Whitney Port may be most recognizable as a former star of MTV’s “The Hills” and its spinoff “The City,” but she has since gone on to build a successful career far beyond the realm of reality television. It’s a journey that Port says was both propelled and impeded by the notoriety that comes with starring on one of the most successful TV franchises of all time.
“The TV show happened very organically but then it created this platform for me to start these different businesses,” Port said at TheWrap’s 2020 Power Women Summit. “The reason why I ended up even doing the spinoff, ‘The City’ [which centered on Port moving from Los Angeles to New York to take a job at Diane von Fürstenberg] is so that I could launch my clothing line.”
“I have worked really hard to try to make myself something more than just a reality TV star,” she continued. “I think that’s the hardest barrier for me to break … I feel like I have to constantly prove myself, even though I did start in the fashion industry.”
Port appeared on a panel alongside other female entrepreneurs to discuss the unique challenges and opportunities presented by being a woman in a traditionally male-dominated space. The conversation, moderated by Glamour editor-in-chief Samantha Barry, also included actress Olivia Culpo, FabFitFun co-founder Katie Echevarria Rosen Kitchens, Carol’s Daughter founder Lisa Price and model Alexis Ren.
A common theme threaded throughout the discussion was the fact that consumers are increasingly seeking out brands and companies they can “support” with their dollar. For an entrepreneur to succeed in 2020, the panelists said, it is vital to have a clear sense of the “why” behind the brand.
“What you can see from everyone who is on this panel, we have the ability to sell product to people. But we also have the empathy to care about what we’re selling, why we’re selling, and to whom we’re selling,” Price said. “And we also happen to be smart about money and know how to make a coin when we need to.”
But there are also systemic barriers to overcome, not unlike Port’s feeling that she had to break out of the mold of reality TV star in order to grow beyond “The Hills.”
“We discovered that women had a very, very hard time growing above a $2 million price point, had a hard time getting capital, getting people to invest in their companies,” Price said, referring to her work with U.S. Small Business Association to spotlight the challenges faced by women-led companies.
“What we were learning was women were so accustomed to having to do more with less –particularly women of color — that when we sat down in front of financial people … we weren’t actually asking for what we needed,” she said. “We asked for what we thought we could get and what we could make do [with].”
Watch the full video above.
The Power Women Summit, presented by the WrapWomen Foundation, is the largest annual gathering of the most influential women in entertainment, media and technology. The Summit aims to inspire and empower women across the landscape of their professional careers and personal lives. This year’s all-virtual PWS provides three days of education, mentorship, workshops and networking around the globe to promote “Inclusion 360,” this year’s theme.