The phrase “15 minutes of fame” simply doesn’t apply to Spencer and Heidi Pratt, the husband-and-wife reality star duo better known as “Speidi” since they began dating during the second season of the Laguna Beach spinoff The Hills. Since those early 2000s MTV reality docuseries days, the couple, who eloped in Mexico on Nov. 20, 2008, has appeared on various reality TV shows and competitions, from Celebrity Big Brother seasons 11 and 19 to Celebrity Wife Swap, Marriage Boot Camp: Reality Stars 2, and the short-lived spinoff The Hills: New Beginnings. There was an even shorter music career for Heidi who released her debut studio album, Superficial, in 2010.
Never ones to take themselves as seriously as their quest for fame, Heidi and Spencer recently launched a pop culture video podcast with The Ringer Podcast Network, a Spotify Studio. Appropriately titled Speidi’s 16th Minute, the podcast delves into celebrity gossip, the behind-the-scenes realities of creating good TV and how the pair has successfully made doing so a life-long career.
“Since day one of us being in the entertainment business, everyone’s always saying, ‘Oh, you’re 15 minutes is up,’ which I totally respect and appreciate all those supporters,” Spencer tells The Hollywood Reporter facetiously. “But I feel like we’ve been working on this 16th minute now at least since 2006. I’m not saying we’re the most relevant people ever, but I feel like we’re always trying to stay in the game. I appreciate the concept of 15 minutes of fame, and I like the idea of trying to get a 16th minute.”
So did executives at The Ringer Network. “Spencer and Heidi are willing to talk about themselves and other public figures in a way that few are,” says Juliet Litman, head of production at The Ringer. “They’re candid about the decisions they’ve made in the past, or even yesterday, and they use their experience to analyze the crowded celebrity landscape. Speidi’s 16th Minute provides analysis about the celebrity-reality space as if it was a sport.”
How does it feel to be able to turn the tables on other people and their headlines with your podcast after making so many yourself?
Spencer Pratt: I’m always jealous of anyone’s headlines, so I appreciate people’s headlines now more than I feel like other people in this podcast medium, because they don’t understand how hard it is to actually get headlines. Even if they’re negative. People don’t get how hard it is to get a negative headline posted nowadays. I think that understanding gives us an angle to have guests who maybe other people wouldn’t want to have tell their side. And since we weren’t always the heroes, it’s fun to do that for other people. With the Hefner episode, Marston said he felt like we were authentic, that he could come tell his story, and that made me feel good being able to have a platform where somebody could trust us. They feel like we’re not out to get them because we don’t have some image that we’re trying to protect. We’re not trying to play you out.
How do you choose your guests?
Heidi Pratt: It’s been a collaborative effort of kind of brainstorming who has touched the milestones in our lives. That’s how Peter Grossman came about because he was so instrumental in our fame with Us Weekly. We love Hollywood insiders and we wanted to do more of an inside approach of Hollywood and situations that are going on. It’s been fun to have celebrity guests and also professionals within the industry.
Alex Baskin, executive producer of Vanderpump Rules and The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, has been a guest and during that episode, Spencer, you said that you feel people are so ungrateful now when they get an opportunity to be on reality TV. What did you mean by that?
Spencer: So, just to be clear, we do support the WGA. I was so frustrated that my name got mixed up with Bethanny Frankel who made people think there really was a reality strike. I was clowning when I jokingly said, “I’ve been on strike. That’s why you haven’t seen me.” No, I don’t have a TV show. That’s why you haven’t seen me. But Heidi and I have learned this so many times, the amount of pilots we’ve shot with big production companies and big producers, and how many times those pilots never get to air, once you’ve been in that game and know how hard it is to be a reality TV person on a television show, until you’ve been on the other side, you don’t get what a privilege it is.
