Keeping up With New York's 'Real Housewives'

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The Big Apple. The five women on Bravo's "The Real Housewives of New York City" have certainly learned to make it there, which might be one of the differences that set them apart from their reality docudrama predecessors, "The Real Housewives of Orange County."

"I think the social life and going out is a lot more demanding," says LuAnn de Lesseps, a real-life countess by marriage. "It seems like in California it's more laid back, a 'barbecue, hang out at home' kind of thing."

"Certainly New York City is fast-paced," adds fellow Gotham housewife Alex McCord, who works at a Fortune 500 company. "And I don't think people choose to live here if they can't keep up."

Don't expect any East Coast-West Coast rivalry though. If anything, the New Yorkers feels a sense of sisterhood with their California counterparts.

"I think they could absolutely survive [in New York]," says de Lesseps. "You know, women are pillars of strength, and it's amazing what you can do when you set your mind to it."

The Countess knows of what she speaks. Not only does she need to uphold the social responsibilities that come with being the wife of Count Alexandre de Lesseps -- whose family built the Suez and Panama Canals in addition to gifting New York with the Statue of Liberty -- but she also works with various charities, is a mother of two and hosts a Hamptons cable TV show, "The Countess Report," in which she teaches etiquette.

Before joining the aristocracy, she was still doing rather well for herself, modeling and hosting a TV show in Milan, Italy, where she eventually met her count. And although de Lesseps enjoys the privileges that come with her title, she still thinks viewers will find her relatable.

"I'm really an American Indian from Connecticut," she reveals. "I'm not the high, almighty Countess. I'm a very personable person and I live like a lot of people do, raising children, managing a household, managing a husband, managing a social life."

Oddly enough, de Lesseps found all of this much more manageable and even more enjoyable since moving to New York a year ago.

"You're not driving all the time, especially with kids, who want to go to this friend's house and that friend's house, and pick me up at school," she says. "The City is very easy for that because they can walk places, take a taxi. They can take a car. I find it amazingly much easier than living in the suburbs. [Also] I find, you know, takeout food is amazing."

In contrast, McCord has lived in New York for 12 years and has eschewed the usual Upper East Side digs for a place in Brooklyn with her husband Simon and their two children. Like de Lesseps, the way she met her husband is a story in itself.

"We actually met online nine years ago, back when hardly anyone was doing it," McCord reveals. "We both happened to be on an international site for similar reasons. Simon, at the time, was working as a consultant and literally shuttling between Sydney, London, China and New York. And I was at a point where I had sort of already dated all the people that I knew and wanted to.

"We each had profiles up, both with very big disclaimers saying we're not looking for partners, just looking for fun. We met very quickly, no protracted correspondence. We just emailed each other and decided to meet for a drink."

After their second date, they were inseparable. In the premiere episode, viewers see just how much, as Simon and Alex get pedicures together and even shop together for clothes, one providing the other suggestions, a critical eye and support.

"Before I met Simon, I shopped by myself and I didn't really have girlfriends who shared the same taste," says McCord. "We still pinch ourselves to this day that we found each other because we were so similar and have such similar tastes. It was just something that we spontaneously started doing together. I think we had known each other for about a month and we were going out to an event that we needed new clothes for. And it just took off from there."

Joining McCord and de Lesseps as the new "Housewives" are entrepreneur Ramona Singer, socialite Jill Zarin and health food chef Bethenny Frankel, the only single woman in the bunch. Besides living in New York, all the women share an appreciation for the good life -- whether it's eating at expensive restaurants, buying designer clothes or enjoying a decadent summer outside of the city proper. Even Frankel, who sees vacationing in The Hamptons as an opportunity for her rich neighbors to display their wealth, nevertheless follows suit in order to maintain contact with her upper crust clientele.

Naturally, this sort of lifestyle has its price, but neither McCord nor de Lesseps can total up the cost.

"Yes, it is expensive and yes, salaries are higher to offset that," says the business-minded McCord. "I think that we certainly spend quite a lot of money on housing, on schooling. Car insurance, things like that are more expensive in New York, and that's just the basics. That's not getting into the shopping, the money spent attending social events. It all adds up absolutely. Do I have a full figure in my head? Not really."

Similarly, the Countess may not pay attention to the price tags, but she certainly enjoys taking part in some of the tastier indulgences.

"The only thing I ever feel guilty about is eating too much chocolate," confesses de Lesseps. "[My husband and I enjoy] good Bordeaux red wine and very good champagne. There, we tend to get a little excited. As the wife, as the honey, I don't look at the bill. That's the man's job."

"The Real Housewives of New York City" premieres on Tuesday, March 4 ET/PT on Bravo.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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