Lisa Rinna: “The people who judge me? I don’t give a sh*t!”

 (ES Magazine )
(ES Magazine )

Beauty? For Lisa Rinna, the secret to beauty is simple. ‘Find out what makes you happy, and do that,’ she says sagely. We’re sitting by the pool at the Beverly Hills Hotel, beneath towering palm trees and clear blue LA skies. She sips her iced tea and looks at me through the yellowy tint of her oversized Tom Ford shades. ‘Listen,’ she drawls, ‘I don’t care how much work you have done, if you’re a f***ing miserable c**t… nothing’s gonna help you, honey!’

Rinna’s laugh is loud, uproarious and dirty. As fans of her brash, outspoken tenure on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills might expect, she is outrageously good company. Today she’s casually chic in a figure-hugging black Éterne dress, Givenchy slides, black-and-white Valentino bucket hat and the aforementioned Tom Fords, and has never been happier. At 59, she is suddenly the talk of the fashion world. In January, not long after announcing her departure from Housewives after eight years, luxury brand Kenzo got in touch to ask whether she’d like to sit front row at its Paris Fashion Week show. ‘I guess because it was covered so tremendously, people saw I was there and started asking me to come to different things,’ says Rinna, who ended up popping up everywhere from Michael Kors at New York Fashion Week to Richard Quinn’s ‘mind-blowing’ show in London.

In Copenhagen, she walked the catwalk for Rotate Birger Christensen in a black bodysuit and cheetah-print fur coat. While leaving Housewives may have cleared her schedule, after so many years on the show it’s clearly still never too far from her mind. When I ask about the secret to her longevity in showbusiness — three-plus decades, booked and busy — she replies in a voice dripping with sarcasm: ‘I guess being the biggest bully in Hollywood has helped a great deal.’ She’s referring, of course, to Kathy Hilton’s infamous hot-tempered accusation during a Housewives reunion last year. Did that line bug her? ‘No, I wouldn’t say it bugs me,’ she replies with a smirk. ‘I just think that it’s really ironic coming out of her mouth!’ She cackles. ‘Projection is a real interesting thing on that show. We all do it. Actually, I thought it was pretty funny, to be honest with you.’

Charlie Denis photographs Lisa Rinna for ES Magazine (ES Magazine)
Charlie Denis photographs Lisa Rinna for ES Magazine (ES Magazine)

The decision to leave Housewives came after a difficult year during which her mother, Lois, died aged 93. Rinna’s grief was caught on camera. Still, it wasn’t easy to quit. ‘Who wants to leave a job?’ she asks rhetorically. ‘But I think we all knew it was time. Eight years of that kind of show… What more could I have done, besides generate more memes?’ She was motivated, too, she says, by the darkness that increasingly characterises the interactions that fans have with the show. ‘I think the world itself has gotten so volatile that the response doesn’t match what we’re doing,’ she says. ‘I didn’t want to live like that. I don’t think that’s healthy. The way the fan base reacts to the show now is not how it was when I first started. I mean, we were getting death threats. Some of the most horrible things I’ve ever seen in print in my life, and it’s a reality show! It’s a stupid show! I thought: “It’s time to go.” I’m not sure how much longer that can exist in the zeitgeist, to be honest with you.’

We were getting death threats. Real Housewives is a reality show! A stupid show!

If Rinna had any lingering doubts about her decision, she believes they were answered for her by the one person whose guidance she valued the most: her mother. ‘She came to me,’ she says, leaning in. ‘It’s so wild, because half the world will believe this, half the world will say: “That’s so weird.” I was sleeping and I heard her say to me: “It’s time for you to go.” I told a psychic and she said: “Oh yeah, she’s come to me and told me that. She wants you to be happy and follow your dream, but she says it’s time for you to go.” I’ve never told anybody that, except for the psychic. I’m guided by my mom, for sure.’

When Rinna was growing up, in the ‘very small town’ of Medford, Oregon, her mother was a dedicated fan of the long-running soap opera Days of Our Lives. ‘My mom wanted to be an actor, so I think it was always in me,’ remembers Rinna. ‘It’s just not that easy up there. I was trying to figure out: how do you get from Medford to LA?’ Her first stop was Portland, where she landed a modelling gig with Nike that saw her travel to trade shows to do aerobics in workout clothes. ‘It was so weird,’ she says. ‘But it’s what got me down here.’ She arrived in Hollywood at 24, and after years of acting classes, auditions and bit parts finally landed her first major role in 1992, playing Billie Reed on her mother’s favourite show. ‘It was playing opposite the guy that me and my mom watched, Bo Brady,’ she remembers. ‘Now it wasn’t the Bo Brady that we grew up watching, it was the actor that came in and replaced him, but still it was a very big deal. In the acting world it’s not so cool to do a soap opera, but I thought I’d won the lottery.’

Charlie Denis photographs Lisa Rinna for ES Magazine (ES Magazine)
Charlie Denis photographs Lisa Rinna for ES Magazine (ES Magazine)

By then Rinna had already hit upon the signature look that would come to define her: plump lips and a short shag hairdo. The lips were the result of a silicone filler injection she’d had done when she first got to Hollywood at 24. ‘I liken it to getting a tattoo,’ she says. ‘It was an absolutely stupid spur of the moment thing with my girlfriend. The movie Beaches had come out and Barbara Hershey had her lips done with collagen. That’s how it happened.’

She first got her trademark haircut a couple of years later. ‘I was taking an acting class and I had just broken up with a boyfriend,’ she recalls. ‘Someone sitting next to me had just cut their hair off and I thought: “Oh my God, that’s the coolest thing I’ve ever seen.” I asked who cut her hair and he came to my apartment. It was just one of those moments after a break-up where you change your look, and I guess I never really went back. It just worked.’

