Kelly Osbourne: Breaking All The Rules
Ten years after the premiere of The Osbournes, Kelly Osbourne takes us through her transformation from angsty teen rocker to trend setting fashion police. Photographed by Danielle Levitt. Styling by Nicolas Bru and Samantha MaGowan. Makeup by Julianne Kaye. Hair by Marco Berardini. Video by Giorgio Arcelli Fontana.
It’s a sunny day at the Sunset Marquis Hotel in Los Angeles as Kelly Osbourne—daughter of heavy metal icon Ozzy and TV host Sharon Osbourne—relaxes into a leather high-back chair to look back on her life. And while she may only be 27 years old, there’s no doubt Kelly has lived through enough to make her musings last a lifetime.
“I grew up in this hotel,” she says of the Marquis. Since it opened in 1963 in Hollywood’s Alta Loma Road, the hotel has served as a home away from home for generations of actors and A-listers, including everyone from Billy Bob Thornton to Lindsay Lohan.
It’s also home to one of L.A.’s most important music-making havens, NightBird Recording Studio, which has hosted everyone from Aerosmith to Katy Perry. If these walls could talk, they’d tell a history of American rock ‘n’ roll.
“My dad was always recording here, and I lived in villa 2A,” says Osbourne. “When I was about 13 or 14, I would sneak out of my hotel room, climb down a tree and go into the bar in my pajamas and clean the glasses so they would give me Malibu Pineapple,” she says. “If there were an Eloise of this hotel, it’d be me.”
It’s a telling portrait of Kelly as a teenager—devious, unabashed, and reckless—the one we might recall seeing on the MTV reality TV show The Osbournes a decade ago. But Kelly has been busy reinventing herself, and the woman she’s grown into barely shares any resemblance to that kid you remember from TV.
Kelly Osbourne was born in Westminster, just outside London in 1984. She spent much of her childhood traveling the world with Ozzy and the family as he embarked on his solo career. In 1995, the Osbourne family—which included Kelly’s older sister Aimee and their younger brother Jack—moved to Los Angeles. And while mother and father were already well known—he was the metal legend of Black Sabbath and she his formidable manager—the world got their first taste of the rest of the brood in March 5, 2002 when the first episode of the show premiered.
“When we signed up to do The Osbournes I had no idea,” she says. “I just thought, ‘I wanna be on MTV!’” But when the cameras started rolling, they literally didn’t stop. Instead of the produced moments that characterize today’s reality TV shows, The Osbournes was filmed 24 hours a day by four rotating camera crews in two shifts, who documented nearly every aspect of their lives. “It really was like living in the Big Brother house,” she says.
Fearing they had made a massive mistake, the family went out to Venice Beach for a walk the night before the show aired, preparing themselves for the backlash. “The next day, it was the biggest TV show in America and we couldn’t believe it,” she says. Indeed, MTV aired the show 15 times a week during the spring of 2002, and the first season earned the highest ratings in MTV history, winning a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Reality Program.
Kelly, 17 years old at the time and the middle child, was billed by Rolling Stone as “a wickedly funny, brutally honest, pint-size, potty-mouthed spitfire.” In her dark, rock-inspired outfits and heavy eyeliner, Kelly could have been passed over as any other angsty teenager. But her quick wit and proficient profanities set her up as the character to watch.
And while the show revealed the Osbournes as remarkably tight-knit, it also exposed their unique problems. During the show’s fourth season, Kelly checked into rehab for the first time because of an addiction to prescription painkillers. She returned in 2005, months after the show’s finale.
But it wasn’t until she completed her third stint in rehab in 2009 that Kelly was ready to turn her life around, saving her from the disastrous fate of many teen celebrities before her. In September, she published her teen self-help memoir Fierce, which topped numerous Amazon charts, and soon after she joined Dancing With The Stars.
On set she met Louis van Amstel, a ballroom dance champion and Kelly’s dance partner, who she credits for transforming life. “Louis taught me so much,” she says, explaining that it was he who taught her how to eat healthy and work hard. “’Cause who ever thought that Kelly fucking Osbourne would find themselves through ballroom dancing?”
While in the end the team took third place, Kelly’s weight loss and self-discovery were most certainly her biggest wins. “I like myself now, and that’s all that matters,” she says. With this newfound sense of confidence, Kelly was ready to find a new niche and remake herself in the most unexpected way.
In 2010, Kelly joined Joan Rivers on E! Entertainment Television’s Fashion Police, a weekly talk show about celebrity fashion. “I have the best job in the world,” she says. “Joan and Melissa [Rivers], G [Giuliana Rancic] and George [Kotsiopoulos] are my second family,” she says of her co-hosts, with Rivers fitting in as “the grandmother I never had.” While the focus is indeed on fashion, the highlight is their antics as a team. “I’m finally starting to realize that it’s a fashion-based comedy show,” she explains. “Joan tells the joke, I give the perspective of the eccentric youth, Giuliana gives the perspective of the modern day woman, and George is the style expert.”
While it would seem Kelly has found the same role to play in another family, it’s clear her approach is different this time.
Ten years later and the Kelly before us—lounging by a luxe pool in high fashion makeup—appears another person entirely from the one who used to sneak out of the house to drink booze in her pajamas. And while she admits she hardly watches old episodes (“That was the old me,” she says), the show still holds a mix of nostalgia and warning for Kelly.
“It is a great reminder if I’m having a bad time to go back and look at that and be like, ‘Look what you could become again,’” she says. “So that’s something I’ll always have—the best home video documentary of my childhood. Unfortunately, I was just a little shit.” —Sasha Levine (@sashalevine)