Life Is Not a Reality Show (9 page)

BOOK: Life Is Not a Reality Show
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The important thing is to keep up the good work! Because if you do, you may get to keep that job forever—and that’s a good thing!

Big Kathy

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I wear a certain ring on my right hand all the time. I get a lot of questions about it on Twitter and Facebook because people have seen it on the show. It’s pretty hard to miss, since the diamond is ten and a half carats. I have to say, the ring is pretty spectacular—just like my mom, who owned it originally and gave it to me. They’re both kind of larger than life! I wear it all the time not just because I love it, but also because it reminds me of my mom and how much a part of me she is.

My mother (who was sometimes called Big Kathy to distinguish her from Little Kathy, my sister) had a tremendous influence on my life—on my values, my strengths, my attitudes, and my way of doing things. I’ve even picked up annoying little habits from her that I keep discovering. Ha!

Mom was a real powerhouse. She had red hair, green eyes, and was 100 percent Irish. She looked a little like the Irish actress Maureen O’Hara and a little like Elizabeth Taylor. And Mom was an Aries, which you may know is a very strong, dominant personality.

Big Kathy-isms

My mom was so funny. She had particular expressions she liked to use. When a guy she was dating called her, she’d say “Well, hellooo stranger!” using this deep, deep voice, all drawn out. My sisters and I say that to each other sometimes, just because it makes us laugh.

She had all sorts of furs, which really bothered me because for ten years I was a vegetarian. I’d tell her, “Mom, please! Don’t buy those! The poor animals are dying for your furs!”

She’d say, “Darling, if you don’t buy them, then they died for nothing!”

And she didn’t mince words with people. Once we were out in Palm Desert and Kim’s daughter Brooke had a guy friend over who had pierced nipples. When my mother was introduced to him she said, “Oh dear God, darling, how desperate for attention do you have to be?”

Even near the end of her life, after she got married for the final time, she was so funny. She called me up and said, “I was looking through Bob’s things.” Bob was her husband. “I see there are three Viagra pills missing! If that f–— thinks he’s going to be doing anything with me, I’m going to tell him he just wasted thirty dollars! Kyle, you know those pills cost ten bucks apiece, don’t you?” I laughed so hard!

Mom was
a big personality that even though she was only five foot three, people often thought she was much taller! (Some people think I’m taller than I really am too—
five three, so can I just go ahead and say five three?—and I guess that’s because I’ve inherited some of my mother’s outspokenness!)

One of the most valuable treasures my mother gave me, much more valuable than the ring, was confidence. Mom loved me and my sisters so much. She thought we walked on water. I mean, she just made us feel like there was nobody smarter, nobody more beautiful, nobody more talented anywhere. Probably to a fault! But she wanted us to have that kind of confidence growing up.

She truly lavished attention on us. She was totally focused on her kids and managed both my and Kim’s acting careers, but she always saw her real job as being the advice guru to all her girls. That was her happiness. Her ultimate goal was for us to have a good life and be the best we could be. She got married four times, but she always used to say, “It’s hard for me to be married. All I care about is my kids.” And it was true—probably to the point of annoying the hell out of all her friends and anyone around her! She wanted to be either with her kids or talking about them all the time.

And yes, I will admit that I’m a little bit too obsessed with my own kids, but, like mother like daughter.

Mom had this habit where she’d get a certain expression on her face and press her tongue to the roof of her mouth and make a sound like “tststs-ts-ts-ts-ts.” I used to watch her when she did that and I knew she was thinking something like, “Okay, we’re lost. What do I do now?”

So the other day I was driving and suddenly found myself going, “tststs-ts-ts-ts-ts.” I thought,
Where did that come from? Oh my God! I’m turning into my mom!

They Don’t Make Stars Like They Used To

When I was growing up, my mother pointed out on more than one occasion how Bette Davis “always takes her time when she speaks.” Mom always told us to speak clearly too; it was very important to her.

