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Real Housewives of New York City: LuAnn De Lesseps Returning, But Missing From First Three Episodes of New Season

LuAnn de Lesseps, The Real Housewives of New York City Michael Lavine/Bravo

Where in the world is LuAnn de Lesseps?

The Countess is missing from the first three episodes of the new season of The Real Housewives of New York City.

Don't worry, kiddies—she's still a part of the show. She just hadn't signed her contract with Bravo by the time cameras started rolling on season six.

And it was no biggie to LuAnn because she insists she didn't want to return as a fulltime member of the cast. Instead, she's coming back in a recurring role.

Not that she doesn't get mixed up in the show's signature cat fighting.

VIDEO: Exclusive first look at the new season!

Bethenny, Countess Luann De Lesseps Bethenny

"How can I avoid the drama?" LuAnn tells me exclusively. "The drama is unavoidable. So yes, I'm a part of the drama—absolutely!"

Just not as much.

"The show has been a part of my life for so long," LuAnn said. "There's a special place in my heart for the show, for the women, I'm really close to the women on the show. I just made the decision to step back so I can spend more time doing my things with business and my family.

"It's a win-win for me," she continued. "I'm still on the show. I'm still very much a part of the show, but it's not a fulltime thing. It's very engulfing when you're on it. It takes up all of your mental and physical energy."

She'd rather spend more of her time on her upcoming women's apparel line Countess Collection and pursuing more acting gigs.

"I just took an improve acting class," LuAnn said. "I loved it." (Her television work has included playing a rich art collector on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit in 2011 and appearing as herself on Royal Pains.)

Being a Housewives veteran, we had to LuAnn her advice for NYC's new cast member, model Kristen Taekman. The new season premieres March 11 at 9 p.m.

"Keep your head down," she said with a laugh. "My advice really to her is just to be yourself and listen to your inner voice and listen to what is natural to you. Sometimes you get caught up and you forget about being true to yourself."

(E! Online and Bravo are both part of the NBCUniversal family.)

Real Housewives of New York City Cast, Season 5 Michael Rosenthal/Bravo

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