“The Hills” alums Heidi Montag and Spencer Pratt — once known as the ultimate reality villain couple — played their parts, played the press, and became tabloid fixtures by taking advantage of their positions on MTV’s defining 2000s hit.
Seventeen years after that glossy docu-soap premiered, Montag, now 36, and Pratt, now 40, are seizing more time in the spotlight with a brand new podcast, “Speidi’s 16th Minute.”
But they’re also not giving up on television. “We’re out here pitching a reality show every day trying to get on TV,” Pratt told Page Six.
The podcast, launched Aug. 2 by Spotify’s Ringer Podcast Network, explores the underbelly of reality television and its impact on pop culture with insight from two people who know the medium inside out.
“Sometimes nobody knows what is going on with the paparazzi setup,” Montag told Page Six’s “Virtual Reali-Tea” podcast at Spotify’s downtown Los Angeles studios.
“So it’s kind of an inside scoop, too, of Hollywood … sharing that inside information that people don’t want to necessarily divulge.”
The two are more than ready to spill — starting with the machination behind their media takeover that began in 2007, inspired by the “famous for being famous” formula that transformed socialites with no known talent into the era’s brightest stars.
“I got to see in person Paris Hilton and then Nicole Richie and how maniacal … they were in their pursuit of fame,” said Pratt, who grew up in Los Angeles’ Pacific Palisades enclave, just a 40-minute drive from West Hollywood’s Robertson Blvd., where the It Girls of the day were known to court photographers.
“There was no accident about their success. I was like, ‘Oh, this is easy.’ And then once you get a TV show, you can really just go.”
Pratt secured a spot on “The Hills” in Season 2, serving as the sidekick to his hunky best bud Brody Jenner, just as Montag did for beloved protagonist Lauren Conrad. The accomplices soon fell in love, effectively causing a harsh divide in the cast due to Conrad’s crazed denunciation of the relationship.
“He’s a sucky person!” she screamed at Montag in one unforgettable episode, lambasting Pratt. “I hate Spencer.”
And Conrad’s fans, whom Montag bluntly likened to a “cult,” followed suit. From that moment forward, it was “Speidi” against the world — at least within the confines of the show, where they were trapped as villains.
Montag “never wanted to be a villain,” she asserted, but her love for Pratt outweighed any discomfort. He had already, for better or worse, cemented himself as the resident troublemaker of “The Hills.”
“I risked everything for the love of Spencer, so I just took that route with him,” she said, “if that’s the way it had to go.”
Montag went on to recall alleged discrepancies in treatment from production, whom she felt favored the rest of the cast — also including Audrina Patridge and Whitney Port — after Conrad drew a line in the sand, pushing her and Pratt further into the “bad guy” box.
Pratt claimed they were spoken to like “trash,” while his wife added, “The rest of the cast were these stars on a pedestal [and production was] like, ‘Ugh Speidi, go do your thing.’”
Pratt and Montag certainly did their thing — and what they did was covered extensively in the pages of celebrity rags, a lifelong manifestation for both parties.
“In summer school, I was telling people I’d be on the cover of Us Weekly,” said Pratt. “It was happening no matter what.”
Montag cherishes her first cover and takes pride in being the first “Hills” personality to snag one.
The pivotal Us Weekly issue, released Oct. 8, 2007, notably came with a free boob job and rhinoplasty. According to Montag, an editor at the magazine asked if she had ever thought about plastic surgery, which, she says, she hadn’t — then informed her that it would get her the cover and cost nothing thanks to the late Dr. Frank Ryan, who was just as eager for the press. (Two years later, Montag would notoriously undergo a whopping 10 cosmetic procedures at once, also performed by Ryan, landing her a People cover.) Us Weekly did not return calls for comment.
“I was like, I’m barely making $1,000 on this show. I was excited to have a handbag for free. And then, ‘Surgery? You’ll pay for it? The anesthesia, too, right? OK!’” she said, looking back on her first round of work.
