She may be one of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, but Lisa Vanderpump is far from stay-at-home. The restaurateur-actress-philanthropist can now add “reality star” to her resume with her role on the premiere season of the Bravo series. I spoke to Vanderpump about having her life filmed, staying out of the drama, and, of course, her beloved Pomeranian Gigolo—“Giggy,” if you’re nasty.
TV.com: Did you have any reservations about being on a Real Housewives series?
Lisa Vanderpump: Yes, I did. Initially I wasn’t sure about it, but then we kind of had a family discussion, really thought about it. And when I knew Kyle Richards was going to do it, then I changed my mind, because I knew I was going to have fun regardless. But I’m a pretty honest person. I’m pretty open. So I thought, “Well, if they just kind of follow my life, I have nothing to hide.” Of course, I entered with trepidation, but I have to say, after going through it for four months, I have no regrets. I loved it. There were times that were difficult, of course, just like going on a trip, a road trip, with six people—you know, all together, all the time. There were kind of emotional things and especially the trip to New York and some after that you’re going to see, were pretty tough to deal with, the emotional conflict and stuff. But the whole thing? No, I have no regrets. I had a great time.
Most of the Real Housewives shows have their fair share of drama. Did you suspect that things might evolve that way, or did you hope The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills would be different?
Well, I did hope it would be different, but those kinds of things you have no control over. I’d seen the other shows, certainly, and I knew most of these women. Adrienne [Maloof] lived next door to me. Kyle, I knew. Camille [Grammer], I knew vaguely. But I just kind of didn’t know what to expect, really. I thought it would be much slower out of the starting gate, that’s for sure. I thought we’d be kind of more introductory the first season, but then there were differences of opinion and it just kicked off. So I don’t know. I guess that’s life, really.
You’re really the voice of reason on this show. How do you maintain your composure when the people around you are fighting?
I don’t think I do, but I suppose I’ve always been the mother to everybody in our life. I had my children very young and was kind of always the mother, the cook. I’m used to being the one that kind of manages the situation, really, saying, “Oh, well, hold on a second.” I think even in the second episode, when they were cooking, [Kyle] said, “I think—” and I said, “Oh, hold on a second, what are you going to say? If you could just whisper it in my ear before it comes out of your mouth to your sister.” [laughs] I guess I always stand in the middle a little bit. But I mean, if something really—I certainly would deal with it. Having big businesses, I sometimes have to step it up a little bit.
You also seem very down-to-earth. How you keep yourself grounded?
Yeah, I am very down-to-earth. I think that’s because I’ve always worked and my kids—I’ve always had a really hands-on approach. But I do see the funny side of everything, so no matter how hard I work—I think that’s what comes across in the show. I think actually the show’s pretty true to life, really. When I’ve seen it, I do see the funny side, and they just pull those bits out. But I do work hard. I have my skincare line, Epione. I have my restaurants. I write for a magazine. I’m trying to write a book, but that’s kind of on the back burner. I love writing. I write a page for Beverly Hills Lifestyle every month. So, yeah, I have a lot to do, but I don’t have a stylist. In fact, Giggy, my little dog—because he has 5,000 followers on Twitter—he was just saying, “Mistress doesn’t have a stylist. Mistress doesn’t have an assistant. Mistress doesn’t have a chef. But Mistress has me.” [laughs] I kind of do a lot of stuff myself, and I work hard, and I brought my children up. Pandora was Valedictorian. I just really believe in giving it your best shot but being down-to-earth. Why, just because I live in a bigger house, I’m no better or different than anyone else.
So do you feel like viewers are getting an accurate perception of you from the show?
Very much so. I think the production company and Bravo do an excellent job. I think really—or certainly in my case, I don’t know how the other women feel—they’ve portrayed me exactly as I am. I have the emotion. You know, I’m passionate about my children. I love to work. I’m in my house. I’m cooking. But I also always do see the funny side. My husband and I, our relationship—he doesn’t care what I say. We have a laugh. I mean, when I said that about the sex thing, that went everywhere. It was even on the news, for God’s sake. But at the end of the day, if you can’t laugh, well, what have you got?
And what about Beverly Hills? Does the series accurately reflect the city?
Well, I think it does. I think it’s pretty accurate. I mean, we all have different lives. But certainly, for instance, my house and Adrienne’s house—I mean, you don’t really see houses like that, that are so close to a city in the rest of the country, really. Beverly Hills is unique: the kind of luxury you have here, in terms of the lifestyle. Where else can you live like I do, and five minutes later you’re in the best shopping street in the world? And yet, you have a view. But as I say, I’m not the typical Beverly Hills woman, where I kind of sit around. I don’t seem typical. I don’t have my nails done and sit there in the hairdresser’s and sit around the pool. I’m like a lot of Beverly Hills real women that work. And philanthropy’s really important to me—always has been. … Villa Blanca feeds the homeless every Monday since we opened. My new wine I’m distributing gives money to Keep Memory Alive, the Lou Ruvo clinic. I’m very passionate about that. We do a lot of things. I do a lot of individual events. … You’ve got to be philanthropic as well, if you’re fortunate. And I’m as philanthropic as my businesses allow, really.
It seems like you’ve been getting mostly good press from your role on the show. But has there been anything negative or untrue that you’ve had to deal with?
I just Tweeted—because I’ve never thought of doing this before. There’s been trash, absolute trash, written about me in the [National] Enquirer, that’s come from one source that we’re kind of getting to the bottom of now. But apart from that—that was just nonsense, fabricated stuff. But all my blogs and all my Tweets—I don’t know, maybe it’s the way they’ve portrayed me—I have had every blog positive. People seem to, I think, relate to my passion as a mother. I’ve adopted one child and they found that very touching, that episode. That was a bit hard for me to talk about. I adopted him from foster care and I really had to be on the same page as him in saying, “It’s possible that maybe your birth parents will come forward.” But he’s 19 next month, and I just said, “You ready? Because we’re in a public arena and they might recognize us.” But I’m very open about it. If I cry, I cry. If I laugh, I laugh. Maybe it’s because of that, and they follow me in my work and my passions. They see my marriage—I’ve been married for 29 years. I’ve just had a very, very good reaction. Nothing negative at all, apart from these totally fabricated stories which I think they’re retracting. And I am suing over it, incidentally. [laughs] I think people shouldn’t be allowed to do that. They can’t just write whatever you want.
Well, you’ve got to be held accountable.
Yeah, and I think they should. In fact, when we went to the Anti-Defamation League dinner, they were talking about online bullying. To me, that’s very scary as well, the way that people can sit behind their computers and torture these kids and just make up stuff. To me, that’s a scary society. I think we should all be held accountable.
On a lighter note, I have to ask, how is Giggy dealing with his newfound fame?
Giggy, as I say, is a four-pound little love machine. He is overwhelmed. He writes his own blog on Bravo, which has become very popular. He sees the funny side of everything. He really gets his woofs out, and his opinions, but in a very kind of tongue-in-cheek way. He is demanded everywhere. … I kind of find it a bit insulting when I have to take him with me [to a public appearance] and they offer him twice as much money as me. So mine’s going to charity and Giggy’s offered twice as much, and I said, “No, out of principle, we’re not doing it.” [laughs] This four-pound dog, suddenly he’s a celebrity. It’s unbelievable. … I want Giggy to be a philanthropic dog as well. I want him to go to the children’s cancer wards, because Giggy doesn’t have any hair. His struggle with alopecia—that’s why he always wears coats. And I want him to go to the children’s cancer ward—they’re trying to arrange that now—and say, “Well, I don’t have hair, but look at me.” I would like him to develop into a little children’s character.