It’s 1 p.m. on a Monday, I’m slightly drunk, and Stassi Schroeder is giving me dating advice.
“No way. No way,” she says when I bring up a recent ghosting. ”That is mean. I don’t like it.” We only met 20 minutes ago, but I feel safe sharing personal details with her because, tipsiness aside, Schroeder is not just any new encounter. This is someone I’ve spent an estimated 9,372 minutes with over the past six years, learning the ins and outs of her friend group and her own love life on a little reality TV show turned cultural force, Vanderpump Rules.
“Everyone ghosts in L.A. too,” Schroeder continues, taking a sip of her Moscow Mule. “My stomach really does turn when I think about dating apps. I went on Raya; I tried Bumble, but that got so overwhelming. It’s just teaching dudes to be lazier than they already are.” We laugh—classic Stassi.
If you’re not familiar with Vanderpump Rules, the premise alone probably won’t sell you: a group of beautiful 20- (and 30-) somethings living in West Hollywood and working at SUR restaurant, owned by Lisa Vanderpump. It started as a dubious Real Housewives of Beverly Hills spinoff; it became a masterpiece. Rihanna, Jennifer Lawrence, and Martin Scorsese are all fans. It’s been spun off into both another series (2017’s Jax and Brittany Take Kentucky) and a bar (West Hollywood’s TomTom, the opening of which has served as a plot point for the past few seasons). It’s seven seasons in, and it’s only getting more popular.
It would be hard to imagine the show’s success without Schroeder, who came in hot straight out of the gate in the first episode as the group’s de facto leader, all blonde hair and searing one-liners. If Vanderpump Rules is reality TV’s version of Friends, Schroeder is its Rachel Green. And Friends just doesn’t work without Rachel Green. Though Vanderpump Rules did try—for the first half of season four, Schroeder, then still something of a divisive character, thanks to her blunt, no-nonsense style, was MIA, living in New York with her then boyfriend. She returned—some think more humbled, but certainly no less magnetic. As they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder. It was around that time that Schroeder—wisely capitalizing on the fact that her onscreen quips (“I don’t know what I did to you, but I’ll take a Pinot Grigio” is a personal favorite) had become catchphrases for women across America—launched her own podcast, Straight Up With Stassi. With a new episode every week, the podcast has been active since 2015 and now has given way to her latest venture, a book titled Next Level Basic: The Definitive Basic Bitch Handbook, which hits stores next week.
“What the fuck would I write a book about?”
It’s that project that’s brought us together today, to discuss Schroeder’s new book, among other things, over lunch. When I arrive at the Standard Grill in New York’s Meatpacking District, Schroeder is already settled into our booth, alongside her publicist, snacking on a cheese plate, Moscow Mule in hand. Her hair is shorter than it currently is on television, and her eyes are even bluer in person. It would be remiss to not mention her outfit (this is the woman who started National Outfit of the Day Day, after all): a pair of ripped jeans and a white silk top with a bandana-like collar. By the third round, she’ll document it on her Instagram Story for her 1.6 million followers, throwing in a hearty “yee-haw.”
As much as she looks like the Stassi from TV, she also acts like the Stassi from TV—no bullshit, quick on the draw. “Does the tomato soup have cream in it?” she asks our waitress. It does. “That’s what’s up.” Now 30, Schroeder easily could have rested on her reality TV laurels, but that was never the plan. “I mean, anyone who does reality TV for the sake of reality TV is weird,” she says. “It’s too hard. It’s too not-normal-life. I wanted to do other things.” According to Schroeder, her publicist has been encouraging her to write a book for several years now. “I was like, ‘What the fuck would I write about?’” she recalls. “I’m not anyone to write an autobiography. But then I was like, ‘I know exactly what I could write about.’ My podcast was a way that I learned what I was good at and what made me me. My listeners are very loyal, and they give me feedback all the time. I saw what they like and don’t like, and realized that everyone had bonded over this shared basic-bitch theme. And that might be my purpose in life.”
