, the episode where she pretends to raise chickens so that the other moms from her kids’ school will think she’s into organic farming actually led her to raise five chickens. “They lay eggs that are rainbow colored,” Richie says. “I’m not faking it! I can show you pictures of my eggs.” She pulls out her iPhone, which has an entire album labeled “Chicken photos.”
Neither Richie’s children nor her husband appear on Candidly Nicole, which she says is by design. It’s meant to highlight her own journey, as well as that of her friends. The series often showcases Richie’s female friendships and her interest in maintaining those long-held relationships. “A lot of my friends have been my friends since I was two,” she says. “I grew up here and my girlfriends are everything to me. You’ve got to have a good set of girlfriends and value those relationships. They have different lives than me, too. They’re not all married. They’re not all moms. I have friends who range from 25 to 50. Some work in entertainment, some do not work in entertainment at all. I have friends who are running full-blown companies who feel like real adults to me and I don’t. Different walks of life.”
Technically, though, Richie does run her own company. She spends every day when she’s not shooting working on House of Harlow, and in her downtime she actively pursues hobbies like raising chickens. The designer has an edible organic garden in her backyard and continues to cultivate her childhood interest in music instilled in her by her father Lionel Richie.
“I’ve been playing piano since I was three,” Richie says. “I’ve played piano, violin and cello. My dad taught me how to play. He doesn’t know how to read music so I’ve gone this whole time playing by ear. But this year I said to myself that I wanted to learn how to properly read music. I have a standing lesson once a week. It doesn’t always happen, but I try.”
Richie’s kids aren’t following suit in her artistic passions quite yet. Richie says her son, Sparrow, is mainly focused on sports and her daughter, the namesake of her fashion line, hasn’t indicated any real interest in style. For now, that obsession is her own.
As you get older you look at things differently,” Richie muses. “You decide you like color palettes you never liked before, you decide you like prints that you’ve never liked before.” Her palette has been tempered over the past year by an ongoing fascination with brilliantly colored hair (it is currently a deep shade of blue). Bright hair has shifted how Richie dresses overall, although she notes that no matter how much her style change she will always love a good peasant dress.
“My closet is not as big as you would think,” she says. “It definitely has overflow, but having colored hair has helped because there are some things I’m just not going to wear right now. It’s safe to say you’re not going to see me in anything sparkling from head-to-toe like a Studio 54 disco ball. So I can put that away. I don’t like to overwhelm myself visually.”
She pauses, considering the ramification of blue hair, and then adds, “You know what I realized? You know who colors their hair all the time? 20-year-old idiots. They don’t care. Every time I would dye my hair and every time I would wash my hair it would come out a different color and I was like, ‘Am I doing something wrong?’ And then it hit me: No one else complains because they’re 20 and an idiot. They don’t care. If you’re going to have colored hair you have to go with the flow and think to yourself ‘I’m 20, I don’t care.’”
This sensibility reflects Richie’s feeling that she’s not a real adult yet. She says she always assumes she’ll be at the fun table, not the grown-up table, and she’s still grappling with what it means to be in your thirties. And she’s glad to help her fans figure it all out with her. When asked if she thinks the public has any misconceptions about her, Richie is quick with a reply.
“I don’t feel the need to clear up anything,” she says, adamantly. “People have their opinions no matter what. I don’t know what opinions people have of me because I don’t pay attention to that. I don’t think it’s useful to anybody’s life. You have to live your life to your own purpose. Figure out what your purpose is here and do that.”