An average week for Sonja Morgan, star of the Real Housewives of New York City, might begin with a nose job. They can do it now without any surgery at all: She says Ramtin Kassir just puts a little bit of filler to even out the bridge in profile. Her nose is a family heirloom — "The chicken face," she calls it. "It's a very signature family look." — charmingly but fiercely straight, in the manner of a young conservative politician. She looks nothing if not American.
Wednesday she's getting her eyebrows done with Victoria at the Julien Farel salon. She's been seeing Victoria for 30 years, back when she worked at the Frédéric Fekkai salon in Bergdorf Goodman. Then she followed her to Fekkai's salon at Henri Bendel. Remember Henri Bendel? But anyways she's at Julien Farel now, which is at the Regency. It is a gorgeous space, a symphony of beiges, but frankly, Victoria could be working at the bottom of the Mariana Trench and Sonja would plunge through miles of ocean to see her, because her eyebrows are sisters, not twins, but Victoria knows how to even them out.
There might be an interview, or a photoshoot, and on this particular Wednesday there might be both. There might also be a veneer cleaning. The rest of the week is still kind of up in the air. The doctor that did Morgan's nose on Tuesday wants to try something involving the exchange of nose cartilage, but Morgan still needs to Google it and do her research. (Morgan ultimately canceled the appointment.)
This year is Morgan's tenth as a cast member on the Real Housewives of New York City. The gist of the show is that a woman will convert certain aspects of her private life into public entertainment for the millions who watch the reality network Bravo (and the millions more who watch them online, follow them on Instagram, and tweet at them during tapings to demand explanations for their behavior) while also supporting a family and possibly working on additional business ventures.
Each Housewives cast assembles a sampler platter of rich, power-adjacent women of a particular American (or, at one moment in history, Australian) city, who then represent that city on the world stage in a kind of yearslong televised pageant. (Unlike the pageant system, there are no winners in the Housewives universe.) The women's backgrounds illustrate the particular ruling classes of each locality — Beverly Hills features a large contingent of Hollywood actors; many of the wives of New Jersey are of Italian descent. Many of New York's housewives have links to political oligarchy: the current Housewife and former countess Luann de Lesseps, the former Housewife and former Kennedy spouse Carole Radziwill. In 2006, Morgan separated from John Adams Morgan Jr., the great-grandson of J.P. Morgan and a descendent of presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams. Four years later, she joined the show for its third season.
Before her marriage, Morgan was a model, who exported her classically American good looks abroad modeling Diesel denim in Milan. She made $150,000 a year working as a fit model, spending her time smoking cigarettes, and drinking Prosecco before returning to American shores to more or less do the same thing. The European people, according to Morgan, taught her how to look good and eat well and enjoy life. More specifically, they taught her to eat slowly at meals. "Enjoy the people you’re with in life," she says. According to Morgan, she and her ex-husband ate most of their meals "at home," presumably referring to their transcontinental network of real estate with outposts in Telluride, Provence, and New York City.
Say what you want about Sonja Morgan, but it is probably unoriginal and thus worth keeping to yourself. Her decade-long reality TV career is, if nothing else, a public library of human experiences, as Morgan's triumphs and non-triumphs are blended and presented as entertainment to an unrelenting audience. Not that Morgan needs for storylines: She is a hilarious presence on the show. At times she operates like a self-aware(-ish!) caricature of an Upper East Side socialite, hiring NYU undergraduates as interns to work around her townhouse, or getting too drunk prior to a gala, but she is a professional. She is ready to dance on a table if a table needs to be danced on, or openly divulge information of a carnal nature if it’ll make for a better interview. Morgan knows how to be consumed. She attempts to add spice wherever possible.
"People always want to know the crazy things I take," Morgan says. She is rummaging through some walk-in cupboard or nutrition wing of her Upper East Side townhouse, identifying her various supplements. Morgan is a radiant 56, having spent the last three decades fastidiously maintaining her appearance as a model and later as a television star. She credits this to an inside-out approach to beauty, literally, beginning with "poop pills." "If you're not going three, four times a day, you're not going to look great," she says. "Raquelle?" Raquelle is an intern. "What else do I take?"
Morgan takes calcium, magnesium, vitamins D and B12, prebiotics, probiotics, alkaline mineral water, electrolyte powder, collagen-based protein, cocoa powder — "It gets the endorphins going. You feel like you’re shopping. Or having sex!" — maca powder, taurine, guanine…
Morgan realizes this is a long list, so she edits to what she considers the essentials. “I can't stress enough this potassium, magnesium, calcium and [vitamin] Bs,” she advises. “And maca powder, which you can put in your shakes. And digestive enzymes. Very important.”
Also important: Sunday Riley Luna oil, applied at night to lure fresh cells to the surface of her skin, and SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic serum, which protects those cells throughout the day from the Upper East Side air pollution that threatens their radiance. Morgan is also refreshingly candid about her experiences with cosmetic surgery. She recently got a neck lift from Andrew Jacono, whose office sits nearly directly across the street from the Park Avenue Armory. "Over the years, I just got tired of the trout mouth," she says. "I did the threads twice, but it was just lifting the drapes. So I said, 'Let's do it' Even Dr. Kassir when I went to him yesterday, he was like, 'Well, we wish we did it,' you know? You've got to go to a different doctor for different things. Dr. Jacono does three to four [neck lifts] a day."
Daunted by the cosmetic scrutiny that accompanies public life — or, perhaps, as a result of "just drinking a lot of water and getting plenty of rest!" — many Housewives adjourn a season of filming, only to return to the events of the next season with entirely different facial features, eyes distinctively more catlike, preposterously sized Hollywood lips where there once were Scottish-Welsh ones. Many of Morgan's features, including her jagged, patrician nose, look more or less the same that they did when joined Real Housewives of New York City in Season 3. Dr. Kassir has "been trying to do my nose jobs for years," Morgan says. The full monty, that is, in which the nose is renovated from within, as opposed to the molecule-sized monties she receives via injection. "But I told you, I like my nose. I've yet to meet a doctor who can give me a nose I like."
Beauty professionals of every stripe and order will approach Morgan about adorning her with their services. Morgan responds by tirelessly researching and isolating the procedure or style they do best, at which point she either decides to try it or wait until somebody even more talented comes along. She says Sharon Giese, a plastic surgeon whose office is just slightly farther from the Park Avenue Armory, is currently courting her about some belly laser. She’s thinking about it. Right now, the roster includes Jacono on the neck, Victoria Veytsman on her teeth, Kassir kind of on the nose, and dermatologist Rachel Nazarian for Botox and filler. “I can’t tell you how many people bring in pictures of Sonja,” Nazarian says. “They say, ‘Whatever she is doing, I want that.”
A version of this story originally appeared in the December 2020/January 2021 issue of Allure. Learn how to subscribe here.
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