Jenna Lyons is not your average Housewife.
She’s partied at the White House, her clothes have been on the backs of some of the world’s most famous ladies — and she got a whole cult of women to team sequined skirts with twinset sweaters.
But five years after stepping down as the president of J. Crew, a multi-million dollar gig that took her all over the globe and saw her reign as the queen of NYC cool in the late aughts and 2010s, Lyons has just started filming the rebooted “Real Housewives of New York.” (She’s also not a housewife, but that’s never stopped Bravo before.)
Lyons has a legion of fashionable followers who were surprised by he news. In fact, even she admits to being shell-shocked by the casting announcement.
“When they asked me to join, I said, ‘Are you kidding?’ the 54-year-old told Page Six. “The me 10 years ago would have been like ‘No way!’ She would not have believed [I’m doing this].”
There were audible gasps at BravoCon when Lyons was revealed as one of the new cast members by Andy Cohen earlier this month, along creative director Sai De Silva, model Ubah Hassan, home renovation guru Erin Dana Lichy, influencer Lizzy Savetsky, fashion publicist Jessel Taank, and brand marketing professional Brynn Whitfield.
The show is getting a makeover of sorts — cleaning house and bringing in a completely new cast for the first time ever.
“At J. Crew, every day was the same. I knew what was on my calendar — and not just that, I was responsible for a company and staff, for American style,” Lyons said of her big change. “This is the time to try something different and challenging.”
So will she be flipping over a fully loaded dinner table? “Wait and see!” she joked. “No — but there will be drama. There are definitely some cast whose personalities arrive five minutes before they do.”
She admitted that her old pal Vogue editor Anna Wintour would not think highly of this move into reality TV. “She’s made it clear what she thinks of this type of show,” Lyons said. “But my work isn’t tied to fashion any more, even though I still love clothes — don’t get me wrong, you should see my closets.”
Lyons practically invented the high-low aesthetic, mixing khakis and sparkle, T-shirts and statement necklaces and, as she once wore to a Met Gala, denim jackets and satin evening skirts. You still see her influence on a certain breed of woman: the slightly cropped trouser, the trench coat draped over shoulders, the pop of neon-bright color. (She’s now making gray hair cool.)
She was Michelle Obama’s go-to fashion inspiration during her White House years, and J. Crew items worn by the First Lady would regularly sell out.
But by 2017, J. Crew’s sales were in the doldrums and, after 27 years at the company, Lyons was out.
The company revealed in its regulatory filing that she would be paid her full $1 million salary for a year following her departure from the company, plus health care.
A few months after she left J.Crew, Lyons broke up with her girlfriend Courtney Crangi; the two had been together since 2011, when Lyons came out after having been married to artist Vincent Mazeau for nine years. (The former couple have a son, Beckett, now 16, who will not be on RHONY, she said firmly.)
“I had a girlfriend, a massive job and three assistants and they all went away,” she told Elle UK in January 2021. “I didn’t control my finances or pay my bills … There may have been some collection notices.”
She sold the stunning Catskills home she shared with Crangi, for $850,000 in October 2020, but still lives in a multi-million dollar loft in Soho.
Lyons initially thought that her next role might be at a big fashion house.
“I remember when I left I was scared and all my friends and co-workers were like, ‘Don’t worry, the phone is going to ring off the hook,’ and it just didn’t,” she told Page Six in December 2020.
“I thought I’d get calls but there was nothing,” Lyons said on Friday
“And then all of a sudden I didn’t have anything on my agenda and no one was calling and no one was getting me lunch and no one was inviting me anywhere and I was like, ‘Whoa,’” she added. “It felt like the bottom dropped out. I had to really come to terms with the fact that I was not invited to anything because I was Jenna Lyons — I was invited to things because I was the president of J. Crew. It’s actually a good reckoning and a really healthy thing to go through.”
At the time, however, it sent her into a depression. She spent a year flicking through art books while sitting on her sofa.
“Now I can look back and say … I was really struggling,” Lyons said. “I was just exhausted. I went from having every minute of every day on my calendar packed, so much so that I had a bathroom built next to my office” — so she didn’t have to waste time running from her desk to a ladies’ room down the hall.
And while Lyons told The Cut last year, “I still don’t know: Am I gay, am I bi? I don’t know if it really matters,” she won’t reveal if she’s dating and said it won’t be a plot point on RHONY either: “They’re being very respectful of my personal life.”
Still, she’s making history as the first openly queer NYC Housewife.
“I was lucky to come out later in life,” Lyons said. “I’ve received nothing but support.” However, she muses that some viewers may not be ready for her.
“I know that some people aren’t going to like me, or understand me, but I’m ready for that … everyone has something to say, but I’m going to keep my eyes forward.”
She’s done TV before, of course. There was a guest spot on Lena Dunham’s hit “Girls,” as well as her own HBO show “Stylish with Jenna Lyons,” on which she took the cameras behind the scenes as she launched her business, “LoveSeen Lashes,” now available at Target and on Goop.com. She also has a furniture line with Roll & Hill.
On the day she spoke with Page Six, Lyons said she was still slightly woozy from a dentist’s appointment the day. She was born with a genetic disorder called inconsistencia pigmente, which can cause abnormalities of the skin, teeth and hair. As a kid, she said, her teeth were “shaped like cones.”
“I grew up with horrible teeth and horrible teasing . I didn’t smile — ever,” she wrote on Instagram back in August. “Today after 6 years, 13 surgeries, many photos of Julianne Moore — I got my new teeth . Sinus lifts-bone grafts-infections-removal-anesthesia-pain pills. It’s been insane …”
“I still have the bottom row to do,” she told Page Six. “My doctor said it will take about 15 months longer.”
It’s all part of the “reinvention of Jenna,” who now finds herself following in the footsteps of RHONY legends like Bethenny Frankel, Jill Zarin and Dorinda Medley.
“I watched them, they were part of New York. One time, I saw Dorinda running past my office while they were filming,” she told The Post. “But it was a very specific, Upper East Side New York that they portrayed. This new ‘Real Housewives’ is a lot more diverse.”
So far, Lyons told the “Friend of a Friend” podcast, she’s had a “wonderful” response to the RHONY news, with people “coming out of the woodwork.” She mulled over the decision with her closest friends and family, some of whom may appear on the show, she said.
“My life in the past five years has been full of things I’ve never done before, things that have scared the s–t out of me! And that’s pretty remarkable.”
And Lyons knows that she’ll forever be associated with that era of J. Crew, like it or not. “I once met Molly Ringwald and told her what a big fan I am of ‘The Breakfast Club’ and she rolled her eyes, and I get it,” she told Page Six. “I understand [J. Crew] is what people see with me.”