- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Carrying yourself with assurance will go a long way, says LuAnn de Lesseps.

In her new book, Mrs. de Lesseps, a co-star of Bravo’s reality show “The Real Housewives of New York,” offers tips such as how to develop that self-confidence, how to behave at parties, which fork to use at a formal dinner and how to keep a man interested.

Mrs. de Lesseps is married to (but rumored to be separated from) French Count Alexandre de Lesseps. However, she says in her book, “Class With the Countess: How to Live With Elegance and Flair,” released last week, that one doesn’t need to be born an aristocrat to have class.

“How I came from humble roots as one of seven children living in a small town in Connecticut to my current life in New York, the Hamptons and Gstaad,” Switzerland, she writes. “is an entertaining and, I hope, inspiring story, full of crazy coincidences and a lot of luck. I want to pass on what I have learned about finding the good in any situation and how to be comfortable anywhere, anyplace, anytime.” Even though the New York housewives have been shown being a little uncivilized even unclassy to one another at times, Mrs. de Lesseps says she has “learned that people are dying to bring civility back.”

“They are tired of being treated badly, and they are tired of seeing people treated badly,” she writes. “We are constantly assaulted by offensive, coarse, selfish behavior.”

The Washington Times spoke with Mrs. de Lesseps from Los Angeles, where she was promoting her book.

Q. What prompted you to write a book about manners and class?

A. Manners? I think they never go out of style. It is important to say please and thank you and to hold the door open and not talk on your phone in an elevator.

Q. Speaking of cell phones, you devote a lot of ink to people’s misuse of technology, such as checking your e-mail while someone is trying to have an in-person conversation with you.

A. Who wants to overhear a conversation in an elevator when you can quietly text? You are subjecting people to your conversation in a public space. I miss phone booths, don’t you?

Q. Have any of your fellow housewives been guilty of being, um, declasse?

A. I think we have all been, at one time or another, not on our best behavior. I’m not going to get into who’s behaved the worst. Just because I am a countess, it doesn’t mean I am perfect.

Q. In your opinion, what does it mean to “have class”?

A. I am talking about how to feel comfortable with yourself, to put others at ease. That’s what class means.

Q. Can it be learned?

A. Absolutely. You can learn from mentors and from life experiences. The whole world is out there. Unless you get out there and see it, you don’t know what you are missing. You’ve got to be open to new experiences and new people. I learned by watching. You can learn from a good hostess, a princess, whomever. I was very unsure of myself. You can always learn. One of my favorite sayings is, “The minute you think you are ripe, you begin to rot.”

Q. Did you ever have any big faux pas during your learning experiences?

A. Lots of them. I was in the Miss Connecticut pageant. I had the biggest hair. All the other girls had pageant experience. I was thrown in by accident. I was always saying the wrong thing. I am sure I have made a million faux pas. Everyone makes mistakes. I once rolled down a hotel stairway after both of my shoe heels broke simultaneously. I wound up on my rear. Q. You write about style, such as how to build an elegant wardrobe and accessorize with flair. Who are your style icons?

A. I talk about Grace Kelly in the book, and Michelle Obama. Michelle Obama is simple. She looks self-assured. She has an aura of confidence yet is approachable and seems to make others feel comfortable. That makes her very alluring.

Q. You also write about the art of seduction, both in getting a man to fall in love with you and charming random people you meet.

A. This is important, too. Having people in your corner is always important, from a saleswoman to the man in your life to your doorman. It is important people are charmed by you.

Q. This season, you gave fellow housewife Bethenny Frankel advice about how to flirt and to dial down the assertiveness. Did she listen?

A. I think Bethenny takes bits and pieces from all of us. I think she did listen to me but thought it was old-fashioned advice. But I am old-fashioned; she doesn’t really get me. Like when I asked [in season one] that she introduce me to the limo driver as Mrs. de Lesseps. I am old-school in a fun way.

Q. Will there be another season of “Real Housewives of New York”?

A. I hope so! We just signed up to do the reunion show. That should be very interesting. We spend a lot of time together. We’re like a family that is thrown together. We fight and bicker, but at the end of the day, we are a big happy family.

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