From Berlin to Broadway: The Countess Rules

One of the stars of "The Real Housewives of New York City" grew up a tomboy in a cow town.

It wasn’t too long ago that Countess LuAnn de Lesseps walked the hallways of Berlin High School. No one, especially Lesseps, could have ever thought a small-town girl from Berlin would become one of the most recognizable women in America. From her humble beginnings growing up in Berlin with six siblings to her busier-than-ever lifestyle now, she has managed to keep her well-mannered persona in check. If anyone knows the definition of etiquette and manners, it's Lesseps. After all, she wrote a book about it: Class with the Countess: How to Live with Elegance and Flair.“The book is about how I grew up in Connecticut and how I went from growing up in a small town to becoming a nurse, and about my journey afterward. It is a book on etiquette, about how you have to learn manners and about respect and how you treat people,” said the former LuAnn Nadeau in an exclusive interview with Berlin Patch.“It was great growing up in Berlin. I had older brothers, so I was hiking and ice skating on ponds," she said. "I was a tomboy. I played on the varsity softball team.”After high school, she went to E.C. Goodwin Tech to become a nurse.Before she went to nursing school, she was a babysitter, which led to her interest in the nursing field.“One experience leads to another. To be interested makes you interesting,” she said. “I really felt like I had a good education in Connecticut. I loved math and home economics in high school. Kids can’t even sew buttons on their coats nowadays.”In high school, she never thought about where she would end up.“I imagined I would be somewhere else but didn’t know where. When I was 15 or 16 I said there’s got to be more than this. I eventually joined a modeling competition and got involved in the Miss Connecticut Pageant," Lesseps said. "I began modeling in New York, and then discovered Europe.”She went to Europe for three weeks and stayed for three years.“I fell in love with a French aristocrat!” she exclaimed. “I write for OK magazine now, that’s from my Berlin High education. Thank you Berlin High School!”Over the years when she lived in Europe, she occasionally traveled to the Hamptons. One day, she met Joe Baron, who was working with Michael Moore on his movie, "Sicko."“Joe started talking about a show he was working on and said he was looking for a woman to fill a spot,” she said, referring to "The Real Housewives of New York."“(Being on the show) changed my life. I got to write my story about growing up in Connecticut.”“I work for the American Cancer Society now, and I raise awareness for the homeless in New York City. I work on different charities all the time,” Lesseps said.Despite all of her success, she hasn't forgotten her humble beginnings.“I was a happy kid growing up. I had a big family, great parents.”Although she seemed like the perfect kid growing up, she was keeping a dark secret that not many people knew about: her father was an alcoholic.“It was a hard time,” she recalled. “It’s not easy being a teenager first of all, then having to deal with that. But he quit drinking, he finished well. It’s not how you fall, it’s how you pick yourself up.”Lesseps has moved on from her dark past, and it seems as though she learned most of her proper etiquette and mannerisms from her mother.“My mother is amazing. She never drank in her life. She always looked fabulous. She had her hair done, her nylons and her heels on. She worked at Aetna in Hartford.”LuAnn has two children of her own. Even though they are in the spotlight once in a while due to their affiliation with the show, she makes sure they are only seen in a positive light.“It’s the challenge of every parent to raise well-mannered children,“ she said. “My kids are artists. Victoria is a painter and drawer. Noel is into filmmaking and skateboarding. He has his own skateboarding company, Fancy Fool. He’s only 14 years old!“Berlin was a great preparation for me, for my life and my family. It was a great place to grow up. Being healthy in your mind and coming from a good place is a good start,” she said.Lesseps recalls her best friends in high school, Michelle Nowak and Kim Lennehan.“I’m still in contact with some of my high school friends,” she said. A friend from high school, Ann Marie Roy Porter, helps LuAnn with her website and publicity. Right now, LuAnn is working on a number of projects, including a new song, "C’est la Vie," which premiered on the June 30 Housewives episode. She already has a single on iTunes, “Money Can’t Buy You Class.”“My inspirations for the songs were about how class is about respect, the simple gesture. Money can’t buy it, and I see people out there who are wealthy and ill-mannered. Manner has gone away, no one has manners anymore,” she said. “'C’est la vie' is about beauty, class, elegance, and confidence.”She wrote both songs herself, and released them with the help of her producer, Chris Young.You can catch LuAnn de Lesseps on "The Real Housewives of New York," which airs on Bravo weekly. Make sure to pick up a copy of her book, Class with the Countess: How to Live with Elegance and Flair!
Mel Tavares July 05, 2011 at 08:26 PM
LOVE this story!!! Everyone has one, and this one is great! Kudos to Patch for doing the interview, and thanks to LuAnn for sharing her story with all of us!
Alice July 06, 2011 at 01:06 AM
One of the most influential women in the world. Wow. I had no idea.
bobbie ann gorneault July 06, 2011 at 01:52 AM
i am a bit confused on this one.........
Joan Lucas September 07, 2012 at 03:00 AM
Berlin is not a cow town, it is a suburb of Hartford CT, mostly known for it's "Berlin Turnpike", a row a chain stores, motels, and construction companies that runs for miles. It's really a "red-necky" kind of town. I had the good fortune to move away from New Britain, a neighboring town, to Litchfield where old money lives and my ancestors were founders. Actually they were also founders of Hartford and I can trace my ancestors back to the year 700, as well as being the 38th great granddaughter of Henry I of England and many other monarches. So there "countess" you can't buy genealogy. You had to marry it LOL>
chris choinski September 07, 2012 at 12:23 PM
@joan well its nice to know your family heritage. Berlin WAS and still IS a cow town. if you knew the history of Berlin, you would know that. My grandfather and his brother had a farm up until 2004 or so, Maple Shade Farm. then you have Diamond B angus that shut down just a few years ago. Terry Halls farm on robins road. The farms on savage hill drive, spruce brook, the ones in south kensington, and so on. learn your history. and "rednecky"? do you have any idea what the term redneck means? no i didnt think so. a redneck is a blue collar worker that got a red neck from working in the fields all day. again, learn your history


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