Skip to main content

Kristin Cavallari Reveals Bafflingly Low Amount She Was Paid For Laguna Beach’s First Season, But Says She Would Have 'Done It For Free'

Kristin Cavallari on Very Cavallari.
(Image credit: E!)

Kristin Cavallari has come a long way since the days of Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County. She was just 17 back in 2004 when she and her friends were picked to star on the MTV reality show. Now a well-known media personality and founder of the fashion and lifestyle brand Uncommon James, Cavallari is looking back to where it all started, including the astonishingly small amount of money she was paid for her breakout role on Laguna Beach.

MTV and the cast of Laguna Beach could only have dreamed of what the show would become, airing for three seasons and spawning a spinoff — The Hills — that aired for another six, while launching the careers of a number of young actors and entrepreneurs. Before that success happened, though, the salary awarded to Kristin Cavallari (and possibly her co-stars) for her first season was pretty modest, even outside of upscale SoCal standards. On her new podcast Back to the Beach (opens in new tab), she recalled how much she was paid:

I think $2,500. I don’t even think it was that much. I think it was $2,000. Lauren [Conrad] and I renegotiated for Season 2. It was going to be our last season! We were like, ‘We’re out of here!'

I’m sure there wasn’t exactly a ton of hard labor involved in the process of starring in Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County, but these teenagers did agree to let cameras document their personal lives and manufacture drama between their group of high school friends — which is something fellow Laguna Beach star Lo Bosworth has said she struggled with. Considering that the seasons apparently took about nine months to shoot (mostly on weekends), $2,000 doesn't seem like it was quite enough money to make it worth it at the time. 

Still, that was not much of a concern for the woman who went on to appear on The Hills and then lead her own reality show, Very Cavallari. She was more concerned with the competitive aspect of winning and earning the job than zeroes on the paycheck. In her words:

I honestly would have done it for free. At that point, in high school, to me, it was more of a competition. Everybody wanted it and I was like, ‘I’m gonna get this show!’ I’m super competitive. That has not changed. So, when they told us they were gonna pay us, I was like, ‘Oh, my God, great!'

We definitely saw that competitive edge come out on the MTV drama, and really, I’m sure $2,000 looks good to any teenager, especially when you get to be on a TV show with your friends. Laguna Beach also introduced the world to Stephen Colletti — Kristin Cavallari’s ex-boyfriend and Back to the Beach podcast co-host, whose post-MTV projects included a role on six seasons of One Tree Hill — and Lauren Conrad, who has gone on to launch her own fashion and beauty lines and has written nine books.

If you want to hear more about Kristin Cavallari’s “humble” beginnings on Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County, tune into Back to the Beach podcasts, and be sure to check out what premieres are coming to TV and streaming on our 2022 TV Schedule.

Heidi Venable
Heidi Venable

Mom of two and hard-core '90s kid. Unprovoked, will quote Friends in any situation. Can usually be found rewatching The West Wing instead of doing anything productive.