Lisa Vanderpump is out to prove that life begins at 50. She stars on two reality shows, owns two madly successful restaurants with Ken, her hubby of 31 years, and, if that weren’t enough, this year the beauty cha-cha’d her way into America’s hearts on Dancing with the Stars. As our STEPHEN CHRISTOPHER finds, Lisa’s definitely not your typical reality star.
It’s no secret that luxury fashion brands would no sooner dress high-profile reality stars than, say, the ring girls of the WWE. These brands are all about preserving their image, so they carefully select the models, celebrities and the top fashion magazines they’ll lend their collections to. We know, because we’re one of those magazines.
So when our stylist went to borrow fashion for this cover shoot with Lisa Vanderpump (who happens to appear on not one, but two reality shows), the brands that are usually thrilled to lend to Genlux suddenly recoiled with trepidation. Emails suddenly stopped being returned, and worse, some publicists just flat out said no. Ouch. But to be truthful, even Genlux has been guilty of shying away from reality stars. The fact is, most of them are prone to bad behavior—especially those on the Housewives franchise. Fortunately, we found this wasn't the case with Lisa.
When I mention this blockade to Lisa over lunch at the Luxe Hotel on Rodeo Drive she looks puzzled. "My reality is certainly very different from a lot of reality people," she insists, "And also, how I conduct my life is certainly not as a trashy reality star. People who know me—even the audience—know I have a strong work ethic. I've also got a sense of humor which is imperative to carry you through this kind of hazardous terrain."
Lisa’s reality is, indeed, different. She and husband Ken Todd are bona fide business owners with two wildly successful restaurants, Villa Blanca and Sur, and a third, Pump, is on the way. Sur is the subject of a spinoff reality show, Vanderpump Rules, produced by, who else, Lisa Vanderpump. “We really showcase eight of the crazies,” she says smiling, “These kids were always interacting with each other; it isn’t like six degrees of separation—it’s more like two. This one had lived with that one, and this one is seeing that one, and this one is related to that one, and on and on. The kids seem to love the show, and it’s done really well. I’m proud of it.” To which she adds the punch line, “Don’t get me wrong, I’m not proud of their behavior.”
Today Lisa is wearing a tight-fitting size-two Miu Miu dress, white Saint Laurent pumps, and is carrying a pink Louis Vuitton handbag (her signature color) that she claims—pointing to the LV logo with a wink—sports her initials. “For my birthday I really wanted a VIP trip to the San Diego Zoo, and Ken took me. I fell in love with this absolutely delightful panda. He took a liking to me, as I did to him. It was an incredible experience.”
Anyone familiar with Lisa and Ken knows their passion for animals—especially one named Giggy, the ever-present Pomeranian who has appeared on Dancing with the Stars and Ellen, and has a Facebook page with over 14,000 followers. Sadly, Giggy has alopecia. “When we were asked if we wanted to keep him because of the disease, we said, ‘Listen you don’t send your kids back when they’re imperfect, otherwise none of us would have any.’ It affects me so deeply when I see dogs that are being put down. It breaks my heart.” The couple has struggled to find a cure, but unfortunately, they’ve been unsuccessful.
Lisa, who just turned 53, admits that it’s been an emotional year for her. There have been moments on Housewives when she’s felt “blindsided” by her cast mates, and then there are the spurious comments on the internet. “I remember the first time something was written about me on an absolutely trashy website, and I remember thinking, ‘Oh, my God!’ and bursting into tears because it was something that I hadn’t said or done. But now I’ve learned not to pay attention to what’s written. It goes with the territory. Listen, if I didn’t want this, I wouldn’t have signed up for it.”
Lisa also cha-cha'd her way into America's hearts on Dancing with the Stars. Her dance partner was heartthrob Gleb Savchenko. “There was such a strong feeling. It wasn’t so much an attraction—even though he’s flippin’ gorgeous. I feel we clung to each other for dear life because it was a new experience for both of us. It was terrifying. When you’re dancing with somebody, the physical attraction is there. I had such a strong emotional connection with him, and when we finished dancing after eight weeks of being together all day, every day, I found it was quite difficult to break away. But that was because we went through that experience—almost in isolation. I’m not sure people understand that. Dancing with the Stars is really a young man’s game. I can barely stand for eight hours, much less dance for eight, but I kept up with him.”
All of which begs the question: Was her husband of 31 years jealous? “Is he jealous? If he’s jealous, he’s done a damn good job of not showing it. Listen, if I saw me dancing with Gleb on Dancing with the Stars—virtually making out with him…all physical barriers are broken down—no way could I watch Ken do that. Oh, I’m jealous! Luckily, he doesn’t give me reason to be jealous. Listen, if he ever gave me a real reason to be jealous, I would kill him,” Lisa says laughing, “If I ever found out he was being unfaithful, I would chop his nuts off and serve them as a special at Villa Blanca.”
As if she didn’t have enough on her plate, she’s overseeing her daughter, Pandora, and her husband, Jason, who has an MBA in marketing, in the launch of LVP Sangria in two markets this December. “Sangria is so underplayed here in America. It’s a beautiful drink using fresh fruit that’s so refreshing.”
Back to the luxury fashion houses placing reality show security tags on their collections. Well, in the biggest turn of luxury-meets-reality-TV events, Karl Lagerfeld photographed Kim Kardashianfor the cover of Carine Roitfeld’s new magazine, CR. Carine, for those of you who don’t know, is the former editor of French Vogue—the pinnacle of the fashion legitimacy chain. Kim, Kanye West and Carine were also spotted hanging out together at Paris Fashion Week. Gasp. Yes folks, the luxury brands just caved.
Art Direction: Stephen Kamifuji
Photographer: Tracey Morris / TraceyMorris.com
Stylist: Amy Astar / AmyAstar.com
Makeup and Hair: Patrick Tumey / CelestineAgency.com
Manicure: Elisa Wishan / TheRexAgency.com using CHANEL
Stylist Assistant: Guido Morales Jr.
Digital Tech: Robert Morris
Photo Assistant: Christian Shenouda
Behind-the-Scenes Video: Ana Maria Manso