Lisa Vanderpump: Beyond Reality

lisa_mainby Derek Jech

After freshman series “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” broke ratings for the Bravo network, Lisa Vanderpump has become a household name. While she is clearly aware of the success of the show and the notoriety that has accompanied her involvement, the modesty of Vanderpump is refreshing in an area well known for boastful egos and self-promotion. As viewers of the show can attest, getting her to talk is not a problem, but getting her to talk about herself proved more challenging.

Catching her breath as she takes time out from her morning cardio routine, Lisa sits down and speaks candidly about the path her life has taken since the show finished filming. “There hasn’t really been any downtime,” she admits. Referring to Bravo as a “machine,” she notes countless interviews, publicity engagements, and recurring segments on “Watch What Happens Live” with host Andy Cohen (whom she referred to as a “genius”) that have been keeping her busy. Never complaining, Lisa confesses that her involvement with the show continues to be incredibly demanding but unbelievably positive.

“There are definitely downsides of being a celebrity, but I’m not harping on about them because I’ve seen much more positivity,” says Lisa. “It’s quite invasive and it’s intrusive,” she continues. Yet, she seems to have embraced the fact that she has lost her anonymity. Curious fans are always excited to ask her questions, take her photo, or pet her pint-sized Pomeranian, Giggy. She lets them. “I’m certainly not going to discourage it,” she says, pointing out the fact that, “I made my business their business the day I signed up to do a reality show and entered into their living rooms.” Realizing the power behind her new fame, Lisa has began to use her platform as a way to reach a wider audience and to share with the world her personal interests and passions.

As a successful entrepreneur who has owned over 20 lucrative eateries and clubs, Lisa refers to her restaurant Villa Blanca in Beverly Hills as her “baby.” “It takes up a significant amount of my time. It’s open from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. and it’s in its first few years, it’s still teething,” says Lisa. However, regardless of the success ofLisa_Ken the restaurant, she seems to be unaffected. She humbly continues: “We’ve managed to survive the economic recession and for that I’m truly grateful. We took a risk at a time when most people were consolidating and since then it’s been thriving. However, Villa Blanca is not just a restaurant, it’s going to be a flagship. Our wines are now being sold nationally.”

Turning her wine distribution success into an opportunity to give, Lisa explains that, “I had a dear friend of mine, whose husband was diagnosed with a degenerative brain disease and I was shocked each week really, at the downward spiral and the aggression of this disease.” After learning the statistics of the disease, she was not impressed with the numbers. Lisa has decided to donate a portion of wine sales to Keep Memory Alive in order to raise awareness and resources to support research and treatment for neurocognitive disorders.

While speaking with Lisa, I myself was curious how such a busy individual manages to find a healthy balance to her life. “Who says I do?” she fires back when I press the issue. Honestly admitting that there isn’t the right balance in her life currently, Lisa says, “I’ve always had a lot of energy though. For years, my absolute focus was my husband and my children. Yet, now that they are older and they’ve left home, I feel I have an extraordinary amount of time that I hadn’t had.”

However, since then she’s filled that void with a restaurant, a reality television show, countless philanthropic events and it doesn’t look as if she’s planning to slow down anytime soon.

Impressed by her zealous approach to life, I continue to discuss with Lisa the various aspects of her personal character. A multidimensional, well-rounded woman indeed, Lisa shares some of her most celebrated personal achievements. She notes the birth of her daughter, Pandora, as the moment of her life in which everything came together at once and her life suddenly changed. “It was one of the most powerful, life changing things because I was totally unprepared and when I looked at my daughter, I thought ‘What am I going to do with her?’ because I had never even held a baby before. I had her very young but within a half an hour, I was thinking ‘Well, what would I do without her?’” says, Lisa.

Immersing herself in motherhood, Lisa’s two children became the focus of her life and she admits her life was changed dramatically. “I became 100% less selfish,” she declares, and from then on, “My life was shaped by them.” Lisa feels it’s not productive to be confrontational in life. She continues: “I think my children rarely ever heard, if ever heard an argument in my household. I know some people may find that very hard to believe but that’s just how I chose to live my life. I didn’t want my children to be brought up in a war zone. You won’t see me flipping over any tables or spouting off curse words.”

Her positive attitude towards life has been documented on the show and she claims, “It was a very accurate portrayal. It’s so important not to constantly dwell on the negative. You could walk into a party of 100 people and 99 will tell you how beautiful you look and there will be one person that says you look tired. It’s that one comment that we as humans focus on. I’ve tried diligently to not let things like that affect me,” she says. “It’s important to not take yourself so seriously. Nothing takes the wind out of your sails more than when you feel beautiful standing there in your dress from Paris, and a six-foot tall supermodel opens the door and walks in as you waddle behind her. You must be able to laugh at yourself,” jokes Lisa, who also points out the importance of humor in one’s day-to-day life. She continues: “I’m not competitive with women. There is always going to be someone better, richer, more beautiful or thinner. Just be happy with yourself. Be happy with being the best you can be.”

As our conversation draws to an end, Lisa expresses her goals for 2011. “This show has obviously given me a platform and that’s one of the reasons I did it. I have a voice now that allows me to draw attention to important issues,” she says. Her philanthropic drive hasn’t gone unnoticed. Lisa does not simply arrive at events to show her support but instead takes an invested interest in the plans that take place beforehand. She closes our conversation with this reflective statement, “Always realize that when you meet someone less fortunate, that by the grace of God that could be any one of us. That will keep you humble. That’s life, too. Have sympathy and show compassion towards people, especially when people aren’t doing so well. That’s the time when you should reach down and extend your hand to others that need it.”

photography by Machado Cicala Morassut
Stylist: Toni Ferrara / Assistant Stylists: Carla Pallares
Makeup: Pavy for Nars Cosmetics/ Hair: SienRee Du