Since joining the cast of The Real Housewives of New York City during the show’s first season, Luann de Lesseps has cemented herself as one of the most compelling Bravolebrities. Fans seem to be drawn to Luann in part because she is so unapologetically herself. She is referred to as the Countess, even though she and the French aristocrat Count Alexandre de Lesseps have been divorced for over a decade. Luann shimmies and shines during her popular cabaret performances, wearing gorgeous gowns designed by Jovani, sometimes paired with opera gloves. She is able to effortlessly exude confidence, despite having gone through very public difficulties over the past few years.
As fans are aware, Luann has been open and vulnerable about her struggles. She is currently writing a memoir with the intention of reclaiming her narrative, specifically regarding the events surrounding her arrest in May of 2018.
Regardless of the scrutiny from the media, Luann has stood with her head held high, appearing to have found solace in the spotlight of the cabaret’s stage. For the next few months, Luann will continue her national tour, offering fans an incredible night of entertainment. The tour’s next stop is Wellmont Theater in Montclair, New Jersey, on November 30.
I spoke to Luann about her love of performing, her new book, and the future of Housewives before she took part in the first-ever BravoCon in New York City.
Nicole Moore: I know you’re headed off to BravoCon so I just have a few quick questions for you.
Luann de Lesseps: Sure.
NM: First off, what initially drew you to cabaret?
LdL: I love variety shows. I grew up watching Carol Burnett and a friend of mine said to me one day, ‘Luann you love to sing for your friends, you love to tell jokes, and you love being a hostess… you’re a cabaret star!’ And he said, ‘You got to meet my friend Ben Rimalower, who is my director.’ That’s how it got started. We started writing a show and then I said I want it to be ‘Countess and friends.’ At first I was a little gun shy, so I thought I would have some guests. This is how I started it. Then slowly I started to get rid of guests and I just have two now. I have a comedian and a singer while I carry the show mostly myself so. It’s almost been two years and it’s still going strong and I couldn’t be more thrilled.
NM: In a previous interview, you mentioned that cabaret has given you your spark during a rather difficult time. In what ways has performing changed your life?
LdL: Being on stage and feeling the love and the support from the fans has been really amazing. I know you when I get off the stage, I’m back to regular life. I love being on stage. I love entertaining and I’m good at it. I just feel like I’ve found my calling. I could do this until I’m 85.
NM: Your fans love it. I would also love to see one of your performances as well. Has there been anything unexpected that has happened during one of your performances?
LdL: Unexpected? Well, fans rush the stage, they come and when I start singing ‘Money Can’t Buy You Class’ live, they go bananas. They start dancing and they know all the lyrics. I stop singing and the audience sings to me. It’s just incredible. One time I had a girl grab my leg and I almost fell off the stage. That was a close one.
NM: Oh my! Where do you find inspiration for your glamorous cabaret looks?
LdL: Well I know what I like. I’ve got a good sense of style and Jovani just has the most incredible showroom and so I literally put a dress on and walk out. They don’t have to alter it. So I just found the right fit for me. They have so many beautiful things that I get from this gorgeous showroom to pick from so why fix it if it’s not broken?
NM: Right, exactly. What is your favorite number to perform?
LdL: I actually loved doing ‘Fever’ and I play the bongos. So that’s one of my favorite numbers, and I’m going to bring back for my Christmas shows. I have a lot of Christmas shows coming up, so I don’t know if you have the dates but – my favorite there is ‘Santa Baby.’
NM: It’s always a classic. You’ve mentioned before that you would like to host a late-night show, similar to the great Carol Burnett. Is that something you’re still interested in?
LdL: Well listen I’m doing on stage what I love to do so I mean late night – maybe hosting a talk show would be cool. They need another woman in late night.
NM: Oh, they definitely do.
LdL: There are no women in late night right? So don’t you think ‘Countess and Friends’ would be the perfect late-night show?
NM: It would – it really would. So the line ‘Life is a Cabaret’ from the movie ‘Cabaret’ has become somewhat of your mantra. What does that quote mean to you exactly?
LdL: It means that life’s full of twists and turns, and you just never know one day from the next, so you might as well enjoy it and live and come to the cabaret. That’s what it means.
NM: What came about your decision to include your diary entries during your sets?
LdL: I like to tell stories. I like to tell jokes. I actually read from my diary, which are stories about my past. I think a lot of people don’t know a lot of things about me and so I share stories about my past, stories about my upbringing, stories about ‘Housewives’ and trips and that we take, that people know because they feel like they’ve been on that trip with us. So it’s just kind of a trip down memory lane.
