Upon ending the unscripted MTV series' past season by leaving once-close friend and roommate Lauren Conrad to move in with on-and-off boyfriend Spencer Pratt, Montag set chat boards ablaze. She knows some people hate Pratt's seemingly changeable ethics, but she also knows that will bring them back to the "Laguna Beach" spinoff when its third round begins Monday, Aug. 13.
Despite reports she and Pratt got engaged in May, Montag declines to discuss that, advising the curious to watch the new "Hills" episodes. "If people are interested, I think that's great," she says. "I'm just loving where I'm at, and it's fun for me and my family. They know who I really am, and they know Spencer, and they love him more than anything. All my friends and family do, and they're the ones it really matters to."
Asking Montag to live with him became an "or else" ultimatum as it rolled off Pratt's tongue. She initially said no, and they broke up before she reconsidered, to the plainly visible eye-rolling of her co-workers at the Bolthouse Productions event-planning firm in Los Angeles.
Nevertheless, 20-year-old Montag insists she's enjoying "just a great time in my life. I'm loving that I can have two lives, my real one and my TV one, and I know a lot of people who would love to be in this position. It's a great opportunity, and you just have to keep your head on straight and keep living your life."
While that life has plenty of drama in Montag's case, she thinks it appears even more so because of how television works. "It's a matter of editing. There are only so many seconds, so when it comes together, it's a whole different thing," she says. "At the same time, I went through it, so I remember it very well."
In fact, the events happen to Montag a few months before viewers see them. "People get so caught up in the show," she says, "someone will be like, 'How was that fight you guys had last night?' I'll think, 'What?' then I'll remember they're talking about the episode that aired that night. I'm actually farther along by then, so it's hard to relive that moment."
Especially with someone who acts as if he or she knows her, when she doesn't know them at all. "I just take it all with a grain of salt," says Montag, who entered "The Hills" via Conrad, having met her when they studied fashion at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco.
"I had no idea what 'Laguna Beach' was," Montag says. "At the time, I didn't even know it was a place, because I'm from Colorado. I also didn't have a TV at the time, so I had no idea she'd been going through all this crazy mayhem."
There's been more of it in "The Hills" since the friendship of Conrad and Montag has been extremely strained by Conrad's unconcealed disapproval of Pratt. "What I get more than anything," Montag says, "is people coming up and saying things like, 'Lauren is just so jealous and manipulative!' There are many more comments about her than about Spencer.
"I went through a lot last season," Montag adds, "and that's why I think I was in the show so much. It was so relatable. Who hasn't been torn between a friend and a boyfriend or girlfriend? I filmed other things [while seeing others], and that's what they didn't show.
"Maybe it'll be in the bonus features on the DVD set, but that's what people didn't realize. [Spencer and I] were just playing games with each other, and if they hadn't put 'boyfriend' on him right away, it would have changed the whole vibe."
Still, Montag realizes she has little say in what makes the final cut. "I just film, and that's my part of it, then [the producers and editors] go in and do their part. Each episode is only 22 minutes without commercials, so I understand they can only fit in so many increments of each of our lives, or it would be a 70-hour show."
In making "The Hills," Montag has become used to many aspects of television production, which could help with the singing and acting careers to which she aspires.
"I think it's hard to never really notice the cameras around you," she says, "especially when everybody's staring while they're there. You do get into certain situations where you forget about them, because you're just so busy carrying out your real life.
"At the end of the day, you have to remember you just can't take it too seriously. It is a TV show, and you can't be so concerned with what people say or think. Otherwise, you'll never be able to make it in this industry."