Real Housewife LuAnn on etiquette, her "fan base," and that Bethenny
We’ve already declared our deep, abiding love for Bravo’s Real Housewives of New York, so it was with great glee that I recently tracked down LuAnn de Lesseps (aka “the Countess”) on her cell phone to chat about her forthcoming etiquette tome, Class With the Countess: How to Live With Elegance and Flair. After putting me on hold for a good three minutes (oui, c’est vrai), the newly minted Miss Manners was tons of fun to talk to.
Unlike the book, which is a crazy mash-up of sound, if obvious, advice (“Don’t make others the object of your wit”) and unspeakable pretension (the proper curtsy technique for greeting a queen), LuAnn the gal can be downright self-deprecating. And she insists she’s nothing like her imperious, borderline-witchy TV persona. “They’ve caught every ‘Countess moment’ I could possibly have, you know?” Yup, we know.
Did you enjoy the book-writing process?
I’ve always wanted to write a book. And people have always asked me to do one, too, because it’s every girl’s dream to become a countess. You’ve seen it? What do you think?
Well, I have to say I’m confused as to the target audience. You’re really covering the waterfront from teen stuff and parent-teacher conferences to advice on landing a hubby.
The target is the audience for the show. It was inspired by my audience — my fan base, really. So that’s the 18 to 49 crowd. I had a lot of questions and requests: “Please write about manners for children,” “write about countesses,” “write about dating.” So I did a little bit of everything. And I wanted it to feel like my personal story at the same time.
So viewers actually ask you nitty-gritty questions about which fork to use at dinner?
No. The questions are more about how to do things appropriately — how to dress, how to deal with their kids and manners, how to deal with certain social situations. I have an “Ask the Countess” column on the Bravo website, and people write me.
But you still felt it was important to get the table etiquette in there? Because I have to say, your daughter and her friends did not seem to appreciate all that in the episode at the Hampton Classic. Your daughter was a little, “Hey Mom, back off…”
It was edited to look a certain way. It was a long lunch, we were watching the show-jumping, we were talking — they really did have a great time. But they were all excited to be on the show, and then [the cameras] got there and they just froze. And I don’t think that joke I made about “You don’t want anyone to think you have an eating disorder” worked very well. [Laughs.] Oh well, it all winds down to the editing.
You and Kelly [Killoren Bensimon, the newest castmember] seem to have hit it off.
[Laughs again. Loudly.] Poor thing, did you see the papers today? [Killoren Bensimon was charged this week for allegedly assaulting her much-younger boyfriend.] But yes, we hang out on the show more than probably the others do.
We have friends in common so we move in the same social circles. I’m the only one she really knew when she decided to do the show. I think when she’s with the other women it’s awkward. I have to do a lot of teasing to get her to loosen up a little. It’s all new to her.
This season, it’s as if all the personality quirks and neuroses have been magnified about 100 times.
I feel that’s happened with me, too. They’ve caught every “Countess Moment” I could possibly have, you know? Which I never have. Like when I ordered pizza as the Countess. I said “LuAnn de Lesseps” and he didn’t understand, so I said “Countess” for the fun of it. And you know how at the beginning of each show I say don’t feel guilty about being privileged? What I said was, “I never feel guilty about being privileged, I feel lucky.” But they just whack off the “lucky” part. Editing.
You mentioned the Bravo website earlier. Ever read the message boards?
I don’t read the blogs anymore. I just get … I take things personally. So I don’t even want to go there because I know there’s a whole Countess-bash thing going on. And Bethenny is now “the poor girl” — and she’s making more money than all of us put together with all the deals she’s doing! She cleans up because she doesn’t have a husband, she doesn’t have children. That seems to be her M.O. this season.
There’s definitely a round-robin punching bag thing going on.
There really is. It’s like, “Your turn this week!” I sit there watching and say, “What am I gonna see this week?” Once the crews have left us, I don’t know what the heck they’ll do.
Above, LuAnn with fellow Real Housewife, Killoren Bensimon.
The book is out on April 16 and available for pre-sale now; see LuAnn’s website (!), classwiththecountess.com
Photos courtesy of NBC Universal.