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Lisa Rinna Talks Dancing with the Stars, and raising daughters with Harry Hamlin

Lisa Rinna and her trademark luscious lips burst on the Hollywood scene in 1992 when she joined the cast of Days of Our Lives – the same year she met the love of her life, actor and one of People magazine’s sexiest men alive, Harry Hamlin. But it would take five more years for Lisa and Harry to make a lasting love connection and marry. By that time Lisa was starring on Melrose Place.

Since then, Lisa has gone on to host her own talk show, work the red carpet as a TV Guide Network correspondent, and of course, wow audiences on Dancing With the Stars. Somewhere in there, she’s found time to create a line of dance-themed exercise DVDs (Lisa Rinna Dance Body Beautiful) and operate the boutique Belle Gray (with husband Harry). But both Harry and Lisa would readily agree that their best collaborations have resulted in the birth of their two daughters, Delilah Belle (born in 1998) and Amelia Gray (born in 2001).

Lisa spoke with Babble about her new book, Rinnavation: Getting Your Best Life Ever, revealing her best-kept secrets about everything from parenting and postpartum depression to how cosmetic surgery improved her life. – Mary Ann Cooper

With the kind of busy life you lead, why put the time and energy into writing a book? What’s the inspiration for it and the meaning of the title?

Well, the book really came about after Dancing With the Stars, and I felt like if I could experience that and get through that, I could do anything. So, the idea of a book came along and I thought, ‘oh great!’ At first, the publisher wanted to do a diet and fitness book because of my body transformation after the show. But as I started writing the book I was bored with that. I had so much more to say than just about diet and fitness so it morphed into renovation and renaissance and renovating your life, and then of course we threw Rinna in the title and it came out that way. It’s really about reinventing and renovating your life inside and out.

So let’s go back to the beginning. You write that your mother survived being attacked and left for dead by a serial killer and your dad had to deal with the loss of his 21-year-old daughter (from a previous marriage) from a drug and alcohol overdose.

Everything you experience becomes part of the product of what you end up being. That’s why I thought it was really important to include parts of their story in the book, because those are the two people who raised me. And I guarantee you that my strength and my drive must come from them. I became a natural survivor because of what they went though. And I learned to persevere.

So are you like your mother or your father when it comes to parenting techniques and skills?

I don’t think I’m like either one of them. Although I do catch myself saying things my mom or my dad has said. But I do think I am my own parent. I am sort of like a sponge when it comes to parenting advice. I try to keep my eyes wide open because I think you can take from everyone. There’s no book that tells you how to be a parent. So I am always looking for what looks right to me and what feels right for me. I like to improvise. My girls think I am the kookiest mother because I don’t look or act like most moms.

As you describe in your book, your parenting techniques are by trial and error. One of your success stories is the “Caught Red-Handed” exercise. What’s that about?

We went through a period when Delilah was lying a lot. I guess a lot of kids go through it, but she was lying – flat out lying and we went to the school conference and the teachers were concerned. She would say things that weren’t true so that everyone would like her. We just didn’t know how to get around it. One day it came up. Somebody said something that I knew for sure wasn’t true and I said, “you know what? When I say something that slips out of my mouth and it’s not right I put my hands in the air and say, ‘Caught red-handed!’” It worked like a charm. Because what it did was free everybody because all you had to do was put your arms up in the air and say, “Oops, caught red- handed. I lied.” I guarantee that was what changed it. Delilah no longer lies. I’m a person who is into admitting when I fail. I do this with my husband if I hurt his feelings; I’m really good at calling him and saying, “I’m sorry I shouldn’t have said that.”

Let’s talk about the girls. Do they take after you or Harry?

Both are very different. The older one, Delilah, is more like me. She’s silly and goofy and quite a character. And Amelia is much more like Harry. She’s more serious and strong – strong-willed, stubborn. We love to be together and Sunday is always family day. We make one day where it’s just us, altogether. But both are really filled with light. They’re happy and fearless for sure, and from what I understand (from speaking to their teachers in school) they have a very strong work ethic. I love hearing that. The teachers say they’re driven and even if things are difficult they don’t give up. They’re very strong in that way, which I think is great.

“I’m constantly a work in progress as a mom.” It has to be tough to keep from spoiling them. After all, they get to see and do a lot of things their peers can’t – just because you and Harry are celebrities. How do you keep them grounded?