Now everyone’s complaining and they’re like, “Wah wah wah.” Being on a reality show is nearly impossible. People think it’s this easy thing to do, especially to have a successful one. We’ve heard this expression before: Having a hit show is literally like lightning in a bottle. So just to be on a show, then to have a hit show and then to be part of a franchise is a big deal. And we’ve seen so much self-sabotage, all these people who want to image craft and they don’t understand the opportunity these networks actually are. I’m not going to name names, but we’ve been on shows recently where the talent’s like, “We don’t even need to be doing this. We should just be on YouTube.” And I’m like, “Go try. Go try to get a YouTube channel popping. Good luck, bro.”
Now everyone thinks they can film themselves and it has the same power. It doesn’t. There’s nothing like television power. People always say, now with all these platforms, it doesn’t matter. It does matter. I’ve experienced the difference with people coming up to me like, “Oh, love your Snapchat.” And people coming up to me like, “Oh my gosh, I love when you’re on this show.” It’s the magic of television. So that’s my issue with all these people who are on all these shows whining and complaining.
Do you think a union will ever happen for reality stars? Is it necessary?
Spencer: I hope not. A reality show is like getting a scratcher at the liquor store, it’s a win-win. Actors have a craft that they’ve mastered. Going out and being reckless and drinking champagne and arguing with people about petty things, you don’t need a union for that. That’s called a blessing. You can’t compare what acting, directing and writing is to having somebody film you having drama in your life.
There’s also a movement brewing around NDAs with reality TV casts and crews from shows on E!, Bravo and NBC saying they’re being used to cover up horrible behavior behind the scenes. Do you think there’s truth to that?
Spencer: We’ve had an NDA probably every year of our lives and I’ve said everything I could possibly say about any producer I had problems with, any executive I have problems with. I’ve tweeted everything; they’re not coming after you for the $5 million indemnification. And like Alex Baskin said on our episode, if something was really criminal, NDAs don’t matter. There’s nothing stopping you from going anywhere. Good luck suing somebody that you did something illegal or shady to and you went public with it. That’s really not going to work out too well in court.
Heidi: I think the main purpose of the NDAs, which is what Alex Baskin said too, is to keep the integrity of the show during filming and to keep an element of surprise. I think that, like Spencer’s saying with NDAs, it’s not necessarily to cover up any type of treatment. It’s more to prevent storylines and certain things being leaked.
How and when did you grasp what makes good reality TV?
Spencer: The showrunner for The Hills really was a good collaborator. He used to call it Operation Upstage, and I felt like even though we didn’t always see eye to eye — and he definitely was never trying to make us look good — he knew what worked. Like, people love when we fight and throw this, and Spencer does this, so that’s the balance of knowing these people who make television shows. Some of them know what they’re talking about and if you don’t listen, you could be like these other people that ruin shows.
Heidi: Spencer came in from an executive producer background. When I met him, he had just created and executive produced Princes of Malibu, so he was already in the mindframe of producing and creating content. He was treating the show as a game basically, or as part of an overall plan and we weren’t doing that at that time. There were only a few staged things like, “Hey, can you please crash this party?” But there was nothing scripted or anything like that with anybody’s relationships or any type of drama. Spencer came in and he said, “Let’s just mix it up. We can take over this show, let’s take it to the next level.” He really came in with a plan from the beginning, and that’s when I started thinking of the show as a job and not it just being so great that I was being filmed for a reality show.
In the same way some think anyone can be a reality star, a lot of people think anybody can have a podcast. What does it take to have a great one?
Spencer: First off, Heidi and I love talking and I feel like we have pretty good talking chemistry and we’re interested in what we’re talking about. Our lives, since we’ve met each other, have consistently been about trying to maintain a level of fame to keep getting checks. So, once you start including other people whose lives are also about getting checks off of fame, you’re naturally very interested in it. The show is literally a pun or a parody on what we’re out here doing, trying to get a 16th minute. We’re so engaged with these people because we believe they have knowledge to help us with ideas about how we can stay in this game. Everybody’s trying to stay in Hollywood. I don’t care if you’re Tom Cruise or somebody like us. He wants to be at the top of his game and it’s the same frequency for us. We’re all thirsty.
