Known for her role on Real Housewives of Miami, philanthropist, beauty entrepreneur, and now author Lea Black tells us why she wrote a novel, how she fell in love with her husband, and why she has no frenemies.
After chatting with Lea Black for half an hour, she's ready offered a column on her blog, Lea Black Ink. "I'm trying to help people make a name and identity for themselves," she says. "I've got really great talent, from pet trainers to hypnotists, who all have their unique passions, and I am always promoting it but it's not really for me. It's for them."
Indeed, a lot of what the former Housewife does is for others. Her annual Blacks' gala, which has raised over $12 million for teens in need, is one of Miami's most celebrity-laden charity events. A workaholic, Black (contrary to popular belief) actually prefers to keep it low key. "I love to work and I love to be home," she says. "I'm really not that interesting." But we beg to differ: Black has been exposed to so much of Miami's behind-the-scenes activity and scandal she wrote a novel, Red Carpets & White Lies, a tell-all of Miami's social circles.
Here, we chat with Black about Red Carpets, her relationship with criminal defense attorney Roy Black, and frenemies:
If you had to sum up your book in three words, what would they be?
LEA BLACK: Oh let's see: scandalous, gossipy, and fun.
What sparked the idea to write a book? Was it something you always wanted to try?
LB: I've always written. I've written for lots of magazines, lifestyle magazines, blogs, The Huffington Post, and so on. It's something I've always done and I just decided to have fun with it. It was kind of a guilty pleasure. I wrote this book really just for fun and once I finished I thought, maybe there is something there. I sent it to an agent and then a publisher and they wanted to meet me right away [...] When Page Six said, "Move over Jackie Collins," I was like, wow, I was just having fun.
So the trilogy—does the same story continue throughout?
LB: It's a Jackie Collins-esque book, but mine is very sarcastic and plays on composites of characters from Miami—some people will be trying to figure out who they are. And the next book is a spinoff of one of the characters in this book. The third will evolve. I have it in the back of my mind but it takes on a life of its own, so it could change for sure.
How did you separate reality from fiction?
LB: I took poignant, sarcastic, funny, over-the-top personalities and intertwined them into a scandalous novel about high society and charity—you know, Miami lifestyle. And that evolved into a storyline that became entertaining and fun to read.
How did a Texas girl wind up in Miami?
LB: Miami became the central location for all of my offices before I met Roy. I was based out of Palm Beach and commuting to these various offices that I had for my beauty line, and then I met Roy and it made sense to move here.
You and Roy have quite the serendipitous love story. You met him while on jury duty, which people usually dread.
LB: (Laughs.) I did dread it; I tried to get out it. Shame on me! I had been excused two times before because of my travel schedule, so the third time they weren't going to let me out of it, so I went. And then a year later I ran into him.
What was it about him that caught your eye?
LB: In the trial he was definitely the smartest person in the room; there was no question about it. I really am drawn to smart people but I never thought anymore about it. Then I ran into him during Hurricane Andrew because everyone was out of their homes in the same location where they had an air conditioner and ice. We started talking and never stopped talking.
For over 20 years you've been putting on The Blacks' Annual Gala, which you started out of your garage. Did you ever think it would grow to something of this magnitude?
LB: The first time I helped a gentleman who had a little art-gallery charity event on the beach; he was struggling and I went over and got people there and did a little auction and raised some money for him. And then I thought of how many of these kids are just thrown away and have no hope, and I thought, I'm going to take this on because when you're married to a criminal defense attorney, you see what happens when people go to jail. When I saw the hardships that it puts on the family and on the kids and how their life is over once they have a record, I decided to just start doing it in my backyard until we outgrew my backyard. One day we had a deluge storm that hit the same time of the event and had to move 500 people inside my house. I had to move all of my furniture upstairs and it was such a crazy night [...] That's when I decided it was time to move out of my home, so I started moving into country clubs and then hotels, and now we've outgrown most of the hotels and we have to go to the larger hotels. Every year we’ve grown and keep getting bigger and better talent.
