For this month’s A to Zee, ELLE creative director Joe Zee sat down with the ever-chic Nicole Richie for her take on spring trends, the inspiration behind House of Harlow 1960, and finding her personal style. Pick up the April issue of ELLE for the full story, and read on for all the best outtakes from the hilarious conversation.
What’s your worst-ever fashion mistake?
Well, I wanted to wax my eyebrows when I was 13 or 12, and my mom wouldn’t let me, so I shaved them off in the middle without a mirror, and I actually only shaved the front part, so I only had the ends of my eyebrows.
I don’t even think I knew what waxing was at 12.
Well, you’re not a girl. You’re almost! But you’re not. And you’re also Asian, so you don’t have that problem.
I don’t need to wax anything, even!
You don’t need to wax anything!
I was also obsessed with Punky Brewster, so I’d wear a white sock and a black sock.
And did it translate? Like, was it cool, or was it just—
Was it cool? Well, I mean, I was eight, so I probably I thought it was cool. I also wore a uniform so like, only the shoes were the things that were mismatched. I was just reduced to the ankles down. So I was like schoolgirl on top and then from the ankles down I was like Punky Brewster.
So it wasn’t Punky Brewster, it was just Brew.
It was more Ster.
I went through an early ’90s kind of a Nirvana-I’m-so-sad-I’m-weird phase, and I would put Kool-Aid in my hair. Remember we used to dye our hair with Kool-Aid? And I really wanted glasses in the third grade. Opticals. But clearly I didn’t need glasses, so I took sunglasses and I popped out the lenses and just wore the frame Urkel-style.
So how would you describe your style when you landed on ‘Simple Life’?
I think it was probably 2003, 2002? And I was going for like a Grace Kelly look on ‘Simple Life 1’.
How’d you think I did, with the extensions, and the trucker hats? It didn’t read?
You know, that’s just me, it’s open to interpretation. I think that was a Grace I didn’t know. Do you still have any of those clothes from ‘Simple Life’ era?
I don’t have any of the trucker hats, but I do find myself wearing some of Joel’s hats, and now I find myself wearing sneakers all the time.
So how did your style evolve after ‘The Simple Life’?
It’s really hard to say, because I actually consider myself a jeans and t-shirt person who just accessorizes a lot.
See, I wouldn’t consider you a jeans and t-shirt person.
I don’t know, because I look at you all the time and I‘m like, “She’s so high fashion, she’s really luxury”—I just think you’re so editorial in the way you approach fashion.
Well, I think at the end of the day I’m still wearing jeans and a t-shirt. I’m still very much me. I had been wearing extensions for about 10 years, and I just decided, You know what? I don’t want anything in my hair anymore. I mean, I don’t really wear makeup in real life, just when I have an event or some kind of photo shoot or something. And I mean, even in that, after I took out my extensions, first of all, my hair was so short—this was this summer—and I knew that I had to make it thicker and you know get it healthy, so I was piling leave-in conditioner in my hair. And I was thinking, What am I going to do? And then I was like, “Fuck it. I’m just going to rock a slick-back and put conditioner in my hair,” and that’s what I’ve been doing for the past six months.
Wait, so do you go to red carpet events with conditioner in your hair?
All the time. And after that, it was so freeing that like, I stopped really wearing a lot of makeup, you know, I think even—especially when you’re in this business, and for me I was so young [when I started]—you’re programmed to think, OK, well, now I have to get my makeup done, I have to get my hair done. It’s this big process, and it actually gives me a little bit of anxiety. And after I took out my extensions, I just kind of felt like, more free. I never felt more comfortable in my life.
Wow! I’m obsessed with that.
I mean, right now, I have no other choice. Right now, my hair is a lot thicker, so I’m able to wear it down some. But I really like my hair off my face, I don’t like a lot of makeup on my face, and I’m the same way with clothes, I don’t like a lot of fuss. I need to feel confident, and by the way, I’m 5’ 1”—things swallow me. They overwhelm me. I’m not a person who can wear a ton of makeup, or a ton of hair, or a big gown. It’s just not me. And I have never felt better, I’ve never felt more confident. And like, I’m the most natural that I’ve ever been.