Lyons, 55, was arguably the most famous member of the new RHONY cast before filming began, but she still seemed like an odd choice to join the franchise. She made a name for herself in the 2010s as the creative director of J.Crew, and on more than one occasion, she dressed former first lady Michelle Obama. These are the kinds of bona fides that land a person in Vogue rather than a Housewives cast, but Lyons quickly became a fan favorite.
“I don’t know if I understand it any better,” she exclusively tells Us Weekly of the Housewives’ vocal viewership, “but I do find the passion and the loyalty from the fans really incredible. It makes the process more fun.”
The Real Housewives usually rewards stars who are willing to bare all — see Kyle Richards — but Lyons has thus far kept her personal life mostly off-camera. She hid an entire relationship from her castmates until it was over, then managed to keep her latest romance (with photographer Cass Bird) completely out of the spotlight. Fans sometimes revolt when Housewives are this tight-lipped, but in Lyons’ case, her “less is more” strategy has only made her a bigger subject of interest.
Lyons, for her part, says she’s “100 percent” surprised by her new status as a certified reality star. “After my first couple of days filming with big personalities like Ubah [Hassan] and Brynn [Whitfield], I didn’t think anyone would even remember my name,” she tells Us. “Let alone fangirl and fanboy on the street.”
Asked to explain why she thinks viewers have responded to her so well, Lyons says simply, “Because I’m cute.”
Her unwillingness to play the game extended to her first reunion, which she attended in — gasp! — jeans. “I have a deep appreciation for opposites, and there was not a world where I was going to wear a full-length sequin gown,” she explains to Us. “The filming felt like a giant therapy session. There were a lot of things that needed to be said, and everyone got their chance to vent. It was very cathartic.”
While some of her costars felt she wasn’t always showing her true self, Lyons hints that she was, especially after a producer offered her some helpful advice. “Just be yourself,” she recalls being told early in the season. “The audience will see right through it if you’re not.”
For more with the Reality Stars of the Year, pick up the new issue of Us Weekly, on stands now.