What advice do you have for Miami women who are trying to climb the social ladder?
LB: Never have your success be at the expense of someone else. Always make it based on its merit.
What is the most important lesson being on reality TV has taught you about yourself?
LB: To be authentic and not to fabricate or embellish or lie. You need to be who you are and be proud of who you are, and don't try to be something you’re not.
You’ve said that once you find the right person there needs to be an equality of power. What are you beliefs about that?
LB: When one person has the control or power because of finances, it puts the other person at a disadvantage, and it puts the relationship in the context of power and authority rather than it being an equal partnership and an equal team. In business you can have a disadvantage—everyone has advantages and disadvantages based on the level of success they have—but in a personal relationship, that should all be set aside. It should be about your relationship, not about who is controlling and calling the shots. In terms of the boundaries that are set in a relationship, it should be fair and equal. It’s like, women are still fighting for equal pay. If you have to fight for equal pay in the workplace, why should you have to fight for equal power in your marriages? It goes against the way the universe is supposed to work. It erodes and undermines a solid foundation.
Women often have this idea in their heads that they need to be with the perfect man. What advice do you have for women who are looking or questioning whether their partner is the one?
LB: When you go into a long-term relationship, you have to go into it knowing that trying to change the person is going to be counterproductive. You have to embrace who they are; then you can maybe empower them to evolve to some degree. If there are things about them that you think are deal breakers, that's not the relationship to get into.
On that note, when did you know Roy was the one?
LB: Right away—probably within the first 90 days of being together all the time.
Was there a specific moment?
LB: When we started bringing up the word marriage right into the relationship, that was an eye-opener for me. Then I started thinking, well maybe I should take this relationship seriously.
Out of all of the Miami Housewives, you are the bona fide socialite, but you’ve said you don't actually spend time socializing. When did that change?
LB: I enjoy socializing with small groups of people, and I don't mind a large event once in a while, but I'm not the person that has to go out every night and meet everybody, see everybody, go to the opening of everything, and have my picture taken to be happy. So I pick and choose. I choose my events very carefully; I only go to things that are meaningful or I want to support the person behind the event. Otherwise I'm curled up in my bed with four dogs, my kid, or my husband with a movie or a book. That's 100 percent the truth.
What are your favorite spots in Miami?
LB: My favorite, favorite spot Tokyo Blue. It's in Downtown Miami, and they have the most amazing food, the greatest atmosphere, and the most fun people that work there. It's easy, it's casual, it's delicious, it's affordable, and I run into the most interesting, fascinating people there. And also home; I like to hang out in my office and in my home. As long as I'm with my kid, my husband, and my dogs, I don't care where I am.
You have your own skin care line—what do you think is the most important thing women can do to take care of their skin?
LB: I have had Sudden Youth since the mid '80s and [the weekly mask] is the one thing I use on my skin on a regular basis, and I think my skin shows it [...] The mask tones, firms, tightens, and makes your skin look like a baby's butt. And then of course I have the daily and weekly Lea Black beauty regimen that goes with it. I [also] stay out of the sun, drink a lot of water, I don't smoke, I get adequate sleep, and I think coupled with the minimal amount of stress you can create in your life, that is the secret. Everyone is going to have stress in their life, and I tell my son: Look, you're going to have problems but don't create the problems yourself. That's how I live. I will deal with the problems that come along but I wont create them for myself.
What’s your biggest vice?
LB: Probably sleeping late and watching some no-brainer TV every once in a while.
What's your take on the word frenemy?
LB: I think it's just a justification and an excuse for friends being disloyal and in conflict. You're either a friend or you're not a friend. It's like, you're either pregnant or you're not pregnant. A friend is someone that's going to back you up. It's not someone that's going to plot against you, backstab you, and gossip about you. Friends are people that are there for you all the time and tell you to your face when they think you're wrong and either agree or agree to disagree and move on and still love each other. Anything lesser than that is a justification for a flawed relationship.
Photography by: Photography Courtesy of Robin Marchant/Getty Images