Olivia Culpo’s Guide to Having a Great Thanksgiving


It was, as they say, very Hollywood: a postmodern mansion with gardenias in the pool, a celebrity chef making paleo-friendly dessert, and the tell-tale “Hi guys!” that Insta-stars chirp to their followers just before a big event.

In this case, the event was BCBG’s Friendsgiving, hosted by Olivia Culpo and starring several pairs of thigh-high boots that threatened to upstage the turkey. (It was free-range, golden brown, and prepared by LA food maven Claire Thomas, so don’t feel too bad.)

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Behind the kitchen counter, women of a certain influence (including Marianna Hewitt, Lauren Gores, Paola Alberdi, and Melissa Alatorre—with about 2 million followers among them) chatted, sipped wine, and packed boxes (and boxes, and boxes, and boxes) of gourmet Thanksgiving meals. Half were going to Meals on Wheels; the rest to the Palisades Fire Department as they continue to battle the California wildfires. “I love that everyone can do this,” said Alatorre. “You get your friends together—you’d be together anyway!—and you make the decision to also cook for people, or prepare things for people who need them. Why wouldn’t you take that extra step to do it?”

Olivia Culpo BCBG

BCBG

“People often assume when women in our field get together, there’s competition or bitchiness,” added Culpo. “But it’s actually the opposite. We all want to support each other, and we’re all interested in helping out when we can. Friendsgiving is an opportunity to do both.”

It was also an opportunity to speak with Culpo about her upcoming projects, including 2 movies for 2019, continued work on her restaurant Back Forty, and—maybe—giving the pageant industry a much-needed kick in the Spanx.

BCBG Friendsgiving

Cibelle Levi

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You grew up behind-the-scenes at your family’s restaurant. What’s a food pro trick for Thanksgiving?

One, don’t be afraid of equipment. Last year, we used an industrial-sized mixer to get things done quickly. You’ve never seen more mashed potatoes. And two, more is more. You have to make sure there is plenty of food, and lots of different types of food. Don’t stress about activity planning or family dynamics—just cook, and make sure everyone has something they can eat and drink. If you don’t like leftovers, you can always send people home with them afterwards.

Who doesn’t like leftovers?

Exactly.

Are you a Black Friday person? Do you wake up early and have like a hundred browsers open on your laptop?

I’m more of a phone shopper. I’m really glad you can buy BCBG on mobile, because it’s like, “Oh, do I need that sweater? There’s an app for that.”

We all have that one crazy family member we don’t want to sit with. What’s your trick for escaping an uncomfortable holiday conversation?

Listen, this is what you do: Look up suddenly and say, “Oh my god, I totally forgot! My mom told me to watch something in the oven, I’ll be right back! Oh my god, I have to go right now! She’s going to kill me!” Always blame it on the oven. Something’s burning in the oven. Then just get up and get out of there.

Has anything changed during family dinners since you got famous?

My family dynamic has stayed pretty much the same, but sometimes people come over who I don’t know at all—friends of the family that I’ve just never met, or someone’s in-laws or something—and they get a little too interested in who my date for Thanksgiving might be. They’re like, “Who’s Olivia bringing to Thanksgiving this year?” It’s a little weird.

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BCBG Friendsgiving

BCBG

Do your parents see things about you on social media or in the tabloids and call you about them?

All the time. They’re not social media stalkers, but my mom is definitely on top of her Google alerts. But I’m lucky—they don’t freak out when they see [bad gossip]. They give me the benefit of the doubt and they always have my back. That’s what family is for.

What about friends like these other influencers? What’s the dynamic like when you all have similar goals, even if your career trajectories are different?

There’s a mentality out there that if somebody gets a job you don’t get, that’s it, you’re done. You’ve got to get rid of that idea early. There will always be another opportunity provided by the universe. Your job is to do the work and be the best you can be at what you do. I think the ugliest things you can be are jealous and petty. And the truth is, people can sense those traits and nobody wants to be around them, or to follow spiteful people. If you want to be successful, the way to get there is to work hard and be supportive of one another.

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You got your start as a pageant winner, but even in the six years since you were crowned, the way pop culture frames women—and the way we frame ourselves—has changed drastically. As a former beauty queen, literally, do you think there’s still a place for pageants in our lives?

I think the idea of pageants isn’t empowering women the way it could. I’d like us to reinvent pageantry to create opportunity for women, and really make the people participating and watching it better people, and give them real platforms so after the pageant, they have an easier way to go out and accomplish things. I’d love to be able to help women achieve their dreams, and that can happen through pageantry, but I think other platforms can do that, too. But I can’t say, “I wish pageants never existed,” because without my experiences in them, I wouldn’t have learned as much about myself and so many different industries. Who knows if I’d be where I am now? So it’s a complicated question.

What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving?

My nephew! He’s four months old. His name is Remi and I just made him his own Instagram. It’s my sister Aurora—the first nephew, the first grandkid. We’re so excited about him, and it’s also fun to dress babies up.

I am thankful for hipster babies in their little denim jackets and tiny sneakers.

And pie!