Lisa Rinna knows how to play the Hollywood game. The Days of Our Lives and Melrose Place actress has proven it for over 25 years as she bounces around the industry and continuously reinvents herself, most recently as a feisty reality TV star on Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.
The work hasn’t always been glamorous (Rinna is the first to admit she has a hard time turning offers down), but it doesn’t have to be. She’s be the first to tout the importance of working steady and staying in the public eye. One day she’s promoting her fashion collection’s open front duster cardigan on QVC, the next she’s competing on the short-lived Sing Your Face Off; then she’s make a cameo on CSI or guest co-hosting Live with Kelly and Ryan.
How did she get to this point? Here’s a closer look at her journey from small town girl to one of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.
Lisa Rinna "came out" a star
Lisa Rinna’s mom told her she was born to entertain. More specifically, she said Rinna "came out" of the womb as Sarah Bernhardt, a reference to the late 19th and early 20th century stage actress. "I had no choice (but) to go down this path," Rinna said to She Knows.
But it’s not that her parents were in the entertainment industry or that she grew up around it. They weren’t, and she didn’t. It’s just that Rinna — the daughter of a stay-at-home mother and art director father — was very emotional and dramatic as a child. And because her only sibling was a half-sister who didn’t live with her, she was pretty much an only child. As such, she became accustomed to getting extra levels of attention, Rinna told The Oregonian.
Her earliest roles were in school productions, including one in which she sang "I’m Just Wild About Harry" on stage. The performance has always had an added significance for her because she went from singing about a Harry to later marrying one.
Lisa Rinna was too "fabulous" for her small town
Small town living didn’t suit Lisa Rinna. She stood out during her upbringing in Medford, Oregon because of her tan skin (which comes from her Italian-Portuguese roots) and her love of fashion. "This has been a big passion of mine since I was 12 years old, and got Mademoiselle and Vogue magazines," Rinna said of fashion in an interview with The Oregonian. "I don’t think anybody else got Vogue in Medford." And why would they? Rinna claimed in an interview with The Seattle Times that her town had a Sears but no shopping mall.
Thanks to her family’s annual trips to San Francisco, Rinna was able to upgrade her wardrobe in a way that her peers couldn’t. But that also made her feel out of place. "I just belong in a big city — I didn’t belong in Medford, Oregon," Rinna shared on an episode of Real Housewives (via the Daily Mail). "I was like, ‘Why am I here? I’m more fabulous than this!’"
Lisa Rinna quit acting after getting shunned by her teachers
Not everyone was as convinced as Lisa Rinna’s mom that she would become a big star. Rinna’s freshman year acting teachers at the University of Oregon weren’t exactly fond of her and held her back, as she told The Oregonian. "Whether they had it out for me or not, they didn’t love me and wouldn’t put me in Acting 2," she said. Rather than keep plugging away, she dropped out of college after her freshman year and pursued a career in modeling.
Rinna appeared at conventions and in catalogues for the Oregon-based Nike and then modeled in San Francisco and Japan before landing in Los Angeles. It was in LA that she ended her four-year hiatus from acting and signed up for acting classes. "Things have worked out all right," she said. "I turned it around. I always seem to take some lemons and turn them into lemonade." Yeah, you could say that.
Lisa Rinna made a big change
Did a breakup help Lisa Rinna land her breakout role? She seems to think so. Rinna showed up to her second audition for Day of Our Lives — by her count, the eighth soap opera she had auditioned for — with a different look than the one she originally auditioned with.
Rinna told Oprah: Where Are They Now (via HuffPost), "I had long hair. And I had a break-up go on right between the audition and the call-back. I had this really crazy idea to cut my hair off." And cut her hair off she did, opting for the short ‘do she would become known for. "I really think that’s why I got the part. … I was feeling really full of myself and sassy!"
Rinna made her debut as Billie Reed on Days of Our Lives in 1992. Although she left the show in 1995, she returns to Salem every couple of years — still with a short hairstyle.
Lisa Rinna has Michael Bolton to thank for her marriage
Lisa Rinna is a Michael Bolton fan, but not because of his music. The balladeer unintentionally played a major role in her marriage to L.A. Law and Mad Men actor Harry Hamlin, with whom Rinna has been married for 20-plus years and shares two children. Hamlin was previously married to Desperate Housewives actress Nicollette Sheridan but, in what sounds like a soap opera storyline, she left him for Bolton — which explains Rinna’s grateful attitude toward the "When a Man Loves a Woman" singer.