Schroeder dedicates her book to “everyone out there tired of pretending they would rather read War and Peace or see a Daniel Day-Lewis movie about sewing than watch a Saw marathon and drink a delicious but basic AF cocktail like a Kir Royale.” In her eyes, being basic is not a bad thing, despite the bylaws of Internet culture, but rather a call for women to stop caring about what other people think and to just like what you like. There’s a particular kind of genius to this, and remarkably no one had written a book on it yet. “I’m like fucking George Washington of Basic Bitch Nation,” Schroeder exclaims. (Her Mount Rushmore of Basic Bitch Nation, for the record, would be herself, Chrissy Teigen, Amy Schumer, and Lauren Conrad. “These are four very different basics, but we’re all basic.”)
Chapters in the book include such titles as “Why Musical Theater Is Cool AF,” “How to Look Hot on Social,” and “Hashtag Namaste.” Within the 250-some pages, she shares her love of Ouija boards, ranch dressing, day drinking, hot dogs, Chanel bags, and Game of Thrones, among other things. It’s not your everyday earnest basic-ness. “I loathe ‘live, laugh, love,’” she says emphatically. “But I make this very clear in my book: If that’s what you’re into, by all means, put it everywhere and shout it from the rooftops. I really went into it wanting to make the point that next-level basic is ultimately about not being afraid to share and like the things that you want to like. Yes, I’m going to make fun of the shit that I don’t like, but it’s ultimately about not being ashamed.”
It’s been over a year and a half since Schroeder began working on the book, which overlapped with the filming of the current season of Vanderpump Rules. “I’d be in the middle of a scene where we’re fighting and I’d have to come down from this adrenaline high and sit behind a computer and think of something,” she says. “I paced around my apartment more hours than I wrote, 100 percent. And I procrastinated more than anything else.” Not to mention, she was filming a show about her life and writing a book about her life at the same time. “It was a constant talking about myself, and I already talk about myself a lot,” Schroeder continues. “A lot of people don’t think this, but I can be so introverted. I share my life in everything that I do. It sucks the life out of me.”
Yet she made it out the other side, with a whole book to show for it. In the coming weeks, she will embark on a multi-city tour to promote the final product. I ask who her target audience for the book is. “People like me,” she says. “People who would sit at this table. If I saw a book like this, I would go to the Grove for a signing.” She just received her first final copy a few weeks ago; to say she is excited that it is all done would be an understatement. “I’m going to go to every fucking store, and I’m going to place them in the front at every airport,” she says. “You know who else did that? Tom Hanks.”
“My favorite Kardashian is…”
Tom Hanks, by the way, may be one of the only few celebrities yet to publicly declare their love of Vanderpump Rules. Last year, Rihanna posted a video recording of an episode on her Instagram with the caption, “Easily the best clip on tv. Whoever edited this … we’re besties in my head. #vanderpumprules.” In the past two weeks alone, both Lady Gaga and Miley Cyrus have been spotted at Lisa Vanderpump–owned restaurants. “Jennifer Lawrence was one of the first [fans]. I’m still starstruck by that,” Schroeder says. “Like, there’s Miley Cyrus and Rihanna, and yes, they’re huge stars and it’s cool, but Jennifer Lawrence was from the beginning. She feels ride or die. When we heard that Martin Scorsese watched, it was like, ‘What the fuck went wrong in your life? How did you start thinking, I think I’ll start watching this?’”
At this point, of course, Schroeder is a celebrity in her own right (although she says she never gets bothered in her home town of West Hollywood), but that doesn’t mean she’s above a little celebrity gossip. Since we’re onto our second round, we dive right in: Naturally, she’s obsessed with the Kardashians. “My first favorite is always Kourtney because her sense of humor is just so dry and weird,” she says. “And she seems the realest. She’s always breaking the fourth wall like, ‘I don’t want want to do the show.’ Khloé I’ve always loved. She’s a queen. Ultimately, she’s my number one. But sometimes I really feel for Kim. She just wants to do her own shit. She’s independent and she works hard and she doesn’t want to be dragged down. So I’m like, I feel you. That was my most basic answer ever.”
