Leah McSweeney had one of the most impressive first seasons on The Real Housewives of New York City last year, in many ways, and if the first episode of Season 13 is any indication, she’s showing no signs of slowing down. This season finds her welcoming Eboni K. Williams into the group, embarking on the major life decision to convert to Judaism, and ignoring texts from a previous gentleman friend. Here, she discusses where things went wrong with Pita Chip, why she’s campaigning to have pal Tinsley Mortimer return to the show, what the camera crews think of her new dog, and now wondering why she hasn’t gotten any free ravioli yet. Come on, New York restaurants!
DECIDER: Something fun about the first episode is that you are the first person that we see.
LEAH MCSWEENEY: I know, what an honor it is.
Let’s talk a little bit about that scene; I’m guessing we’re gonna see more of your boxing instructor Martin again this season, but has this gone to his head already? Because he was a real breakout last season.
You know, he’s a humble guy. You’ll have to tune in, but there are a few moments where he maybe or maybe not pisses off Ramona at one point. So he’s like, Am I invited back? I’m like, Yeah, don’t worry. You are.
I think if you piss off Ramona, you’re definitely invited back. Something that people really enjoyed about you last season was that you were somebody that called her out on her BS and was not afraid to do it, was not tired of doing it, and would continue to do it. Did you notice she didn’t even try it because she knew you would call her out on it, or no, still same Ramona?
She knows I’m BS negative. Now I have a new friend to help call Ramona out on things. She may be better than me actually in the calling-out department. I don’t want to pile on [Ramona] here because we are actually in a really good place. I think we all learned as a group, we learned a lot of things this year, and we came out better people. So I think that me and Ramona are seeing a little more eye to eye. There are some things that we’re never gonna see eye to eye on, that’s okay. I think I understand her a little more and I hope she understands me a little more too.
Let’s talk a little bit about Eboni. From just the first episode alone, I already like her. What was her integration into the group like, from your perspective?
In the Hamptons, which is our first trip that’s coming up, I think that was a real learning curve for her. But she had her learning curve very early on. Whereas, I felt like mine wasn’t until Rhode Island, in Newport, when I had my exorcism and the ravioli moment, that was my moment where I was like, Okay, I think now I understand the ladies and what is acceptable and what’s not acceptable. Eboni jumped right in and it felt so natural and she’s just so herself. She’s great. I think everyone’s gonna love her so much.
Did you feel like the ladies had a genuine reaction to welcoming her? It seemed like at first they were sort of on their best behavior.
Yes. They were on their best behavior. But that can only last for so long. I mean, they’re not really the most filtered people. They don’t even know how to be filtered, which is a beautiful thing in some ways. That’s why they’re so entertaining.
You mentioned the ravioli moment, which, I mean what a classic already. Have you been anywhere, like at a restaurant, where they’ve given you some ravioli on the house or anything?
No. Why not? Why hasn’t that happened to me yet? Now the restaurants are much more open, so I’m going out to restaurants more often and hopefully that happens. When I got my second vaccine, one of the girls that worked there recognized me and when I was leaving, she was like, keep doing you, Leah. It was cool. But no ravioli, just a shot.
We learn a lot about what you’ve been up to in this first episode. Tell me a little bit about the conversion to Judaism. Was this really a calling, did anything else inspire this?
It was something that I was intellectually contemplating for many years, and taking the steps to now spiritually do it, and learn more about the traditions and the prayers and the religion in general, I think it had something to do with getting sober again and the pandemic. It was a very deep, intense kind of message. Like I said, it was my Madonna “Ray of Light” moment.
Will we see more of this journey throughout the season? And is it official now?
No, I am not Jewish yet. Officially, it will most likely happen before the High Holidays in September, but you will see it and you will hear me talking about it. We filmed during a pandemic. We did not film with my rabbi, I don’t think he would ever even want to be filmed. You do hear me say some of the prayers. It was actually kind of scary, because opening yourself up and putting everything out there on a national TV level is scary. But this is even scarier because I’m just learning about Judaism. So there are things I’m going to be doing wrong. I’m not going to get it all right. It kind of opens me up to a new level of scrutiny. I’m as honest as I can be with it.
Will you get to have a bat mitzvah too?
I asked the rabbi about that and he had this very long story, [but] I don’t know if I’m going to have a bat mitzvah. Maybe I’ll have a celebration party or something. We’ll see what happens.
We see you FaceTime with your sister, would she ever consider joining the show? Would you want her to?
I would love for her to. She may keep it too real for the show, though. I would love that. There’s nothing I would love more than her being on the show.
How about Tinsley, would you like to have her back?
Yes, she just texted me today. She’s coming to the city in a few weeks, so we’re gonna get to hang out. I’m over here doing all I can to be like, I think she should come back. Doesn’t everyone want to see what Act Three is for her? Like, post-Scott? I do. And I also think her in Eboni would get along great. They’re both from the south. They’re all about looking pretty. Tinsley was a debutante, Eboni was a pageant queen. They have a lot in common, I think they’d really get along.
