Having dined and dished with The Real Housewives of New York City’s Carole Radziwill, Dorinda Medley and Luann de Lesseps at Michael’s in the past, I was looking forward to ‘Lunch’ with Ramona Singer in advance of tonight’s Season 9 premiere on Bravo.
She’s the only RHONYC cast member to have gone the distance, appearing as a series regular in all nine seasons of the Bravo show. “I’m the OG–the original gangster of the show,” said Ramona, who arrived ten minutes early for our noon lunch looking very ladylike in a wine-colored dress by Hobbs glammed up with a Buccellati cuff bracelet and matching earrings. “I love jewelry!” she said as she flagged down Michael’s GM Steve Millington and ordered some tea.
Lest you think Bethenny Frankel is the only one of the RHONYC sorority sisters to spin her reality-show-spawned fame (or is it infamy?) into a personal brand bonanza, think again. Ramona is a hustler (and I mean that in the very best sense of the word) who earned her stripes on Seventh Avenue after attending The Fashion Institute of Technology. I discovered we both started our careers as trainees in Macy’s executive training program which, for some unfathomable reason, is considered an elite training ground for careers in retail and fashion.
Before becoming one of Bravo’s breakout reality stars, Ramona also worked in sales for Calvin Klein and later opened her own company, RM Fashions, selling closeouts. Pre-Housewives, she and her ex-husband Mario Singer launched the True Faith jewelry collection with HSN (More on that later). She told me her fans inspired her to create her namesake wines, Ramona Pinot Grigio and Ramona Red. These days she’s a sales consultant for Rodan + Fields and their anti-aging skincare line. “I have always believed in making my own money,” she said.
I imagine having her own money came in handy when she and her then-husband Mario Singer separated and then divorced in 2015 after 23 years of marriage. “I never thought I’d ever be divorced. That’s why I waited to get married later at 37.” The couple even renewed their vows at an elaborate affair on the show’s Season 3 finale. But that’s all in the past. “I came through my divorce with flying colors. I’m in a good place.”
Ramona told me she originally signed on to do the show to gain exposure for Mario’s fledgling online retail business selling True Faith jewelry. “We sat down as a family and discussed it with Avery [the couple’s daughter],” she said. “We told her we thought it would be good for her father’s website. I asked her, ‘Don’t you like your tennis lessons and private school?’”
I asked Ramona what effect her parents’ very public split had on Avery. “Divorce is hard no matter what,” she told me. “At least Avery was at college. [At first] her grades plummeted, but she was a pillar of strength for me. My daughter is everything to me.” To prove her point, she reads me a gushing text she sent to Avery, who is currently away at school. Here’s an excerpt: ‘Do you feel my love for you? …. Without you I could have never gotten through the pain.’
Ramona told me she and her ex-husband have put whatever bad feelings they may have aside for the sake of their daughter. “We both know she comes first.”
Last season on the show, a post-divorce Ramona was back on the single scene in a big way and, at least in part, seemed a bit conciliatory toward the group and even attempted to mend some of the fractured friendships among “the ladies.” Ramona credits Shed Media producer Drew Hurckman for “the big change in my persona.” She explained: “The show isn’t scripted, but he helped me be a better Ramona.”
This season the tables are turned (even though this isn’t RHONJ!) when Ramona has an epic fall-out with Bethenny. “Never in my whole life has something like this happened. It was torturous.” Uh-oh. “We were up in the Berkshires and I spoke up and we had a big blow-up. Bethenny hurt me and I lashed back. “I wanted to hurt her.”
And then there’s Luann. Fans of the show will recall that Ramona and Bethenny both shared stories with Luann of her fiancé Tom D’Agostino’s dalliances with other women while dating “the countess.” Luann forgave Tom after one very public indiscretion and chose to wave off anything else Ramona had to say about him. “She didn’t invite me to the wedding because she said I’d bring drama, the only one bringing the drama in Tom.”
Evidently, in Season 9, Ramona uncovers more unflattering intel about Tom, but is told by Luann that if she has anything to say, to “go through Dorinda.” Undeterred, Ramona told me, “I confront Luann with other information before the wedding when we’re in the Berkshires.” What is heck is in the water up there?
