Living With Lisa
Features Editor Andrea Towers
Photography Jim Jordan, White Cross Productions
Stylist Bruno Lima
Hair Joey Maalouf
Makeup Yoko Sakakura
Manicurist Scott King
There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that Lisa Rinna was going to be a star one day—especially Lisa Rinna’s. “Growing up, I always wanted to be an actor. I always wanted to be a performer,” says the actress with so much confidence you don’t even bother to wonder if she’s trying to make you believe something else. “You have that mindset and that kind of goal-oriented place in you, and as I went through my life, it just opened up. You never know what’s going to come.”
It’s fair to say that growing up in Medford, Oregon, a young Rinna could have never predicted she’d be the person she is today. In addition to a successful relationship and family (she’s been married to actor Harry Hamlin for over twenty years and manages the careers of their two daughters, Delilah Belle and Amelia Gray), her credits span the gamut. She’s been a published author, a Broadway performer, an entrepreneur (her QVC line, Lisa Rinna Collection, continues to be a financial success), and a red carpet host. Oh yeah, and she’s also a household name thanks to her roles in television shows like Days of Our Lives, Melrose Place, and, most notably, The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills (which she describes as her “big dysfunctional family”).
It all seems like it came easy to Rinna, who mentions the word “tenacity” when I ask what she’s learned over the years. But listen to the actress explain how she let that “goal-oriented place” become not just a dream but a vision and, well…it’s proof that hard work breeds success. “I think much like what Bethenny Frankel said—one of her first books I read was A Place of Yes; I think I’ve always operated that way without knowing it,” Rinna tells me. “And I think I’ve just always said ‘yes’ to opportunity because I always believed it would take me to the next thing, and I think that’s just always been in me.”
Still, Rinna remains surprised and even humbled by her own success, especially when it comes to the fame she’s received by being a part of Bravo’s smash-hit Housewives franchise—a show she’s been involved with since 2014. Earlier this summer, Rinna and co-star Kyle Richards surprised Glee actress (and self-proclaimed Housewives superfan) Lea Michele for her birthday during a hosting stint on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. For Michele, it was an unforgettable experience, and for Rinna, it was just as memorable. “It’s always like ‘oh my god, you watch the show, I can’t believe you even watch us!’ I’m still so star-struck by everybody and feel so grateful to have a job and do what I do that I’m always so surprised that so many different people watch the show,” admits Rinna. “And it’s so fun to find out that someone I absolutely love, someone I admire and look up to as an artist or an actor, loves the show and is a fan of us. There’s just so many wonderful fans out there who watch the show that every day … people are so involved and feel like they really know you because you’re showing them your real life or a lot of it. It’s a really positive experience.” She pauses to laugh before her next words. “Obviously, it helps when people like you as a person rather than hate you—and I’ve had both! I prefer the love to love rather than the love to hate.
With Rinna’s success reaching every corner of the entertainment industry and beyond, it’s hard to ignore the impact she’s had on young actresses and influencers. Has she seen that same kind of “reach for the stars” persistence when it comes to her daughters’ careers? Rinna approaches this question thoughtfully. She sees their drive in different ways, she tells me, elaborating that, “I can’t say that either one of them is exactly like I am, but Amelia Gray is probably the closest to me and Delilah’s more like Harry in their way that they go about things. But I think it’s different when you’re a mother. The girls are very different, and we’re all so different, and we all grew up differently.”
The difference in upbringing between Rinna and her daughters is a clear contrast, and not just because Rinna came of age in a world where social media and Instagram posts were nonexistent. When she details her memories of growing up in Oregon, her voice takes on an excited tone as she explains that she got her inspiration from things like records and movies and especially dance. “I loved the ballet and I would go see the ballet in San Francisco any chance I’d get,” Rinna recalls. “We’d go to the American Ballet Theater and I loved that.” Another source of inspiration in those heydays before the internet? Magazines. “Vogue magazines and Mademoiselle and Seventeen magazine—that’s where I got my outside look at the world really,” says Rinna. “That’s kind of all we had. I remember going to my friend’s house, and my mom’s friend used to get the National Enquirer and Star magazine. And we thought that was like, the greatest thing when we were in 7th and 8th grade. We would steal her mom’s magazines and read these salacious stories.”
Given her involvement in Real Housewives, one could say that Rinna is now the one providing the salacious stories to millions of fans and magazine readers—even though she cautions me, “don’t believe everything you read when it comes to Housewives!” Fair enough. What should I believe, then? “This group of women is a really strong, supportive, great group of women,” declares Rinna. “And no matter what we go through and the trials and traumas and tribulations, at the end of the day, this immediate cast and who I’m working with now is very supportive of one another no matter what’s going on. If somebody’s going through something, everybody reaches out. If somebody’s celebrating something, everybody reaches out. And I think that says a lot about working on a reality show working with all women.”
While Rinna has always dreamed big, her projects have never taken a backseat just because she’s made some serious waves when it comes to her accomplishments—and, like it or not, she’s not planning to slow down. “In my dreams, I’d like to host SNL or be on SNL in any capacity,” she says. “I’d like to be a rockstar. There’s a lot of things I still would like to do. And hopefully, in some iteration, I’ll get to do them. I don’t even know all the things I want to do because they keep coming to life as we go along.” Rinna pauses to collect her thoughts, but before I can jump in and add my own thoughts, she continues on fervently. “Who knows in five years what’s happening? I believe you can keep working until your last breath, if you want. That’s what I try to instill in the kids—you don’t have to do one thing. You can do many, many different things. Follow your heart and follow your dreams. I think hopefully by watching me they go, ‘Okay, sure. If my mom can do it, I can do it.’”
And if she had to do it all over again? Nothing would change. “You can’t miss any step,” Rinna says. “If I knew what I [know] now, I wouldn’t be here—that’s what I believe. You have to go through and live the life and live all the steps. So I wouldn’t change anything—it’s all good.”