Once Hamlin and Sheridan split, that opened the door for Rinna, who at the time worked at an eyeglass store owned by Hamlin’s friend. Hamlin met Rinna in 1992 as he was grieving his failed marriage, and five years later they were walking down the aisle. Rinna revealed on an episode of Real Housewives that she has run into Bolton and the interaction was as quirky as you’d expect. "I just have to thank you from the bottom of my heart," she recalled telling Bolton. "I would not have my beautiful girls. I would not have my husband." Bolton’s response? "You are so welcome."
Lisa Rinna’s had a love-hate relationship with her lips
You can’t talk about Lisa Rinna’s transformation without talking about her trademark lips. She’s become known for her plump pout, which, in case it wasn’t obvious, was surgically enhanced. "I had my lips injected with silicone," Rinna revealed to the Today show. "Stupid thing to do (at) 24."
Over the years, Rinna’s top lip became swollen due to the scar tissue that formed around the silicone. She told Today that it "got to a point where they were yucky," adding, "You know, they get hard. It’s gross." Back to the operating table she went, this time to have some of the silicone tissue removed. People reported that the 2010 surgery decreased her lip’s volume by at least 30 percent.
Think Rinna regrets having her lips injected with silicone? Think again. "I would do it again," she admitted to Today, noting, "I never had a career before I had the lips, so my lips have had their own career."
Lisa Rinna will "do anything to make a buck"
For someone so concerned about their appearance, Lisa Rinna sure left herself open for ridicule when she infamously agreed to become a spokesperson for adult diapers in 2012. Nobody is saying there’s anything wrong with wearing diapers as an adult. It’s a part of life for millions of people. But that’s not something we’re used to hearing a celeb talk about openly — let alone one known for her sex appeal.
What possessed Rinna to put herself out there like that? "I’ll do anything to make a buck. I don’t say ‘no’ very much. I say ‘yes,’" Rinna said on Real Housewives (via Bravo). "That Depends job saved our bacon. I got paid more money to do that than I got paid to do anything ever in my life. And I was just winking all the way to the bank."
Rinna claimed she wasn’t the only one who benefited financially, either. She wrote in a Bravo blog that her contract stated $250,000 would go towards Dress For Success, which prepares disadvantaged women for the workplace. You can’t knock that.
The "biggest moment" of Lisa Rinna’s life happened on Real Housewives?
Lisa Rinna added her name to the list of Real Housewives who have broken a glass in a fit of rage when she snapped at Kim Richards at a fiery dinner in Amsterdam. The Season 5 skirmish took place during Rinna’s first year with the reality show after Richards threatened to reveal a secret about Harry Hamlin.
Rinna told People that "breaking the glass was probably the biggest moment of [her] life," and she claimed she was surprised to have reacted the way she did. "I don’t think anything can prepare you for what ends up happening. I would have never thought that would happen in a million years," she said. "I didn’t even know I had that in me." Seriously?
It’s as if Rinna never watched Real Housewives before signing on. Those kinds of over-the-top meltdowns are the show’s bread and butter. Honestly, we would have been more surprised if she didn’t react that way.
Lisa Rinna is the new "momager" in town
No longer is Lisa Rinna simply juggling her own career. She now serves as the "momager" for daughters Delilah Belle and Amelia Gray Hamlin, who have found success in modeling because, well, of course they have — their parents are Lisa Rinna and Harry Hamlin! Rinna arranges gigs for her daughters and accompanies them to appearances and photo shoots, which has become a Real Housewives storyline.
Managing her daughters‘ careers is a full-time gig and apparently more difficult than her own job, according to Rinna’s interview with Entertainment Tonight, but she seems to be loving every moment of it (just look at Rinna’s Instagram page and all the modeling pics she posts of her daughters). And when Rinna has questions about the modeling industry or managing her daughters, she’s been known to turn to her famous friends for advice. "I’ve of course talked to Cindy (Crawford) a lot about it and to Kris (Jenner)," she told ET, "so it’s helpful."