NM: How do your cast members feel about your performances?
LdL: Oh they’re very supportive. They are happy for me. And they know that I found what I love to do. They are supportive, they’re happy for me, and they know I found my calling.
NM: That’s good. You hold rather open Q&A sessions after your performances. Is there anything you regret saying?
LdL: Uh in the Q&As? Oh I don’t know I can’t think of anything really.
NM: Okay. You’re headed off to BravoCon. What is your favorite aspect of interacting with fans in a convention setting?
LdL: Well this is the first BravoCon so I’m not even quite sure what to expect.
NM: That is true!
LdL: Yeah it’s the first BravoCon ever so I’m really excited to see the fans. They’ve all spent money to come to be with us. So I’m thrilled to be able to meet them and for them to be personally introduced, and we take a picture and whatever it is that they want. I’ve also got my merch set up as all Bravolebrities do, so it’ll be nice for them to connect with me.
NM: Yeah, that’s super exciting. Some fans may not be aware that you had an incredible career on Italian television. What was your most memorable experience as an Italian television icon?
LdL: Well, I got to impersonate Sharon Stone for a night because she couldn’t come from Hollywood so the Italians, it’s when Sharon’s first movie came out ‘Basic Instinct’ where she became a huge star, so they asked me to impersonate her. I put on a blond wig and did the Italian version of the Emmys. I got to meet Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, and Pavarotti, so that was a very special night. And from that moment on, after I did my impersonation of Sharon Stone, [Silvio] Berlusconi, who was then the top of Italian television before eventually becoming the prime minister, put me on a show as a co-host on soccer. So I became a huge star on Italian television from this appearance, which I’ll never forget.
NM: That sounds amazing. So you’ve been writing a book detailing some very personal experiences. How has that process been for you so far?
LdL: It’s really difficult. I’m not somebody who dwells in the past. I like to move on, but I went through a really, really horrible tragic time in my life that I’ve gotten through to the other side. It’s hard to go back and relive all of what happened to me. It’s challenging, but at the same time therapeutic. I think when I have it in book form, I’m going to be happy that I did it. I think people don’t know what happened to me that night. It’s been a journey. I think that people might be inspired to know that you can be knocked to your knees and you can get up and just do the next best thing. That’s what I tried to do. I had a lot of faith and courage to get on stage after what happened not only to perform in front of a live audience but film for a television show, so no pressure.
NM: I’m looking forward to reading it. It sounds like it will be amazing.
LdL: Yeah well, thank you. I’m in the process and there’s a lot of things that have gone down that people don’t know, and I want them to know about that night, including that the police officer that arrested me is in jail.
NM: Oh my. It’s good to hear your narrative of that.
LdL: Exactly, of what happened.
NM: Just back to the New York Housewives news…
NM: The news of Bethenny Frankel’s departure came as somewhat of a shock to fans. How has the show changed without her presence?
LdL: The show is better than ever. Listen before Bethenny came around I was friends with Ramona [Singer], Dorinda [Medley], Sonja [Morgan], I’ve known them for years and I think that’s why ‘New York’ is so special that we have real friendships, and it’s not ‘oh hello here’s a new housewife.’ No, we have a special bond. I forgot to say Tinsley [Mortimer] who I’ve known for years as well. We have a special bond. Now we have a new housewife. There’s plenty of drama and lots of fun, and so the show is just fine and just as exciting as it’s always been.
NM: Yes there’s definitely a reason why it’s among everyone’s favorite ‘Housewives’ shows.
LdL: Oh and it will continue to be, we have a great season coming up and I’m excited.
NM: I’m excited too. Are there any former cast members you still keep in touch with?
LdL: Yeah, I’m with Jill a lot. I actually brought Jill along this season so you get to see Jill Zarin, and I keep in touch with Jill and Kelly [Bensimon]. Aviva [Drescher] even came to my show, so yeah.
NM: So one final question, which you’ve answered actually – what can fans expect from the upcoming season of ‘Real Housewives of New York City’?
LdL: Right yeah yeah. There’s a lot going on, we all have very busy lives so we follow that journey and there’s a lot of personalities, so there’s always drama in water cooler form.
NM: Thank you so much it’s been great interviewing with you and I hope you have a great day at BravoCon.
LdL: Thank you so much Nicole.