Nicole Richie’s Savvy Web Reinvention

Twitter inspired AOL series perfect showcase for ex-celebutante

My how things have changed since 2003. Back then, Nicole Richie was just entering America’s consciousness as Paris Hilton’s sidekick on seminal reality series The Simple Life. Despite her posh upbringing—Richie, of course, is the daughter of singer Lionel—the then-22 year old “celebutante” was more than a little rough around the edges, with her perpetually matted rainbow hair and serious case of potty mouth. It would have been laughable to predict that she’d still be in the spotlight three years later, let alone a decade.

But here we are in 2013, and whereas Hilton remains firmly ensconced in the realm of early-2000s pop culture novelty alongside Gigli and Hey Ya, Richie has somehow managed to transform herself from a pint-sized wild child into a bona fide style icon, fashion designer, and married mother of two.

(There were a few minor speed bumps in between—like that DUI that resulted in an 82-minute prison stint—but nothing big enough to derail Richie’s career.) And following a few post-Simple Life TV projects, including a mentoring spot on NBC’s Fashion Star, Richie has arrived on the small-er screen as the star of AOL’s weekly Web series, #CandidlyNicole.

The show, which recently ended its first 20-episode season, is purportedly based on Richie’s popular Twitter account, currently 4.2 million followers strong. A tweet in which Richie asks “Is it too late to audition for Toddlers and Tiaras?” for example, inspires an episode in which Richie learns how to become a (child) pageant queen. Her Twitter declaration that “The key to a long-lasting relationship is to wait until a man is legally bound to you before you wear harem pants” is the basis for an episode about first-date dressing.

None of that sounds groundbreaking, admittedly. But while Richie may now be better known for her style than her personality, the combination of the two make her a mixed bag of contradictions—unfailingly chic but unapologetically dirty-minded, a trendsetter who doesn’t shy away from her less-than-tasteful past—that’s a lot of fun to watch.

The first episode features Richie visiting a doctor to get her now-outré lower back tattoo removed. “I have a tramp stamp,” she declares to a waiting room of patients, before reminiscing about her first tattooing experience. (She was 14 and it involved a gun.) In the following episode, “Flower Games,” a demurely dressed Richie learns how to arrange the perfect bouquet “for when a guy’s coming over to your house and you want to get to third base but not bone him.” (She also dubs anemones “slutty.”) Later in the series, Richie decides to “up her street cred” by rapping—but instead of “hos and bitches,” her hooks are “getting new bangs” and “gluten-free pasta.”

Throughout the series, which includes guests from RuPaul to Lionel Richie to Derek Blasberg, Richie continues to prove that she hasn’t lost any of that unfiltered charm she first unleashed on The Simple Life, just smoothed out the edges. As a result, #CandidlyNicole avoids the snooze factor of so many other would-be clever lifestyle series. (For evidence of the formula’s success, just look at the numbers: The show has attracted an impressive 3.4 unique viewers across its 20 episodes.) And Richie, 10 years after what could have been her 15 minutes of fame, is proving savvier than ever.