I imagine you receive less backlash from the podcast than you did being on TV.
Spencer: Well now that there’s the visual component, I’ve been being body shamed a lot and Spotify’s in the comments section defending me. I’m like, “Whoa, this is wild.” I don’t know if it’s a different audience, or maybe I didn’t eat as many nachos when I was on TV shows. But I’m like: Dang, okay, we’re out here body shaming me in 2023. So that’s a newer experience that I wasn’t ready for because you think audio, but now we’re shooting everything in 4K and I think those cameras are really picking up every bite.
Heidi: Yeah, whenever you put yourself out there in any capacity, it’s definitely opening yourself up to criticism, so being able to compartmentalize is important too. The thing with a podcast versus reality TV is you have more ability to be yourself. I think that with a lot of reality TV shows it’s within a certain setting or within a certain group, or there’s an idea behind it, at least the ones that we’ve done. The podcast gives us the ability to just kind of be ourselves and be funny or silly or whatever we want.
But you want to be back on TV?
Heidi. Always. I think always.
Spencer: I don’t think we ever stopped wanting to be on TV. I don’t think anybody that’s on TV wants to stop being on TV if their brains work properly. We’ve got one of our biggest dream team projects in the works. Obviously, every show’s a Hail Mary, but this big time TV exec recently said, and it stuck with me, “All you need is one person to believe on the other end. You don’t need all of them.” So, this idea, I think this is it. It’s an idea Heidi and I’ve been saying, I can’t believe no one’s come to us for 10 years to do. And then this big heavy hitter came with that idea. So the paperwork’s just getting signed and if it goes through it would all come together just like a vision.
Heidi, are you still hoping to be a housewife one day and do you think Andy Cohen is the real reason you aren’t?
Heidi: I think so. He made a statement a while ago that he would never want me on it and that I wasn’t for their franchise, but I think that he’s so wrong. I don’t know if he’s just a Lauren fan or what, because I would think that he would appreciate the reality star that I am. I completely make sense to be on one of these shows. Maybe before when I was younger that didn’t quite make sense. But I’m 37 now, and as a mama too, I could easily go on Orange County or Beverly Hills.
Spencer: I think the quote I’ve heard used before, and I think it’s a compliment, is “Heidi’s too polarizing for some of these shows.” She’d upstage. I know that’s my love for her, but I truly think she’d upstage all these basic ladies.
Is there anything you regret doing along your quest for your 16th minute of fame?
Spencer: I regret taking our foot off the gas. I feel like in 2010 when The Hills was ending, there was literally a time when the president of VH1 was like, “I want to give you guys your own show.” And I was like, “Yeah, well, you’ve got to come out to Malibu.” He’s like, “I can’t come out to Malibu. You’ve got to come to the office.” And I’m like, “No, you’ve got to see the show in Malibu. Meet our entourage.” I should’ve stayed as hungry as I was in the beginning. It was a week-to-week grind to keep the covers coming and to get the chips. It’s almost like we burnt out. So, if anything, in our hustle to be famous and stay relevant in the game, we needed to kind of pace ourselves. We took some years off; I think we should’ve never stopped. But it’s a lot.
Heidi: That’s a solo regret for sure. I think it was really good for our life to take a break, regroup, reprioritize, get our relationships with our families and everything back on track and be grounded in reality. And I think that’s what has been so helpful for where we are now. We were able to reflect, we were able to work on ourselves, we were able to just have some time, and now we can go back in and there are opportunities that will come. We won’t make those same mistakes and we’ll be more mature in those situations.
What’s the ultimate goal?
Spencer: I feel like we’re living the ultimate goal. Everything’s great. We’re healthy. Our family’s doing great. We’ve got a great team that believes in our success. Obviously, more cameras. Right now, the cameras stay at Spotify, I’d like them to leave with us.
Interview edited for length and clarity.