Image Credit: PRN/PR PhotosLauren Conrad will return to The Hills for its series finale tonight. And even though it’s been just over a year since she left the reality show that made her a star, it’s hard to even imagine her among the crystal-wielding crazies known as Heidi and Spencer, the still-vacant Audrina, the back-from-Laguna Kristin, and not notice how far she’s come. She’s totally going to win this reunion, hands down, like the former unpopular dork who returns to his high school a millionaire.

Yes, Lauren started as everyone’s doormat (or at least Jason’s and Steven’s). She oftentimes came off as the least interesting person on her own show, the void in the middle of the chaos perpetrated by the likes of Heidi, Spencer, Brody, Jason, the various blondes who are and are not related to the main original cast members. But then! Perhaps the first time Lauren truly commanded my attention was when she decided to ditch The Hills to pursue other interests — other interests that, for once, were legit. As points out, she hit the bestseller list with her first novel, L.A. Candy, then with her second, Sweet Little Lies. Her third is out later this year, and a movie adaptation is in the works. She — like Vera Wang and Britney Spears — has an affordable fashion line at Kohl’s. And while it may not change the direction of modern sartorial design, it’s cute! While she’s been at it, she’s also served as a spokesperson for Avon’s little-sister line, mark (for whom she also designed a necklace to raise funds to fight teen domestic violence).

I’m not about to declare her a feminist icon or anything, but she did manage to recognize her show for the black hole of cat-fighting, gossip, and extreme plastic surgery it was, and to use it as a force for good in her own life. As a writer myself, I want to scoff at her holding the title of “bestselling author” — and I wouldn’t put her books on required reading lists anytime soon — but I’d rather young girls learn about “the other side of being on a show like ours,” as Lauren said, than to think it’s all fun and fame. (The Hills inspiring actual reading? Even better.) The fact that she’s pursuing her original dream — fashion design — without chasing mega-stardom only impresses me more. Throwing a charity project or two in the mix never hurt anyone, either.

So feminist icon, no, but model ex-reality star? That’s a title she’s earned, for sure.

The Hills (TV Show)
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