'RHONY': Luann de Lesseps on Ramona Singer Crossing Lines and the Group's Drinking (Exclusive)
By Brice Sander
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Twelve years in the game, Luann de Lesseps isn't fazed by much on The Real Housewives of New York City. That includes longtime co-star Ramona Singer's attempt to control the narrative by breaking the fourth wall and demanding cameras go down at her birthday/coming out/"I have 50 close girlfriends" party when Lu and castmates Leah McSweeney, Dorinda Medley and Elyse Slaine started grinding on one another (after Ramona herself demanded "music we can dance to," it's worth noting).
"Did she threaten to quit the show? I missed that," Luann quips over video chat to ET, admitting Ramona's antics at the party were so run of the mill that she didn't even really take notice of her co-star screaming at producers that she would walk away from RHONY if they didn’t break up the ladies' "too hot" dance party. Apparently, it's a pretty common move for Ramona, who Luann says has historically called for the crew to stop filming when she's concerned about how a moment will translate on TV.
"She was embarrassed by Leah's behavior, not that Leah was not behaving any differently than anybody else," Luann surmises, quickly pointing out that Ramona's closest pal in the group, Sonja Morgan, was doing much worse than season 12 newbie Leah, destroying property by dancing atop and cracking a mirrored table.
"Ramona, I think, judges Leah more harshly than she does Sonja," Luann says. "I think she's used to Sonja's antics and with Leah, she's always giving her motherly advice and thought her behavior was 'not classy.'"
Luann says Ramona judges Leah more harshly than the other women, taking their mother-daughter dynamic too far sometimes by chiming in on every move Leah makes. She may even cross the line in the coming weeks, sharing her concerns about Leah's mental health, as teased in a promo for upcoming episodes.
"You know, Ramona loves to weigh in on Leah way too much and you'll have to see what happens," Luann offers.
It seems Ramona's concern is often spurred by alcohol-induced decisions, like Leah's raucous behavior at the group's Rhode Island getaway that saw the Married to the Mob designer doing cartwheels in the middle of a dinner party. But Leah's not alone in getting imbibed this season; in fact, season 12 has seemed more fueled by alcohol than any other RHONY season to date.
"A lot of the women -- and I'm not naming names -- need to be more careful and more aware," Luann says of the group's alcohol intake. "I think it's time to check in with yourself. I'm not giving any advice to anybody on those terms, because that's going to fall flat coming from me."
"You know, I just take it day by day and I do the best that I can do for myself," she says. "But I feel like we could definitely reel in and on the drinking part."
Luann's relationship with drinking has been an undercurrent in the last few seasons after her December 2017 arrest for disorderly intoxication, resisting arrest, battery of an officer and making threats against a public servant. The "Money Can't Buy You Class" singer wound up serving nearly two years probation for the related charges, which included an order to abstain from alcohol and enter a treatment program.
Her probation ended at the start of season 12, giving her the freedom to drink again; but Lu took things slowly at first, not drinking at a number of group gatherings. It wasn't until weeks into shooting the season that she took a sip of vodka on camera.
"There's nothing worse than somebody saying to you, you cannot have one drink or else you're going to jail. That's a very difficult way to live," Luann admits. "I decided, if I'm going to do another season, maybe I drink, maybe I won't, and I started off drinking. … I kind of hit the reset button and I'm back in the driver's seat, so I'm doing well."
"Listen, on the show there's a lot of drinking going on -- it's about vacations and parties, so it's really hard to avoid and I don't want to make it a thing," she notes. "I don't want it to define me. I've been doing the show for 12 years, and I never had a problem with alcohol except for the famous fall in the bush. But I giggled, I was happy at the time.”
Luann is referencing her tipsy tumble into some foliage during the cast's trip to Mexico during season 9, which occurred after a full day of tequila tastings. It was the first time RHONY viewers saw Luann visibly intoxicated on camera, and she thought it would be the last.
Unfortunately for Lu, she took things a little too far while visiting Dorinda's Berkshires, Massachusetts, home this season, getting into an inebriated argument with an equally inebriated Dorinda, who for the second time in recent history referenced Luann's mugshot in an attempt to make herself out to be the "better" person.