Controversially, she also loves Taylor Swift. “I love Taylor Swift. I liked her more when she came back as an asshole. I’ve always loved her music, always loved her talent, thought she was gorgeous, all that, but she kind of annoyed me when she was like, ‘I have two girls rooms in my apartment and only girls are allowed and I love PJ parties.’ Like, I love a good girls night, but shut up. Then when she came out with ‘Look What You Made Me Do’ shit and took no prisoners, I was like, ‘I’m so on your team.’”
But her ultimate fandom, as you’ll be well aware if you follow her on Instagram, is for Game of Thrones. Schroeder is obsessed; like, really, really obsessed. “My celebrity crush would be Kit Harington or Jason Momoa,” she says. “I saw [Kit] in Craig’s and time stood still. Katie was with me, and I swear to God, it was like he walked by my table in slow motion. I couldn’t speak.” Needless to say, she’s very excited for the final season—”I don’t know who is going to win, but I know I’m not going to like it. I know what I dream of happening won’t happen, because I’m not watching, like, Never Been Kissed. We’re watching some depressing ass dark shit”—but less excited about the fact that the book tour will have her in New York during this Sunday’s premiere. “Do you know how annoyed I am?” she says. “I guess I could watch it on my computer, but that’s not fun. I want to go to a party.”
“I’m 30 and I don’t care.”
By now we’ve been at lunch for nearly two hours, and Schroeder still has one major work engagement for the day: an appearance on Watch What Happens Live. It’s time to order some caffeine, she declares. And that means an espresso martini.
She pulls out her phone to text her cast mate and friend Katie Maloney-Schwartz, who will be her co-guest on the show tonight, mostly to coordinate arrival times. Appearing on Andy Cohen’s show is old hat for Schroeder; she doesn’t get nervous. “I don’t know how many times I’ve done it,” she says. “There have definitely been times when I was shitting my pants, but nowadays I just feel like…I don’t care. I’m 30 and I don’t care.”
Several hours later, dressed in an off-the-shoulder green jumpsuit (“I kind of feel like it makes me look like a Housewife,” she said earlier) in the Bravo Clubhouse, a tiny room in a nondescript office building in TriBeCa, she certainly looks calm and collected, despite the fact that a nerve-wracking episode on which she meets her boyfriend Beau Clark’s mother just aired for the first time and now she has to speak to that experience on live TV.
Clark and Schroeder have been dating for a little under two years, she explains while imparting her love wisdom. “I like to joke with him like, ‘You were a fuckboy.’ And he’s like, ‘So were you.’” she says. “I was into it more, I think. We never had the conversation of, ‘We’re serious now.’ We just felt it. We had five or six months to hang out a lot and form a friendship. It was different than the way I’ve done any other relationship. Before, I was like, ‘First date, now we’re together forever.’ This was different.”
The meeting with his mom went well, and now 1.2 million viewers have also seen it. On the after show, Cohen poses a poll to viewers at home: “Would Stassi make a good daughter-in-law?” (Eighty-five percent voted yes.) He then makes her answer a round of less-than-flattering lightning questions about her ex-boyfriends. “This is like my worst nightmare,” she exclaims, but still manages to play the game without missing a beat. For Schroeder, this is just another day at the office.
Still, I ask, is it weird to have millions of people talking about your friends like they are characters on a television show, and not real-life people?
“No, we talk about it too,” Schroeder says. “We talk like, ‘If Jax fucks up, what is the plan?’ These are conversations I have in real life.” If anything, she almost relishes the meta-irony of it all—in the most basic-bitch way possible, of course. “I send GIFs of myself all the time,” she says, pulling out her phone to prove it. “Even when I first started dating [Beau], I would send my own GIF. He was like, ‘Did you just send yourself?’ And I’m like, ‘Fuck yeah, I did.’ It’s kind of like the ultimate mic drop.”