How do you feel your second season went for you compared to your first season?
I enjoyed it a lot more, even though it was a pandemic. I did have a major loss losing my grandmother. But I think being sober, knowing what I was getting into, having a reference point of last season, and being a little bit more evolved as we do every year. Knowing the women, not just getting to know them, but having real friendships with them and going deeper with them. I think it was great. It was a lot more comfortable to do.
How was being sober?
You know, it has its good and its bad things about it. Do I miss getting wasted and going batshit crazy? Absolutely. I was honest about how I actually liked doing that part, I enjoy it. But instead, now I’m working out and I’m doing those things to get the adrenaline going. So, not drinking, I do love it. I miss drinking sometimes, but having Luann not drink also was good. This is just the way I need to be living, whether it’s good TV or not, I don’t know and I don’t care.
How did it feel when Luann asked you to be a sober wing woman for her?
Honestly, at first, I wasn’t sure if she was serious or not about it. I’m gonna be completely honest. Which is maybe why at that time I didn’t seem so gung ho. I was a little bit more like yeah, okay, because I was kind of reading her and trying to see. I didn’t want to make too big of a deal of it [if] she started drinking, like a week from then, I didn’t know. I didn’t know if I was going to start drinking again. I was still new enough [to being sober], like six months or so. But it was great having each other for sure. It would have been miserable if she was drinking, it would have been hard.
We see you mention to Eboni that you once broke up with somebody for farting in front of you. I’m not judging, but I am guessing that there was maybe more to that story?
There was, of course. There was a little more to that story, but I don’t know. Maybe if I had been more in love with him, I wouldn’t have minded but maybe I was looking for a way out. I’m a private person in a way. I know I’m on TV, but bodily functions and stuff. Not that into it.
Speaking of your private life, have you talked to Pita Chip?
No, I have not talked to him since December. He said he was going to come over after my boob job to help me in general, which I didn’t even ask him to do because it’s not like we were exclusively dating. We were more friends than anything but he totally screwed up. He said nasty dumb shit. I have not talked to him since that day. I was like, it’s a wrap. He continues to text me, even yesterday. I do not say one word back and I’m never going to, that’s it. I’m a person who’s very forgiving and I’m a person who looks beyond a lot of stuff. But once you don’t show up for someone in their time of need, when I was physically unable to take care of myself, I cannot forgive that.
I know we’re going see Heather Thomson a little bit this season. You felt compelled to go on social to clear some things up: Is that annoying? Would you rather just leave it on the show? Or, did you feel the need to address it?
I actually wish I hadn’t said anything, but you know, I’m not perfect. It was just annoying because everything in that Us Weekly thing was fake. Like, none of that was even true. I didn’t do anything for the cameras. If anything, I probably was behaving for the cameras. I just didn’t like any of it. To try to make me the big bully, Heather’s a big girl, she has a strong mind of her own. I didn’t rush anyone off the show. I don’t have that kind of power at all. I mean, imagine if someone was able to do that. I can’t, I’m definitely not that person. She’s not on for very long, but everyone will see what was going on and they can make up their minds then.
In this first episode, Ramona and Lu seem to be besties. Is that a thing that actually maintained throughout the season?
I’m happy they have found after all these years that they like each other. I don’t know. I don’t know how much of it to believe.
What are you looking forward to us seeing this season?
I have a new sleepwear company called Happy Place. We were filming during a pandemic, it’s not like we got to have events for it or do anything like that. But you know, I’m just working on my brand, I launched activewear. I’m getting my daughter into high school, which is an insane thing to do in New York City. I’m continuing to work on my relationship with my mother, you’re gonna see my brother and my father this season, you’re gonna get to meet Angel Marie, my new dog that I love so much. And the most important thing that I’m really excited for everyone to see is how we as a group of women, that are from different walks of life, that have different experiences in the world, go through this year together. Because this was a very toxic, crazy year. But then we talk about really important issues that I’m not sure we’ve ever really talked about on the show before. I’m very curious and I’m very happy for people to see it.
Did Angel like the cameras?
She loved the camera and she loves all the crew. I know that they love all the women’s dogs. But I know that Angel’s their favorite. All the guys loved Angel, the girls, the camera guys, the sound guys, everyone was holding Angel the whole time when they would come over.
As a New Yorker, what is your prediction for New York this summer now that things are opening up, and anything you’re looking forward to doing?
I hope that it’s like the Roaring ’20s, people are saying that that’s what happened after influenza back in 1918, then the Roaring ’20s happened. I am all about it. Let’s do it. Where are the speakeasies? We’re on our way to all getting vaccinated, the COVID rates are going down, and I’m just keeping my fingers crossed that that continues. I think that we’ve all been through so much hell this year, that people just want to hug each other, be around each other, celebrate, listen to music, look at art. I hope that that’s what’s going on in New York.
The Real Housewives of New York City airs Tuesday at 9 pm ET/PT on Bravo.
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