"For her to keep bringing it up is just, it’s like sucker punching somebody," Luann says. "I suffered enough, and that she keeps bringing it up is more of a reflection about her than it is about me."
After her altercation with Dorinda, Luann got into it with Sonja, who was complaining about the day rate Luann offered her to appear as a guest in her cabaret show.
"I never want to see her in my show!" Luann exclaimed in a huff. "She's not coming into my show. She's worthless! You're worthless and you're not coming to my show! I never want to see you come to my show, you're not coming into my show. Ever."
"I learned from watching myself and I thought, oh my god," Luann shares. "I think I handled it badly and I wish I could have handled it differently and really gotten [my] point across."
"In retrospect, I could have handled it better and I'm glad to have that opportunity, though, to see myself and say, OK. That's not happening again," she adds, "and you will not see me get that plastered this season, so I'm happy to say that. That was one night I just went off the rails a little bit."
She would like a redo of the cabaret compensation conversation, though. It's something she plans to bring up at the season 12 reunion, which is set to film in-person on Aug. 5, as long as no coronavirus concerns pop up between now and then.
"My show started out very small in New York at 54 Below," she says. “I wasn't making money in the beginning, and Broadway is scale and everybody gets the same. It's, you know, 'favored nations' … [and] Sonja doesn't really come up and perform. She just comes up and says hello and basically, you know, did a little dance with me, then took off her dress.”
"So, maybe I should’ve spent more on her stripping?" she jokes. "Maybe that’s a different scale."
Another hot topic at the reunion is sure to be something that happened after the women finished filming: the pandemic. Dorinda, Leah and even Luann have been critical of how Ramona has conducted herself during quarantine, accusing her of not taking things seriously enough, avoiding wearing masks and getting angry with her in social media comments for attending social events amid the COVID-19 crisis. Ramona contracted the virus early this year.
"I did talk to her the other day and she said, 'What are they talking about? I was out, but I was careful and I had my mask on and I was socially distant,'" Luann says. "So, you know, I don't know exactly what she was up to, but let's put it this way: She was a little bit more risqué than most people were at that time, running around and South Beach, where now we have big issues."
"Ramona could have been more careful, especially [because] she has to be around us coming up soon," she adds. "So, she better be wearing a mask!"
Before the reunion, though, fans will see the women travel to Mexico for what Luann promises will be another memorable getaway.
"It was fun, a lot of drama. You're going to see me get back on a camel -- I can't tell you what happens after that," she teases. A camel famously bucked Luann off its back on season 4 of the show when the women vacationed in Morocco.
Seeing a trip on TV will surely make some viewers long for a return to the world as they knew it before lockdown orders; it already has Luann craving a getaway. RHONY would traditionally start filming a new season at the end of summer, but will likely be delayed due to the pandemic. Whenever cameras can go back up, though, Luann hopes they can flip the script on how a season traditionally goes and start with a trip, rather than end on one.
There will likely also be at least one new face for season 13, after Tinsley Mortimer exited the show midway through season 12. Fans have been flooding former Housewife Bethenny Frankel's Twitter mentions asking her to come back every week, but Luann says she doesn’t expect the Skinnygirl founder to return to RHONY. She also wouldn't be mad if she did.
"Bring it on, girlfriend!" she proclaims. "I've been dealing with Bethenny for years and I'm her go-to .... when it comes to finding someone to spar with."
For now, Luann is just focused on getting through the rest of season 12 quarantine, which includes confessional interviews she's self-shooting from home for the show. She recently wrapped a three-hour interview only to realize she never hit record! Luann's also putting the finishing touches on her refreshed cabaret show -- rebranding from "Countess and Friends" to "Marry, F, Kill" -- and plans to drop her latest dance track, "Viva La Diva," in August.
"People are always asking, what’s your skincare secret?” she says of the partnership. "So, I wanted to get together my favorite things to share so that everybody could have access to this beautiful collection of products."