This is our family issue, and I know you’re the mother of two little girls. Tell me a little bit about your family?
I have two amazing girls; one [Thadeus] is 8 and one [Sea] is 10. I gave birth to both of them in New York City and we live between New York and the Hamptons. They go to school here, most of their activities are here. They go to school uptown, we live downtown …
Like a lot of Manhattan moms, you balance kids and a career. How?
My career is like the new, modern career — I don’t work in an office, so I have a lot of flexibility. It’s basically taking everything that comes this way and maximizing. For example, I started a magazine called Elle Accessories, and I love accessories, so I decided to create my own line, because I realized there was a huge void in the market. Here I was, telling all these women across America, “Mix it up; be a chameleon,” but really didn’t see that there were any options for these woman to do that. So I decided to create a line of jewelry that would make women, if they wanted to look like a ’70s rock star they could do that, if they wanted to be more elegant like a ’50s movie star, they could be like that. Just a line that was really my favorite pieces, but that were fun and sexy and transitional.
Any tips for other mothers who are trying to do it all?
I think one of the biggest things in order to balance work and family is to not try to balance work and family. Just wake up in the morning and go for it and have a good time. They say that you create your own memories … so if I’m creating my own memories, I don’t want to remember the bad ones. I’d rather have fun. This morning we were reading all these little Robert Frost poems to my kids, and Mr. Peabody’s Apples, that Madonna wrote.
Now you’re the newest cast member of the Real Housewives of New York. How’d that happen?
I was already in the Bravo family; I was up for
another show with Tim Gunn. Then the executive producer said, “You know what, we would really love to explore your life.” So they interviewed me and asked me to be one of the housewives. At first, I hadn’t seen the show, so this whole idea of reality TV was something that I thought was disingenuous, I didn’t think that it was really true. I decided: If I’m going to be on the show, then I’m going to be completely authentic and genuine, not watch the show, and just be myself. I wanted to show other single, working moms, that you can have it all. Having children and being single is a luxury. I don’t think of it as baggage, I think of it as the ultimate luxury.
The idea of totally being yourself, that’s really cool…
When people describe me, they always describe me as genuine. That’s exactly who I am; there’s absolutely not one disingenuous bone in my body. I’m very true to myself, to my friends. I’m nice to the doorman; I’m nice to the president. I really couldn’t care less. I react to you. If you’re nice to me; I’m nice to you.
You’re the first to say you’re not a housewife, or a socialite.
They call me a socialite. I wrote a book on American style and the ultimate American socialite is Nan Kempner. So if they’re saying I’m like Nan Kempner … thank you! I don’t have a similar lifestyle to her, but I’m flattered that people think of me in a way that I’m representing New York’s social situation. I’m lucky enough to be able to go to all these fun parties, and meet these interesting people, so that, I think, is lucky. I’m a luckyite; I’m not a socialite.
When you went on the show, did you have to prepare your daughters at all?
No. In fact, we walk down the street all the time, and I say to them, “Does the show have anything to do with us walking down the street?” No. “Does the show have anything to do with how much I love you?” No. “Does the show have anything to do with how much we love our dogs?” No. “So what’s the big deal? It’s like when mommy writes a book, does it have anything to do with Sea and Teddy?” No. “Am I doing anything that’s harmful or hurtful to myself or to others?” No. So we’re good. I have a very strong code.
The second season is just starting to air. How do you fit in?
The one thing that’s great about the show is it really portrays one of the big luxuries about living in New York: that it is a melting pot and it is all these different walks of life. It shows Ramona from Rhinebeck, and it shows LuAnn from Connecticut, and it shows Jill from Long Island, and it shows Bethenny from New York and me from outside of Chicago. I think more exciting than getting along with the friends is just exploring New York through different eyes. That’s the most evocative character on New York Housewives, New York.
How would you describe the other “wives?”
They’re Type-A, unique, dynamic individuals. That’s what New York is filled with, and that’s what makes New York so exciting. It’s ever-changing and ever-evolving.
Having your life documented in the media, what lessons do you hope your daughters learn by watching you?
I hope that they see their mom not engaging in fodder and rising above it. I’m not snarky; I don’t gossip. If I don’t like something I’m very straightforward about it: I don’t like this, please change, or, let’s move on. I’m like the non-housewife. I work, I live downtown, I’m with my kids all the time. I’m a different kind of housewife.
Right now the recession is on everyone’s minds. You write a lot about New York and Hamptons society, how do you see the recession affecting the city?
I see this recession as an amazing opportunity to do things that are important. Spend time with your kids, pick up your kids instead of having someone else pick them up. Go to the local bar and play a game of pool with your friends instead of going out to dinner. Money doesn’t bring you laughter; money doesn’t bring you love. It’s just a vehicle that helps facilitate a certain kind of lifestyle. Someone that is having a great time is having a great time whether they’re rich or poor, and I think that’s one of the great things about this time. A cartwheel doesn’t cost a dollar. And neither does a smile. There’s no price on that.
You’re raising a family in New York. What makes NYC a great place for kids to grow up?
It’s an electric, magnetic city. It’s an amazing environment for children to be raised in because you have access to the Met, the MoMA, the Guggenheim, Central Park. You have restaurants like Sweetie Pie, where you can get ice cream sandwiches for $100, and you can go on the street and get a hotdog for a dollar.
I know you travel a lot. Where are your favorite places to go with the girls?
I always say New York is where I work and the Hamptons is where I live. I love the Hamptons; I spend a lot of time there. There are obviously other places around the country that I love to be. But if you ask me what I like to do, I like to bike ride with my kids down the street. That’s what I love to do.
Even with your busy schedule, you always manage to look fabulous. Do you have any quick style tips for moms on the go?
Always have a great hair colorist. I get my hair colored at AKS. I can be in a T-shirt, I can be in a beautiful dress, but if my hair looks good and it’s clean, then it sets the tone for everything else.
Now I’ve read your favorite question to ask in interviews is: “If you could be someone else, who would it be?” So …
I’d be Peggy Guggenheim. She was married to Yves Klein and she brought all the Abstract Impressionists from Europe, during the War, to the Hamptons. I love that she was a pioneer. She had all this money and instead of being like, I’m going to be rich and go to Chanel and have 15,000 dresses made, she took all these artists, she saved their lives, and she was basically the backbone of what we call modern art today. I really like people that are out of the box. I really like people that think differently and are helpful, I find that to be really evocative.
What’s next for you?
I’m working on my different projects. What I really want to do with everything that’s been happening with Housewives is to be able to build a charity that my children will be able to take on later. That’s really the main focus for me is to create awareness and build a name so I can do something great for my kids.