My mom loved the old-time, classic movie stars, like Elizabeth Taylor, Ava Gardner, and Sophia Loren. They were an inspiration to her, and she wanted them to inspire us too. We used to watch old movies together and she’d tell us all sorts of Hollywood stories. I remember listening to one about Elizabeth Taylor falling in love with Richard Burton on the set of
and leaving Eddie Fisher for him. (She wasn’t a big Marilyn Monroe fan, but she told stories about her too. I definitely knew who the Kennedys were when I was little!)

I think she liked the drama and glamour of old Hollywood; she was a drama queen herself! But she felt strongly that actresses were far more elegant in that era than in more modern times. And sexier too. Men used to fall at their feet! She considered them not only beautiful but smart, and she showed us how they carried themselves with such grace. She was big on carrying yourself like a lady! She would never let us chew gum in public because she thought it made people look tough and trashy; if she saw you with gum in your mouth she’d snap her fingers and open her hand and you’d have to spit it out!

Some years ago I saw Britney Spears do an interview with Matt Lauer on the Today Show and she was chewing gum with her mouth open the whole time. I was just floored! I thought,
Where is her mother?
I’m glad my mom exposed us to the elegance of those stars, their manners, and their way of moving and speaking, especially in an era where Madonna was writhing on the floor singing “Like a Virgin!”

I’m glad, though, because she passed on great values to us. One of the best things about her was that she wasn’t a snob in any way, shape, or form. She taught us that no one was superior to anyone else, regardless of their occupation or the square footage of their house.

That’s why I don’t mind that some of my friends have mansions so enormous you could fit my whole house into their kitchens! Ha-ha! Seriously, Lisa’s closet—Lisa Vanderpump, my castmate on
Real Housewives
—is the size of some of my friends’ apartments!

In other words, Mom made us understand that possessions don’t make anyone superior
inferior. And that’s what I try to instill in my own children, along with gratitude for all the things they’re fortunate to have.

I was fortunate to have a privileged upbringing. My mother came from a successful family in New York City; my grandfather was an attorney who worked for the city. When she met and married my father, the CEO of a retailing company, they moved into a beautiful house they’d built in Bel Air. Mom loved diamonds, cars, and furs, but she had her practical side too. She did a lot of things for herself in a town where not many people did. Most women around here had their hair, nails, and everything else done for them. Not my mom. Before a big event you wouldn’t find her at the beauty parlor all day. She would be working hard at home, cleaning. We had a housekeeper, but Mom scrubbed the house right alongside her. Then she did her own hair and nails before she went out.

I’m like that too. Of course sometimes with the show and other appearances I end up with someone else doing my hair and makeup, but I usually prefer to do those things myself whenever possible. Some people I know seem almost incapable of doing personal grooming on their own! I have friends who have literally said to me, “I haven’t washed my own hair in years,” and I’m horrified. They go to the salon three days a week to have it washed and blown out “because I just can’t do it myself! I can’t reach.” I’m thinking,
My hair is five feet long and I can do it myself and you have three strands and you can’t do your own hair? What are you talking about?

Mom’s Style Essentials

My sisters and I always joke that if our mother was a cartoon character, she’d be Cruella de Vil, only nice. She was a glamorous woman who adorned herself with furs and jewelry and loved luxurious cars. I remember leaning into her soft furs and smelling her beautiful perfume when I was a little girl. It was a wonderful sensation. These were Big Kathy’s must-have accessories:

   » Long red fingernails. I think the name of the color was Dragon Red.

   » Norell perfume. I saw it in a drugstore recently and had to buy a bottle!

   » Her huge diamond ring, of course, and big cocktail rings, including a diamond-and-ruby ring she loved.

   » Diamond chokers and pearl chokers.

   » Turquoise and silver squash blossom jewelry.

   » Furs, furs, furs! Long coats, short coats, stoles, wraps, shawls. Black, brown, white, silver, gray. Mink, fox, who knows how many poor animals she wore!

   » Cars. She loved them big and beautiful.

   » And,
, a cigarette.

