The Hollywood Gossip would like to take a moment to send birthday greetings to the land of the free and home of the brave. America, happy 231st!
What better way to celebrate than with barbecues, fireworks and a little celebrity gossip?
Well, regardless of how you feel about the last part, we decided that today, we'd pay tribute to one of our favorite stars: An All-American sweetheart, Lauren Conrad.
We came across an article in the New York Times about Lauren and her emerging hit series, The Hills, that sums up brilliantly why millions of viewers have fallen in love with the girl next door known simply as LC.
Below is the Times' take on Lauren the mogul ...
For three years, MTV tried to get viewers to fall in love with Lauren Conrad, the star of the Laguna Beach and The Hills. Wary, watchful, and sometimes cheerless Lauren made audience adoration unlikely.
But that was before the second season of The Hills, when Lauren appeared in a sweet and lonely scene, sorting laundry in her Los Angeles apartment.
There was a mountain of unironed clothes and there was the unassuming Lauren Conrad, a fashion student who would later start her own fashion line, focused solely on folding.
As she brought the straps of an overworn lilac tank top in line with its hem, as if it were fine linen, she was suddenly adorable. She was Lauren, Laundress of Reality TV.
At least a million viewers per episode had, at last, found love.
The diligent Lauren Conrad punched into the reality TV world three years ago, and with Season 3 of The Hills set for late summer, her shift's not over yet.
After starring in Laguna Beach for two seasons, and then in her very own Hills, which chronicles her travails as an intern at Teen Vogue, Lauren has, without fanfare, turned her young adult life over to scrutiny.
LC writes on her official site of her initial venture into exhibitionism, which largely showed her nervous and heartbroken:
"It turned out to be a cool experience. It changed us all in a good way, and I feel fortunate to have my own personal video yearbook of those great times."
It's surprising her memories are so fond, as she has often seemed like the loser on her shows. After falling for a surfer on Laguna Beach, she lost him to breezy Kristin Cavallari.
On the first season of The Hills, she gave up a once-in-a-career Paris internship so she could spend the summer fighting with deadbeat boyfriend Jason Wahler.
But Lauren Conrad, well, she's tough. Her website quotes her as saying: "When someone tells you 'No' it's only the beginning of a conversation."
No doesn't mean no to laundress Lauren, whose intelligence might be more than simple hardheadedness. Neither does losing mean losing.
Kristin Cavallari briefly held a high card, but even as a teenager, Lauren Conrad knew that the real high card wasn't the bimbo boyfriend.
It was airtime and shrewd management.
Kristin preened in the tabloids, but Lauren was busy getting to "yes" with bigger guns. She lined up her own show, The Hills, and it's an artful and dignified one, rendered with the same affectionate nostalgia that made Laguna Beach a hit.
Maybe it's been a mistake to expect the best reality players to be the most naturalistic.
On VH1, Flavor Flav, a bona fide barker, has made a more interesting lover, with dance moves and possibly insane courtly rhymes, than the relatively upstanding and easygoing Lorenzo Borghese and Andy Baldwin on The Bachelor.
Lauren Conrad's artificial, anxious and arch style have similarly suited her to the role of a latter-day Sister Carrie on The Hills.
Had she been too much of a naÃ¯f, unwise to the cameras, she would have quickly been swept out to sea on Laguna Beach: passed-out drunk, abused by a boyfriend or (at least) caught in a quotably stupid soliloquy.
But unlike former BFF Heidi Montag, Lauren Conrad has always played a close hand, kept her head up and sipped weak drinks.
The Hills proceeds, as does Laguna Beach, with off-screen prepping. The cast is supplied with topics to discuss for maximum drama.
As a result, exchanges can seem rigged: boys dive into improbably intimate discussions with one another, while girlfriends broach subjects they must have already parsed a dozen times.
Lauren Conrad's personality lends itself to such feints.
As an aspiring producer of fashion shows, she likes a scripted event and a planned line; and as these shows regularly reveal, she doesn't mind white lies, staged diversions and concealed feelings.
She's also keenly attuned to affectations, as became clear in her dating adventures with Hollywood's junior-varsity womanizer, Brody Jenner.
He praises her smile, somewhat by rote, and she protests that it's flawed, exhibiting some wit on the subject of features that purportedly give a face "character." This playfulness about courtship confounded dopey Brody, who resorts to repeating, dumbly, "You have a beautiful smile."
Though they dated briefly, she was never sure if she liked him.
Lauren's not the kind of girl who thinks of herself as just the beautiful smile. Her controlling, behind-the-scenes nature is, paradoxically, on bright display and has become a focal point on The Hills, a quality show that now has an added charm.
Though she's almost always the prettiest girl in the room, she's also the one most often on her knees, pinning hems and admiring the other girls' shoes and bags.
She yielded the role of model to Whitney Port, her (taller) fellow intern at Teen Vogue. When she and Jason broke up, she cried while he cavalierly said sayonara.
It's all part of the total package, after all. She's Lauren Conrad: laundress, gaffer, scullery maid: or, maybe before long, executive producer.