REAL TALK, REAL NEW YORK
What Makes AVIVA DRESCHER the First REAL Housewife of New York City
By Eden Herbstman
Any addict of Bravo’s Real Housewives series approached the newest installment of its NYC season with some hesitation. The drama was well underway even before cameras started to roll when Bravo cut half its former cast, introducing three new women to join Countess Luanne DeLesspes, Ramona Singer, and Sonja Morgan. But it’s all about the storyline, and past storylines have been nothing short of entertaining. From Bethenny Frankel’s rise to Skinnygirl fame, to the etiquette lessons given through the vocal stylings of the Countess, to all the backstabbing and feuding amongst the women, there has always been plenty to take in.
This season succeeds in documenting the lives of six women, all invariably unique from one another. It’s Aviva Drescher though, one of the more interesting women this season, who is a true portrayal of the franchise. After five seasons, Bravo has uncovered a woman who can call herself a real housewife of New York City.
At first glance she’s the quintessential blonde beauty with an intricate eye for fashion. But just like her intro tagline says, “Never underestimate a woman born and raised in New York City.” Even though Aviva is just fine being known as a mom and wife, she embodies a woman of strength and inspiration, and she brings a sense of normality and sanity to some of the show’s more “entertaining” moments. Always honest and candid throughout this season, she opens up about her life as an amputee–a result of an accident during her childhood–and her current role of national spokesperson for the One Step Ahead Foundation. Whether she’s juggling her four children, tripping over a staircase at a party, or introducing friends to her “horndog” of a father, Aviva never lets challenges define or limit her. Above all she isn’t afraid to be real.
Aviva Drescher: I felt NYC was not always properly depicted by the women on the show, and I wanted to offer a different perspective of what the NYC woman is like. She’s not necessarily drinking ten glasses of wine at dinner or flipping tables, and she’s not being carried off islands. I wanted to show what a typical Upper East Side mom with kids was like.
EH: Do you think past seasons were more entertainment-driven than they were accurate portrayals of life as a housewife in NYC?
AD: I do. I thought it was very much entertainment-driven. The greatest human draw is conflict, and people will ultimately tune in for the conflict and the drama, so you’re going to see that. I also think it’s nice to see a mom of four who grew up in NYC and what that looks like. Hopefully I am giving that role some dignity.
EH: How is it being able to watch your children grow up in the city and have the same experiences you had?
AD: It’s wonderful; I love seeing NYC through their eyes. I”m a big believer in raising your kids in NYC, because I think it allows them to get exposed to a lot of diversity and to have a lot of cultural outlets. At a young age you get to hop on a bus, taxi, or subway (if the parents allow) and go to a museum, movie, or play. Maybe, hopefully, that cultural stimulation will distract the kids from “other things.”
EH: Did you have any reservations about joining the show?
AD: I wasn’t going to do the show. For one month I was going back and forth. I was very nervous about what it would do to me, my husband, and my whole family. I was nervous about keeping my dignity, but ultimately I decided to give up my dignity in exchange for being some sort of a role model by raising awareness for amputees, inspiring anyone with physical challenges to do their personal best, and helping women in general. I’m there to give some perspective on vanity for teens or women who are feeling bad about the color of their hair or a scar on their leg When I was a child, I never thought I could grow up and be normal as an amputee. I think visuals are such a strong means of communication. When teenage girls see that I am a mom and a wife, I want it to give them hope that they can do whatever their hearts desire. I didn’t have that when I was young. I couldn’t watch amputees function. On the show you see me giving my kids a bath in high heel shoes, running around shopping, and being silly. I’m there to show everyone you can do whatever you want to do.
EH: What is it like being a national spokesperson for One Step Ahead?
AD: I’ve been working with them for three years, and it has been an evolution. I’ve always worked one-on-one with people, but I started working specifically with One Step Ahead several years ago. I had to earn my title there, but since I was in my twenties I’ve been working one-on-one with amputees. It’s something that came very easily to me. Even wearing a prosthesis was something that came very easily, maybe because it happened to me at such a young age. In my mid-twenties I was able to say to people, “Move on, you can walk, you can wear shoes and do whatever you want.” Different people need to be treated differently. Children generally don’t want to talk about it. They want to play their games and be like everyone else. Teenage girls are a little more sensitive, especially with things like the dating ins and outs. I tend to consult more with older people. The older you are the harder the storm is to weather. It takes an emotional and physical toll, whereas children bounce back and adapt easily.
EH: Was that your experience as a child, to adapt quickly?
AD: It was. I didn’t have a choice. By the time I hit second grade, normal was having one leg and wearing a prosthesis. That was my new normal. I don’t know what it is like living with two legs. Someone who is 60 years old and loses a limb knows the difference and feels the pain more.
EH: Were you worried about your cast members’ reactions?
AD: I didn’t know what I was going to get. Having watched Ramona on-and-off over the years, I visualized her saying, “Oh hi, you’re the one with the fake leg!” She really didn’t do that at all, and she was much nicer about it. Everyone was very nice and understanding. I know Ramona didn’t come off in the best light during the shoe shopping scene, and she was a bit immature and unsophisticated in her response, but with that said she did me a great favor. By answering all her questions I was able to get my story out, and I could answer questions for a lot of women. There was a silver lining to that annoying scene.
EH: Your style is always sophisticated and put-together. What are some of your fashion inspirations?
AD: I like classic elegance with a little bit of sexy. I always love vintage 70’s blouses, and last season I really liked Gucci. Of course I’m going to gravitate towards pants and below-the-knee skirts. You have to find what works for you, and makes you feel really good about yourself. It takes time to find your own style.
EH: A common question addressed amongst the women every season is, whether you are a businesswoman, philanthropist, mother, or all of the above, can you have it all? What are your thoughts on this topic?
AD: That’s a big topic on the show. I think anyone can have anything they want. A woman can make any situation work to their benefit, and you really have to do what works for you. It’s been an adjustment having to run out and film and run home to be with the kids; it’s been a juggle. But 100% you can have it all.
Aviva Drescher is one of the new castmembers of The Real Housewives of New York City.
Written by Eden Herbstman
Edited by Jonathan Metzelaar
Photography by Leandro Justen
Design by Marie Havens
Aviva Drescher, August 2012, Photography by Leandro Justen