Inside Luann de Lesseps' Rocky Year in Love and Life

RHONY star has been having a tough time over the past year and will miss the latest reunion while she's in rehab: a look at her roller-coaster journey

By Natalie Finn Jul 16, 2018 10:15 PMTags

This has not been Luann de Lesseps' year just yet.

It only being July, there's plenty of time for a turnaround to build on what seemed to be a happy spring, but the Real Housewives of New York City star still has some personal issues to work on, first and foremost being her health.

The Bravo star returned to rehab over the weekend, seven months after an embarrassing arrest in Palm Beach prompted her to seek treatment for alcohol abuse. In turn, she'll miss taping the RHONY reunion episodes on Tuesday.

"Bravo supports Luann's decision to focus on her health," the network said in a statement Monday. "She is part of the Bravo family and we continue to stand by her as she copes with this challenging situation. At this time, we hope everyone will respect her privacy."

Real Housewives Casting Shakeups: Who's In and Out!

"This is for the best," a source tells E! News. "If she had done the reunion tomorrow it would have been horrible."

The decision to check back into rehab came just days after de Lesseps was sued by her ex-husband, Count Alexandre de Lesseps, and their children, Noel and Victoria de Lesseps, for money-related reasons.

Ben Rimalower, director of her #CountessAndFriends cabaret show, tells E! News, "Luann is not the first to struggle with these issues. I'm in sober recovery myself, and these are difficult challenges she's facing, but this is part of life. She doesn't need to be ashamed or depressed about this. Anyone that begins the difficult process of introspection and change should be commended."

Charles Sykes/Bravo

Those close to her are hoping for the best. De Lesseps spent three weeks in rehab to kick off 2018 following her bust on Dec. 24 for disorderly intoxication at a Palm Beach, Fla., hotel and laying hands on the cop who responded to a call from security about someone trespassing in another guest's room. A court date was set for July 25, during which she's expected to plead to a lesser charge.

And lately she's been focused on her hit live show, in which she's returned to her love of singing and wowing a room.

"I can't avoid the whole story of what happened to me in Palm Beach," de Lesseps told the New York Times in February about what she planned to touch upon on stage. "I'm trying to keep it light while also taking it seriously."

She continued, "That I get to come back and have something creative to sink my teeth into has been really helpful for me, because it's been a rocky road, the past two years."

"It was really surprising," Andy Cohen told Page Six in May, referring to her arrest. "We've all known [Luann] for 10 years...[but] it's amazing to see her on the show come back from rehab, and she really is a new person and I'm very excited about her kind of getting a new lease on life."

The Official Ranking of All the Real Housewives Fights

The past week has been decidedly rocky, but so has the entire past year. It was only last August that she and Tom D'Agostino Jr. announced they were divorcing, putting an end to seven months of ill-advised marriage that most of de Lesseps' friends suspected wouldn't end well.

"I fell in love, got married quickly and am very sad that two people in love are not together," D'Agostino told E! News last September. "The publicized reasons for the divorce make for a great reality-TV story line. I wish Luann much happiness and love." He was referring, of course, to rumors of infidelity.

Luann has since admitted that her excessive drinking was an attempt to self-medicate after the trauma she experienced from her second marriage crashing and burning so quickly after their New Year's Eve 2016 nuptials.

"I thought I could handle it, but let me tell you, all these emotions coming back, all these memories came back," she was seen telling Dorinda Medley about her return to Palm Beach, where she and D'Agostino got married, on the phone on RHONY. "And, you know, I'm not blaming it on that, per se, it's just that all of it together was just too much for me to handle. I'm not proud of what happened, that's for sure. I'm not proud of what I did, but I'm learning a lot about myself. I found the right place to be to take care of myself."

RHONY Stars Dish on All of Their Reunion Looks

But while there's still work to be done, seemingly everything that could happen to de Lesseps happened at once, or at least within a very short time span, after years of relative stability in the RHONY world. Was it just Luann's turn in the inevitable circle of life-going-off-the-rails for the Real Housewives

"I remain Luann de Lesseps—and for most people, The Countess," she told the New York Times, referring to the singular title that proceeded her when she was first introduced to the world on the NYC installment of Bravo's sprawling Real Housewives franchise in 2008.

When the show first premiered she was married to Count Alexandre, a French businessman with storied diplomatic ties who was on his fourth marriage. They met in Gstaad, Switzerland, at a dinner party and tied the knot in 1993, then welcomed daughter Victoria in 1994 and son Noel in 1996. 

Giovanni Rufino/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Luann was wooed into the Bravo universe after meeting Jill Zarin at a party in New York. The two became fast friends and Zarin got in touch back when the idea for the show existed as "Manhattan Moms." Luann ultimately signed on for what turned out to be RHONY because, as she wrote in her 2009 book Class With the Countess: How to Live With Elegance and Flair, she "wanted the history of the de Lesseps family to be known in the United States." Plus, she added, she wanted to draw attention to the charities she supported and let it be known that a countess doesn't just "shop, have lunch with her girlfriends, and get her nails done."

The Very Real Troubles That Have Plagued Kids of The Real Housewives Franchise

Thank goodness that was true.

In 2009, de Lesseps joined the ranks of Housewives who were single when Alexandre informed her via email that he had met somebody else and they were "serious." They had already been separated for several months, but...still.

"I was devastated," Luann told People that April. "I knew that we were kind of separating, but I was hoping that things were going to work out."