I’m hyper sensitive about it. You just have to be diligent about it. I don’t shower them with everything they want. Yes, we do get to go to a Jonas Brothers concert or the screening of a movie and they’re aware of that. They certainly know that that is not the norm and they are so so very blessed and lucky that we get to do those things. I’m like a broken record telling them that, but that’s really all you can do. On the other hand, they’ve been around fame all their lives. Harry and I are lucky – our fans are really lovely and generous. And when people do come up to us the girls are very empathetic with them. Let’s say I didn’t want to be bothered and I would start to say, “Guys, I am with the kids, I’ll do it another time,” my girls would say, “No, no, no, mom, sign the autograph, take the picture. Do it!” They have empathy and they make sure that I sign every autograph and take every picture, which I think is lovely. I don’t know where that came from. I don’t know what I’m doing right. I knock on wood every day because they really are great kids.

You must have enrolled your girls in special mother and daughter classes, right? So what did you learn from that experience?

Your kids will be fine whether they take those special classes or not. That’s what I’ve learned. I get something out of everything I go through. There are plenty of things that don’t work that teach us more than the things that do work. I’m constantly a work in progress as a mom and I’m constantly learning. You have to go through it, though, and you need to come to a point where you say none of this matters. The one thing I know is that there is no such thing as the perfect mother. So stop feeling guilty.

Many people will be surprised to learn you suffered from severe postpartum depression after you had Delilah and controlled a second bout of depression with medication after you had Amelia. Why write about that in your book? “Breast implants were the icing on the cake.”

I felt like if I was going to write a book I wanted to help people and I just wanted to be honest about why I am who I am and how I got here. And so that’s a big part of it. That was a huge thing that happened to me. It rocked my world; it turned me inside out. At the time I had horrible visions of knives, guns and death. I was afraid I might kill my family or myself. Having gone through this, I thought if I shared this and it helped somebody and it somehow gave them comfort or “relatability” then it would be worth it. At the time it was happening, I kept it under wraps because I thought I’d wake up the next day and it would be all gone. Then 15 months go by and you wake up and say, “Oh my gosh, it’s been 15 months!” Harry was supportive, but he was also very concerned and really didn’t know what I was going through because I didn’t share as much with him as I should have. Now I know it’s completely chemical. It’s all hormonal and it’s okay to ask for help. I had medication after my second daughter and it made a huge positive difference for me. I went through it before Brooke Shields and so when her story broke I burst into tears. She was so brave and when her story came out I thought, “Oh my gosh, I m not crazy!”

With two little girls there’s always something you need to do for them – help with homework or a school project, drive them to games or dance lessons. How do you keep romance alive?

It’s quality, not quantity, I can tell you that. It takes effort. Harry and I know that if we need to take that time, we do. And we do whatever we need to do to create that spark. We’ve been married seventeen years and let’s face it; it doesn’t just turn on as quickly all the time as it once did. But when you’re tired and you’re working, you have to make an effort and you have to do something to ignite the spark. You’ve got to be creative.

One of the ways you lit the flame was to have breast implants. Did that really make a difference for you?

Breast implants were the icing on the cake for me. I had already been to a “sex education party” and taken an “S Factor” strip class, which really got me back in touch with my own sexuality and my body. Yet, having had two babies, I didn’t feel like a woman because of my breasts. I didn’t feel sexy. To me, the breasts have so much to do with our femininity. Some may disagree, but for me it is a connection to my sexuality. So it was the cherry on top of the sundae. Harry didn’t think I needed to do it. But it was more about how I felt about myself. Because truly if I don’t feel good about myself, it’s going to impede my having sex or even being happy and feeling good about myself out in the world. Little things like that can affect you. And I knew within myself that this was something that was going to help me and I was right.

If a woman can’t afford implants, what else can they do to recharge their sex lives?

Women can take time for themselves. They can put themselves first. It doesn’t take any money; it takes a mindset. They can take care of themselves. They can mother themselves. They can nanny themselves. I think that most women put everyone else first. I got a really beautiful message from a friend of mine yesterday who said she really didn’t take any time for herself. She said, “I need to do that because that will reinvent my life. I’m a single mom – I doing this, I’m doing that. I have had three really horrific years and I haven’t done anything for myself in five years. And I’m now going to do that and I know my life is going to change dramatically.” If my book inspired her to do that, what a blessing!

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