Luann and Tom’s wedding takes place a few episodes into the new season (The couple actually married on Dec. 31, 2016), so whatever explosive news Ramona may have discovered it had no effect on the couple’s nuptials.
“She just wanted to get married,” said Ramona. “Tom could have been with 50 women and she wouldn’t care.” But she added, “She was married for a very long time–15 years–and single for seven. I’ve only been divorced for two years so who knows I’ll feel in a few years. All I know is that she’s happy and I’m happy she’s happy.” Got that?
Luckily, Ramona is on good terms with the rest of the cast. “Dorinda and Sonja [Morgan] get me,” she said. “With true friends, you can say anything and no matter what, it’s okay.” She knew both women before filming. “I have a lot of history with Dorinda and Sonja and I have a great bond.” Her take on Carole Radziwill: “I like Carole. She is calming to me.”
When I asked her if she thought the show positioned Bethenny as its star she told me, “The way I look at it, we’re all spokes in a wheel. No one is irreplaceable.”
So, what qualities does one need to be a successful reality show star? “You have to be spontaneous, passionate, quick-witted.” But all the media coaching in the world isn’t going to help said Ramona. “You’re either born with it or you’re not.” Case in point: former cast members Aviva Drescher and Jules Wainstein. “I like Aviva but she didn’t feel comfortable in front of the camera and she came across a little forced. Jules was so sad. It was hard for her to string two sentences together on camera.”
Tonight Ramona is hosting a party with Dorinda, Sonja and Luann at The Attic on the west side. A viewing party, I ask? “No, it’s just a party. We want to get together and have fun and talk and there will be a deejay. We’ll have the show on in the background, but the sound will be off.”
Here’s today’s rundown:
1. Desiree Gruber presiding over a table of powers gals. We spotted Rosanna Scotto, Chris Taylor, Page Six’s Emily Smith and former Victoria Secret model Frederique van der Wal.
2. Peter Brown and Michael Holtzman
3. Mickey Ateyeh and Laurie Bodor
4. Jimmy Finkelstein
5. Fred Schepisi
6. Scott Malkin (founder of Value Retail Plc and co-owner of the New York Islanders)
7. Jupiter Entertainment CEO Stephen Land
8. Donny Deutsch and Jonathan Wald. Congrats to Jon on his new position as senior vice president of programming and development for MSNBC.
11. Andrew Blauner
12. MDC Partners’ Larry Kramer, fresh off a trip to California with the tan to prove it!
14. Simon & Schusters’ Alice Mayhew and Dr. Mitch Rosenthal
15. Penske Media’s vice chair Gerry Byrne and Footwear News editorial director Michael Atmore. When I stopped by the table to say hello to the guys, we chatted about PMC’s decision to go completely digital with WWD. The daily edition ceased publication in February, with Penske producing a slick weekly magazine that had to be costing a bundle. I suspected its days were numbered from the outset. Gerry tells me readership–and advertising–are way up with the e-reader. “People love it!” he told me.
16. British Heritage Travel CEO Jack Kliger, entertaining guests with wine from his personal collection, which is housed at Michael’s. Some people just know how to live. Joining him were Janice Orefice Dehn, vp marketing, Kliger Enterprises, Stash Luczkiw, journalist and managing editor, Longitude, the Italian Monthly on World Affairs and Greg Slattery, former publisher and CRO of La Cucina Italiana US.
17. Michael Fricklas
18. LAK PR CEO Lisa Linden and Carlo Scissura, the newly minted president and CEO of the New York Building Congress, talking about tomorrow night’s 10th annual Building Congress Foundation Wine Dinner at The Pool–the former Four Seasons restaurant–and the Building Congress’ 96th Anniversary Leadership Awards on May 17 at the New York Hilton.
20. Adrienne Arnst
21. Tom DeRosa
22. Suzanne Dawson
23. Hank Ratner
24. Liz Smith of AllianceBernstein (not the columnist)
27. Ramona Singer, Amanda Long and yours truly
We’ll be off on spring break next week. See you back at Michael’s April 19!
[Diane Clehane posts reports from Michael’s restaurant every Wednesday. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.]