By 2010, however, she was dating another Frenchman, wine distributor Jacques Azoulay, and he took her home to Paris for Valentine's Day.

Secrets, Lies, Cheaters & Frauds: A History of Real Housewives Relationship Implosions

"We met at a party for a friend of mine who is a singer," Luann told People after their romantic trip. "The first time I saw him, I was like, 'Wow!' He's a 'wow' kind of guy. He's just lovely." She added, "I feel very lucky, I never thought I would be lucky enough to find somebody like that again in my life."

Azoulay was a fixture in Luann's life for several years, the couple at one point even discussing the possibility of having kids together, even though, as Luann said on RHONY, "Fertile Myrtle has taken a little wander into the pasture."

They broke up in 2013, with de Lessep's rep telling Us Weekly, "They are at different points in their life now and have mutually agreed it is best. Luann is upset, but it's amicable and they remain friends. Jacques has been a wonderful part of her life." 

Their split, however, brought Luann noticeably down to earth in her fellow Housewives' eyes, the mother of two seemingly less concerned with navigating life with carefully curated "panache" than with enjoying herself one day at a time. 

Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic

Then she met D'Agostino, a former flame of friend and co-star Ramona Singer, and it once again became all about nurturing her relationship with the man in her life.

Despite the red flags, Luann and Tom married in a lavish ceremony on Dec. 31, 2016, in Palm Beach.

The honeymoon period was short. Last July they had a heated argument in a New York restaurant and word got around that Luann had slapped her husband in the face.

"What couple doesn't have lovers' quarrels?" Luann told E! News at a charity event later that month. "Tom and I are very passionate and very much in love with each other and things happen. Unfortunately we are very much public people and so everybody likes to talk about it. From the Housewives to the restaurant, it's very hard to keep privacy."

After they announced their separation in August, there were rumors that both had strayed with exes. De Lesseps told Page Six, "I do not think Tom cheated on me, definitely not. God knows he's got himself in some trouble in the past, but I don't believe that continued [while we were married]." As for chatter that she and Azoulay were rekindling the old flame, she laughed it off.

"God knows I've been going through enough recently, I don't understand why this false rumor is coming at me," she added.

Azoulay, who had since moved on with Missy Hargraves, also told Page Six, "I just arrived right now in the Hamptons and I am not staying at [Luann's] house, Luann and I are very good friends, and only friends. I actually really like Tom, he's a nice guy, I regret it didn't work between them."

Stars Who Feuded With Real Housewives

Luann said in a sweeping interview with Andy Cohen a few weeks later, however, that, whatever he did or didn't do, she had grown tired of Tom's seemingly shady behavior.

"Tom went out and he called up an old girlfriend, and they met up with a group of people—and I didn't know about it," she explained last August. "I found out about it the next day in the press. So that, for me, was like the final straw. I was like, 'I can't do this anymore.'"

Luann also clarified with regard to the alleged slapping incident. 

"I didn't slap him," she insisted. "What I did was grab his face. It was in the heat of the moment, you know? I was hurt about something, so I wanted his attention. So I grabbed his face. It wasn't really a slap."

Luann also reiterated that she didn't think Tom had cheated during their marriage. "I totally believe he was faithful," she told Andy. "He's a flirty guy, he's a social guy, but I think people take that the wrong way sometimes."

She defended Tom until the last possible moment, she said, not to save face for the show, but because "during filming, I was happy, so I felt like he needed to be defended." Ultimately, "it was a bad situation that was not going to get any better. So I don't blame him, but I just think life takes care of itself in a certain way."

Charles Sykes/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Luann took off with Noel and Victoria for an extended stay in Europe after filing for divorce from Tom. But on her own, she started to drink upward of seven alcoholic beverages a day, using wine and cocktails to soothe the emotional pain. Then came that fateful trip to Palm Beach, followed by her proactive decision to get help.

"I think when you're happy, you always look better, and I'm happy that I lost weight because I stopped drinking, which is good. So I'm less puffy," she told Bravo's The Daily Dish. "I feel so much better. And I feel like when you feel good about yourself, it comes shining through. There's a big change in my life in terms of being in control, being in power, being in the driver's seat, and I feel like with the drinking, I definitely was not in the driver's seat." 

Luann also told People in April that, in addition to her divorce, she felt unresolved PTSD from a terrifying car crash in Switzerland in 1999 contributed to her drinking problem. "I thought I killed myself and my children. I never really faced that horrific accident, and through that and everything else, my emotions just crept up on me and drove me to the point of self-medicating with alcohol. People think it's just about Tom. It's not just about Tom."

Lars Niki/Getty Images

At the time she said she had sworn off alcohol. Just last week E! News confirmed that de Lesseps also had a new man in her life—or at least a new romance, with her agent Richard Super, who's also going through a divorce.

"Friends insist it's very casual right now," an insider said. 

But Luann has no choice but to put her own well-being first at the moment.

Cohen said on his SiriusXM show Monday about de Lesseps, "She's making the decision that is healthy for herself and you can do nothing but support that." 

With Luann back in rehab, her friends are saying that the RHONY star had been spiraling in the last few weeks, even before her ex and children filed that lawsuit against her (which occurred two weeks after the four of them reunited in Sag Harbor).

A source tells E! News that those close to Luann say "things have been headed this way for a little while," but they have complete confidence that she's going to be OK. She has a show scheduled for Aug. 4 and it's unclear if she'll be out of treatment in time to make it.

"Luann is not one to be told to stop working," the source said. "She is one who needs to be told to slow down and take care of herself."

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