Though Real Housewives of New York is known for its larger-than-life personalities, one of its most popular stars, Countess LuAnn de Lesseps, couldn't be more down-to-earth! Manners and making others feel comfortable are two of the most important things to the Countess, and with these passions, she's built a lifestyle brand dedicated to promoting good etiquette and elegance regardless of one's financial situation-- as her motto goes, "Elegance is learned." When she kindly took some time to speak with us at GoGoMix, she talked about her new fashion line, juggling several different pursuits, how she stays grounded amidst the fame and fortune in New York's upper crust, a musical collaboration we'd love to see happen, and a few of her favorite things!
GGM: At GoGoMix, we like to discover a bit about what you’re working on and some of your favorite things. So first off, I hear congratulations are in order with regards to your new clothing line, as a large Fall order is launching in October. Can you tell me a little about that?
Countess LuAnn: The collection I love is made right here in New York, and I’m very proud about that. It’s chic made easy! It’s a lifestyle. I have a small collection which goes from day-to-night, it travels well, and it’s affordable. I’m going on Shop HQ in October to premiere the Fall collection and they’re great. I’m excited!
GGM: You’ve done a little bit of everything—music, fashion, acting, all while being the go-to person for etiquette advice. Do you ever see yourself really buckling down to pursue one thing or are you always looking to keep irons in a few fires?
Countess LuAnn: What’s really happening is that I’m building on my lifestyle brand, which is a style of living. It’s about traveling, home, beauty—I’ve written a book about manners and etiquette, but it’s called Class with the Countess: How to Live with Elegance and Flair. It’s about a lifestyle. The music is something I love to do. I’m the first one to break out into song at a dinner party [laughs]! That’s just who I am! I love people. I love to entertain. I think I have many things going on because I love all of the above. I have a dinner party tonight for 26 people! I have musicians coming and I might sing with them. It’s really everything I love to do. I wouldn’t say I’m all over the place, just that I love a lot of things and am interested in a lot of things, and I think being interested in a lot of things makes you interesting!
GGM: Why do you think you’ve had so much success as an etiquette guru?
Countess LuAnn: I think without manners, what do you have? I’m talking about simple things: walking into a room with a smile on your face, introducing people to each other. I care about those kind of things. I raised my children to care about those things. When someone walks into a room, they stand up, they shake their hand, they say hello, they look people in the eye. That’s important to me. I think that resonates with people. They understand that is important to me. They respect that about me, and good manners are about respect.
GGM: When you’re not making reality TV, do you find yourself watching it?
Countess LuAnn: I was actually at America’s Got Talent last night! I went to the live show which was a great experience. I do tune into reality. I watch shows like that. I’ll flip through some of the housewives shows and cooking shows, lifestyle shows.
GGM: Do you have a few favorite shows that aren’t reality?
GGM: Have you seen any good movies recently?
Countess LuAnn: The Woody Allen movie, Fading Gigolo!
GGM: Who are some of your favorite style icons you look at and think “they’ve got it”?
Countess LuAnn: Diane von Furstenberg. And celebrity-wise, I love Cate Blanchett. She’s always so elegant and so put-together. A classic lady!
GGM: I hear you’re re-releasing “Money Can’t Buy You Class.”
Countess LuAnn: I just see that song with a new and upcoming artist. I would like somebody to do some verses, rework the song, and re-release it. I mean, I passed by a place and some girls saw me, and they started singing “Money Can’t Buy You Class.” It was amazing! I was out on the street doing a little dance! I would love to get it out there again in a different light and make it popular with the youth because it’s really filled with a lot of great lyrics they can use every day. I hear a lot of [sings] “Elegance is learned” [laughs].
GGM: What sort of music do you listen to?
GGM: Can you name a song that you’re playing a lot recently?
GGM: Favorite restaurants in New York?
Countess LuAnn: I love Chez Josephine’s because I love my good friend Jean-Claude Baker. It’s decadent. He usually has a woman playing piano barefoot and standing up [chuckles]. It has a great atmosphere. I also love Fred’s at Barney’s.
GGM: I understand you’ve recently bought a new home in Sag Harbor. What drew you to the area?
Countess LuAnn: The water. I’ve always wanted to live near the water. I love Sag Harbor. It is charming and really beautiful. I love The American Hotel there and they have hiking and I can walk to the village from my house. I got a little boat. My son loves to fish, and my kids love it. It’s a whole different life than I lived in Bridgehampton! I always wanted to live on the water but my ex didn’t, but now I’ve finally got my wish. And I just sold my house! I’m a very happy camper right now.
GGM: You’ve done a lot of world traveling. What are some of your favorite spots internationally?
Countess LuAnn: I love Paris. I feel very comfortable there, a lot of friends there. Stadt for skiing, Paris for sightseeing, and Rome! Rome is just magic. Anywhere on the Mediterranean.
GGM: You’re soon to be an empty-nester. When that happens, is there anything you’ll be looking forward to doing with the spare time?
Countess LuAnn: Traveling. But my kids are looking at schools around the area. My daughter comes home every weekend which is really nice. I don’t think my son’s gonna go too far either. I don’t feel threatened by the fact they’re going. I feel happy they’re on the next journey of their life.
GGM: And finally, Real Housewives is known for its large personalities but you seem very down-to-earth. What keeps you grounded?
Countess LuAnn: Having been a nurse, first and foremost. Every day I’d walk out of my work as a night nurse, seeing traumatic brain injuries. It was one of the scariest places. I felt very fortunate to have my health. I feel good that my kids are good and I’m happy and healthy. I’m getting to do what I love, work in television, and take the stress out of dressing for women. That’s really my mission. That keeps me grounded, and I grew up with six brothers and sisters [laughs] and you never really felt special because there was so many for us. I always say my family prepared me for Housewives, because I learned how to navigate a lot of personalities.
Q&A with Matt Walst
We spoke to Matt on the release date of Human to get a read on his nerves, his experience with Three...
The Mix Interview with Matt and Kim
The dynamic duo catch up with GoGoMix's Alise Shoemaker!