“Nobody was really talking about surgery then and coming out with it,” Montag continued, noting the impact of addressing a relatively taboo topic. “The cover sold so well and that was really our in.”
By 2008, she joined an esteemed list of women who regularly fronted the tabloids: Jennifer Aniston, Angelina Jolie, Jessica Simpson, and Britney Spears, to name a few.
Montag — who has Maxim, Playboy, and Rolling Stone covers under her belt as well — is quick to praise Pratt for his contributions to her success.
“It really should have been Spencer and I together [on covers] because we’ve just always been a team,” she said, giving her husband props for ideating storylines in the press.
“Without him, I wouldn’t have been on those covers.”
Montag’s impresario eventually made it happen for himself. In December 2008, Us Weekly broke the news that the couple had eloped in Mexico, an event that was orchestrated with the guarantee of a cover story and an alleged $250,000 fee for photos.
Pratt acknowledged that “The Hills” executive producer Adam DiVello was disappointed that the intimate ceremony hadn’t been saved for the series. (The newlyweds eventually exchanged vows again in April 2009 with a lavish affair filmed for Season 5.)
“You break us a quarter million and we’ll keep that elopement on the show,” he mused. “[DiVello] was always saying, ‘It has to be kept on the show, stop putting it in the tabloids.’ But it’s like, ‘These tabloids and paparazzi are paying more than the show.’”
Working with the paps proved to be lucrative for Pratt and Montag, who claimed to have banked more than $1 million by selling staged photos.
From festive holiday displays with bunny ears to over-the-top pumpkin patch outings, they knew how to keep magazine editors coughing up cash for campy pics.
“But now it’s really different because you have everyone posing in these cheesy setups on their own Instagram,” Montag reflected. “So the industry is gone.”
Pratt quipped that it would take an A-lister doing something incredulous to score a major photo payday in 2023.
“You literally have to take a pap shot on a Porta Potty, like, ‘Jen Aniston’s pooping at the park’ — with Smart Water and drinking collagen powder!” he said, causing his spouse to erupt in shoulder-shaking laughter.
Pratt and Montag have somehow avoided the dreaded reality TV curse.
They’re still having fun together after 15 years of marriage, and they accept the reality of raising their two boys, Gunner, 5, and Ryker, 9 months, in Hollywood.
“I hope we can get enough clout before our sons grow up. We’re trying! We’ve got half nepo babies at this point,” Pratt said facetiously — or is he serious? “Right now, they’re like hybrids.”
Pratt and Montag, shameless in their quest to live famously ever after, have amassed an ardent fan base since the original iteration of “The Hills” concluded in 2010 after six seasons.
Their acute self-awareness has even endeared a portion of Conrad’s acolytes, converting them to Team Speidi.
“Heidi and Spencer are candid and self-effacing, which are two qualities that make for great podcasters,” Juliet Litman, head of production at The Ringer, home of “Speidi’s 16th Minute,” told Page Six.
“The main things I’ve learned about them so far is that they’ll accept a pizza from anyone if it shows up at their house, and they want to work hard.”
Pratt and Montag were disheartened by the 2021 cancellation of MTV’s “The Hills: New Beginnings” reboot, its two-season run marred by an extended pause during the pandemic and what the duo saw as collective apathy among their castmates — not including Conrad, who declined participation — to deliver compelling scenes.
Now, they aim to get back on the air and recently signed a development deal with a production company.
A desire to recoup the public’s attention is fully illustrated in every episode of “Speidi’s 16th Minute” when they unabashedly ask guests for advice.
“This is actually a [platform] for us to figure out how to become relevant again, get a 16th minute past this podcast and actually be famous-ish again,” Pratt admits on an episode.
Montag, meanwhile, showed her willingness at the couple’s Page Six photo shoot.
As the camera flashed and her own song, I”ll Do It,” played, she flashed a big grin: “I love this. We’ve still got it.”
With additional reporting by Danny Murphy
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