Even my kids make me crazy when they say, “I need a manicure” or “I need a pedicure.” Oh come on, you’re little, if I can do my own you can. I go out and get mani-pedis sometimes, but I often do my own, especially if I’m crunched for time. The kids will say, “But we don’t know how to do manicures and pedicures!”

“Well, you better learn,” I tell them, “because you don’t know if you’re going to always be in a position to have all this stuff done for you!” I never want them to take things for granted. I try to teach them that they have to work hard for nice things—those things just don’t land in your lap.

At the same time, I don’t want my kids overly focused on possessions. At my house we could care less about trying to compete with others—which is another thing I got from my mom. She never cared about trying to impress people or overspend or pretend to be someone she wasn’t.

We were very privileged, absolutely. Mom had furs and diamonds and cars! But there were always people around us who were much wealthier or better-connected. In this town? You bet! And there were people with less money than we had. But so what? Mom taught us to appreciate what we had and feel good about ourselves no matter what. I think that’s why I am not a jealous person at all. I never feel intimidated or insecure around people who have more than me.

Actions define a person. Just like my mom, I don’t let the housekeeper slave away on her own. When I come home from grocery shopping, no way is the housekeeper unloading everything from the car by herself. I would feel incredibly guilty if I let her, mostly because it’s disrespectful. Mauricio and I know people who were billionaires at one time and now have nothing. You never know what life has in store for you.

Although I’ve mentioned several ways that I take after my mother, I don’t want you to think we always saw eye to eye. Oh no. She was a take-charge character; it was always her way or the highway. She had our best interests at heart, but I definitely fought with her when I was younger. And while I now appreciate her qualities of being outspoken and direct, I didn’t always.

She was
a straight shooter that it embarrassed me when I was little. She’d bluntly come out and tell it like it was to anyone, and at times it made me want to crawl under the table.


Until my father died from cancer a few years before my mom, we’d never had any cancer in our family. After my parents, many people in my extended family got cancer and died, so cancer is a sensitive subject with me. That’s why I was so keen to participate in a bike ride that we filmed for season 1 of
Real Housewives
to raise awareness and funds for cancer research. I was thrilled that Mauricio and I ended up as the second biggest fundraisers, second only to a huge corporation!

All the cancer in my family, and especially my mom’s death from breast cancer, has also made me very committed to taking care of myself, to doing the kind of things my mom didn’t do, like having regular mammograms. I go to the gynecologist not just annually but twice a year to have everything thoroughly checked out.

But there are other health issues I care a lot about too, things I’ve experienced firsthand. I share a bit about them here in the hopes that hearing my story might help someone going through similar issues. If I could even help one person, it would mean so much to me.

Shortly after my mom died, I began a descent into two years of hell from severe pain and other health problems. Of course I was depressed over my mother’s death, but that’s not what I’m talking about: this was real, physical pain and it was severe. In my shoulder, it was so unbearable that it made me cry. I couldn’t even move my arm. I also had pains in my legs, ringing in my ears, burning in my throat, vision changes. You name it, I had it.

I went from doctor to doctor and was tested for every disease on the planet. First they told me I had Epstein-Barr, and then arthritis, and then this and that. I don’t even remember the list of things they came up with.

In addition to the physical symptoms, I began suffering terrible anxiety. I’d get panic attacks and couldn’t breathe. I started worrying obsessively. If I had numbness and tingling in my legs, I was sure I had a brain tumor. Or Parkinson’s. Ha! Wait, Alzheimer’s! Or no, it was multiple sclerosis!

I tried to hide it from my kids, but I would wake up in the middle of the night and tell Mauricio, “I’m going to be in a wheelchair; I won’t be able to take care of the girls!” He was always supportive and tried to talk me down from my panic, and I had friends who did the same. My physical therapist would assure me, “You’ll be fine. You’re not dying!” But the pain was literally preventing me from functioning, and I was debilitated by the anxiety too. Even when they ran tests to prove I didn’t have the disease du jour, I was convinced I was dying.

BOOK: Life Is Not a Reality Show
5.67Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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