Lisa Rinna wants to show me her underpants. Really.
I met with Rinna, 48, and husband Harry Hamlin, 60, in Los Angeles this week as they kicked off the "Great American Try On" campaign for Depend, the absorbent briefs for incontinence, targeted at post 50s. The new "Real Fit for Men and Silhouette for Women" are less bulky and feel like real underwear, according to manufacturer Kimberly-Clark, which is giving away free samples on its website.
As part of the campaign, Depend donated $225,000 to a charity close to Rinna's heart -- Dress For Success -- which helps provide professional clothing and career guidance to women. Rinna modeled her Depend under a skin-tight dress. (National Football League players DeMarcus Ware, Clay Matthews and Wes Welker are also participating in the campaign, which is donating $150,000 on their behalf to the V Foundation, which funds cancer research.)
Rinna is not afraid to use her celebrity to empower others. And having taken on so many public challenges -- including "Dancing with the Stars," "Celebrity Apprentice," the reality show "Harry Loves Lisa," the Broadway stage and the cover of Playboy (twice!) -- it's no surprise that Rinna is stepping out to encourage others to live their lives more fully.
Married for 15 years with two daughters, Rinna spent most of her childhood in Oregon and began modeling for the Wilhemina Agency after attending the University of Oregon. In 1992, Lisa landed the part of Billie Reed on "Days of Our Lives" and four years later moved to primetime in "Melrose Place." She recently resumed her role as Billie, is selling a plus-size clothing line, "Belle Gray by Lisa Rinna," on QVC, and has co-authored a new book called "The Big, Fun, Sexy Sex Book." Rinna sat down with me to discuss her motivations, inspirations and goals.
Why put your glamorous self in the risky position as spokeswoman for Depend -- the diaper for incontinence? Didn't the ads used to show a little old gray-haired lady kneeling in a garden?
Don't you worry, I am going to change all that! I joined this campaign for two reasons. First, because I believe it's part of my job and my responsibility to empower people and help them feel good about themselves.Now, imagine that staggering numbers of Americans alone (50 million+) are burdened by shame, embarrassment and don't feel they can even leave the house.
And while the whole concept of adult diapers might provide giggles to the young'ens, it's no laughing matter and luckily, these panties... are definitely NOT our grandmother's diapers! Harry says soon they'll have rhinestones. Now, people can wear these panties and feel comfortable, confident and eager to go out into the world feeling good about themselves. That is why I did this -- because I want people to feel good about themselves. And sometimes people need others to validate that something is OK. And by trying them on myself, on the red carpet in a bodice-gripping Herve Leger no less, I'm saying to them that it's OK, it's really OK. You too can do this.
And the kicker was the charity aspect. If I would try them on, Depend offered to donate hundreds of thousands of dollars to Dress for Success. I mean, it was an obvious, if not easy, choice for me. So I'm just helping to take that old view of Depend and turn it on its head. Bye-bye gray-haired grandma!
You seem to really walk the talk and feel deeply empowered yourself. Where does that come from?
It started with my Mom. My mom is a very, very positive human being. I am so lucky to have been raised by her. My parents both have been so supportive. But I learned from my mother how to survive, how to persevere. Having had more than her share of adversity and hardship in life, she could have given up, just crawled under a rock and disappeared. But she didn't. So empowerment for me comes from the wisdom that I learn from challenging my fears... and also from my family on a daily basis, and God, yoga and meditation.
What's the legacy you want to leave your girls?
For them to love themselves. I try to empower them but what I hope is for them to find self-love and self-respect on their own. That's the only kind that matters and the only kind that no one can ever take away.
You've had a lot of success. What motivates you to constantly reinvent yourself and take on such risky challenges?
That's such a good question, because I am driven. I am driven to reinvent, I am driven to go further, to take risks that normally most people wouldn't. And I don't know where that comes from. I know I have it, I know it's there. I feel like it's just something that's within me and I can't describe it beyond that. It's part of my journey and what keeps me vibrant.
Have you ever had a transforming moment?
Yes. "Dancing with the Stars" was a transforming experience for me. Just before I did the show, I was a little bit lost. I had just had my second baby, was into my 40s and wasn't sure what to do next. And that's when things happen. I didn't know quite what I needed to do or what I wanted to do and the experience that I had on the show clarified so much for me. I mean, once you have to dance in front of 20 million people you kind of get over a few fears.
I learned not to look at those message boards, not to read what people thought online. And that was very helpful to me. The show really helped me to learn not to care so much about what others think. While I always knew that, I really learned it again. I never look at that stuff today. And I'm happy.
What's the best aspect of this stage of life?
Wisdom. All the lessons from what I've experienced. I like this stage of life, I really do. I know getting older has such negative connotations but it's inevitable, a part of life. I would really like to find a way for us to embrace it more gracefully, not fight it so much. Maybe I reinvent myself as a way to show my kids that life continues as we age and you don't just have to lie down and give up. My mom and my dad, turning 90 this year, are perfect examples. They're playing tennis, they're golfing, they're living life.
What calms you?
Yoga, a lot of yoga, a lot of yoga. Did I say yoga? I try to meditate as much as I possibly can but that's a challenging one for me. Hmmm... a good spa treatment relaxes me. Healthy eating. And I drive to classical music so I would say that classical music soothes me.
Your new book "The Big, Fun, Sexy Sex Book" coming out next month speaks to another way to feel good. Are you saying that sex is another way to feel empowered?
Yes! I'm all about empowerment, feeling good and living well. And it's not just diet and exercise that helps us to feel great and live well. Sex is really important to living a healthy life and no one seems to be talking about it. I really want to shed some light on what really should no longer be taboo, forbidden, silenced. I grew up being told not to talk about "it," not to show it, and certainly, not to do it. It's time to shake things up and help others discover how to have healthy relations and yep, feel good about themselves! Especially as we age. So the book is a real fun look at sex.
I wrote it with sex therapist Ian Kerner, who wrote the New York Times bestseller "She Comes First." He's brilliant, and while the book is not super serious, there's so much knowledge in there. We address everything -- like what to do if you've lost your sex drive, if you have physical dysfunction, if you have relationship issues -- all with information and humor.
Do you have a mantra that you live by?
Just do it. That to me is the one. My mom taught me that. I try to follow my gut, my heart, not my ego. Sometimes I fear failure but I don't let it stop me. You need to fail in order to get to the next level. And when one door closes, another one opens.
What advice would you give your younger self if you could?
I would tell me to enjoy the moment and have a real good time. I took everything way too seriously and I would counsel all young people to enjoy their lives.
Any special secret to staying married in Hollywood for 15 years?
There's no real secret. I think a lot of it has to do with luck! We met each other at the right time and we work really hard at it. It looks real pretty but it's a work in progress. Life is constantly changing so you need to constantly rebalance and you have to have faith and hope. We got lucky and we dig each other, and so far so good.
What's next? Anything you haven't done that you'd like to do?
I want to continue to inspire and encourage people to take risks and do whatever they need to do to feel good and live well. I want to age gracefully, stay positive, and enjoy my beautifully blessed life. And maybe one day, live abroad with Harry and travel with my girls to see the many wonders of the world.
(Check out the slideshow below for Lisa's red carpet style.)