Jenna Lyons, the New York City fashion designer who was famously outed by the New York Post over a decade ago, will join the cast of “The Real Housewives of New York City” next year for the show’s 14th season.
With a notable LGBTQ fan base, the Bravo franchise has featured many queer people in its 16-year history. Last year, former Russian model Julia Lemigova, who is married to tennis great Martina Navratilova, joined the cast of “The Real Housewives of Miami,” becoming the first cast member of any of the show’s nearly dozen American iterations to be in a same-sex marriage. (Bravo and NBC News are both owned by NBCUniversal.)
Lyons will be the first queer housewife to join the franchise’s New York City series as one of its seven new cast members. She spent nearly three decades at J. Crew, and as an executive tried her hand at retrofitting the retailer to a rapidly changing consumer and influencer economy. The headline of a 2013 profile of Lyons in The New York Times called her “the woman who dresses America.”
She left the company amid declining sales in 2017, after having served as its president since 2010. Most recently she founded a fake eyelash company and developed a show about fashion on HBO Max.
Lyons’ personal life was plastered across the tabloids in 2011 when she left her longtime husband, artist Vincent Mazeau, for jewelry executive Courtney Crangi. Their romantic relationship was revealed by the New York Post after someone spotted Lyons and Crangi at a New York restaurant amid Lyons’ divorce.
In an appearance last December on the LGBTQ podcast “Dyking Out,” Lyons described the trauma of being outed publicly — at 43, with a young child and amid a divorce — before she had entirely come to terms with her sexual orientation. She also said she felt many of the problems she and Mazeau experienced in their marriage were symptomatic of a “bigger problem.”
“From the outside looking in, I had everything you could possibly want,” she said. “I just knew something was off.”
About a month after she realized she had romantic feelings for Crangi, Lyons said the two of them went out to dinner. The next morning at work, her boss and the head of J. Crew’s internal public relations department called her. The New York Post was asking if she would like to confirm or deny that she was “seeing a woman,” they said.
“I just remember all the blood rushing into my face,” she said. “I had not told my mother. I had not told my ex-husband. I didn’t really know myself. It was a month into this thing.”
“I heard the words come out of my mouth of ‘confirm,’” she said on the podcast, prompting cheers from a live audience.
Lyons and Crangi reportedly split after six years in 2017, around the time she departed J. Crew.
In recent years, Lyons has been more vocal about LGBTQ issues. In an interview with Elle magazine last January, she raised concerns about the precarity of same-sex marriage, given the Supreme Court’s conservative majority. A few months later, in June 2021, she spoke out about the dearth of lesbian bars in the U.S. in an interview with The Advocate.
GLAAD, the world’s largest LGBTQ media advocacy organization, praised the decision to cast Lyons.
“Bravo has a long history of casting interesting, entertaining, and dynamic LGBTQ people,” Anthony Allen Ramos, GLAAD’s vice president of communications and talent, said in a statement.