The year 1992 turned out to be transformative for Rinna. Shortly before landing Days of Our Lives, she met Clash of the Titans star Harry Hamlin. They married five years later and have been together — and publicly besotted with each other — ever since. Their secret? ‘I think what works is we’re exact opposites, but we’re both interested in what the other does,’ she says after a long, contemplative pause. ‘He also gets a kick out of me. He’s very even-keeled, quiet, serious and constantly has to read. I think super-intelligent people have to always have stuff going on in their brain, but I don’t have that at all! Put me in front of a good old movie from the Forties and I’m happy. You’ve also gotta be really attracted to the person, because it’s so easy over time to devalue somebody. You have to find someone that you’re crazy about.’

Charlie Denis photographs Lisa Rinna for ES Magazine (ES Magazine)
Charlie Denis photographs Lisa Rinna for ES Magazine (ES Magazine)

It helps that Hamlin is the sort of man who can be relied upon in a fashion emergency. When the couple attended the Oscars in 1998, Rinna was seven months pregnant with their first daughter, Delilah Belle. ‘Gianni Versace made me this beautiful aqua-coloured dress with an amazing chain-mail top,’ Rinna remembers. ‘Well, by the time they put it on me I had grown, because I’m pregnant. All of a sudden, we can’t get the f***ing dress on. So Harry goes down to the garage, gets pliers and figures out a way to open up the chain mail. Without Harry I’m not sure we could have gotten me in the dress. He’s very handy. He’s like MacGyver, truly.’

The couple’s second daughter, Amelia Gray, followed in 2001. They’re both now models, like their mum, although unlike Kardashian matriach Kris Jenner, Rinna doesn’t take 10 per cent of her kids’ earnings. ‘I should! I do it pro bono!’ she hoots with laughter. ‘Kris Jenner is a little bit smarter than I am when it comes to that.’

Hamlin wasn’t originally keen on the idea of Rinna joining Housewives. ‘He said he would divorce me, were his exact words,’ she laughs. She soon talked him round by pitching it as a business opportunity. ‘I said to him: “Okay, I totally respect that, but take a look at Bethenny Frankel and what she’s done with her Skinnygirl brand.”’ Frankel, who also appeared on eight seasons of Housewives, sold her company, Skinnygirl Cocktails, in 2011 for a multi-million-dollar sum. ‘Harry came back to me and said: “Oh, well, I think maybe this could be an interesting idea for you.”’ She smiles victoriously.

Charlie Denis photographs Lisa Rinna for ES Magazine (ES Magazine)
Charlie Denis photographs Lisa Rinna for ES Magazine (ES Magazine)

Rinna launched her own line of beauty products, Rinna Beauty, in November 2020. Naturally enough, she started with lip kits. ‘The lips have had their own career,’ she says, ‘so finally we did something to make money off of them!’ The middle of a global pandemic may not have been the most auspicious time to launch a line of lip products. ‘Everyone had their masks on,’ recalls Rinna. ‘I thought: “We’re doomed!” Luckily we weren’t. People just took to it.’ Of course she’s a loyal customer herself. Right now she’s wearing Pink Champagne. ‘I know that sounds like, come on, you’re selling it, but it does really work well for me. I said, listen, we’re not going to make this unless I want to wear it all the time.’

Late last year she launched a second brand, Rinna Wines, which was inspired by a Housewives trip to Provence. Once again, she’s a consummate saleswoman. ‘It’s some of the best wine out there,’ she tells me sincerely. ‘A bottle of Rinna Rosé between two people and you have the best buzz. I’m very pleased with my products, to be honest with you, otherwise I wouldn’t want to sell them.’

Over the years, Rinna has gained something of a reputation for selling, as she puts it, ‘anything! Ha ha ha!’ She says she’s turned down some offers ‘that don’t make sense, or I don’t believe in it, or they’re just tacky. But not a lot!’ Most famously, in 2012 she became the spokeswoman for Depend adult diapers. She doesn’t regret it one bit — not least because they paid her $2 million for her trouble. ‘They paid me a f***ing fortune!’ she exclaims. ‘I had never made that much money in my life. Why would I say no to that? Because people will judge it? I don’t give a shit. All the trolls came around and had a heyday, and I was like: “Yeah, go for it. I just made so much money and you didn’t!”’

Rinna’s next job, however, isn’t selling anything. ‘I have two acting gigs coming, which is really exciting,’ she says. ‘I can’t tell you what they are yet because they haven’t been announced.’ In movies or television? ‘Both. Acting is where I began, so my love is always there. When you take time off, people start to only see you one way, so this is a dream come true’. Poignantly, Rinna will start work on 7 June, her mother’s birthday. ‘She’s been such a guardian angel throughout this whole process,’ she smiles, finishing her tea. ‘So to start the job on her birthday is lovely.’ Lisa Rinna is back doing what makes her happiest. What could be more beautiful than that?

(Lisa Rinna continues to build her brand Rinna Beauty and is currently launching a global expansion to make sales available worldwide)

Photographer: Charlie Denis

Stylist: Danyul Brown

Hair Stylist: Jake Gallagher at The Only Agency using Oribe

Make-Up Artist: Anthony H Nguyen The Wall Group using for KVD Beauty

Manicure: Merrick Fisher at Opus Beauty using Chanel Le Vernis

Beauty Director: Rose Beer

Photographer’s Assistants: Gustavo Soriano and Carlos Quinteros, Jr.

Stylist’s Assistant: Molly Mundy