The unstoppable Lisa Vanderpump is perhaps the ultimate modern multi-hyphenate: reality star, restaurateur, designer, philanthropist, and serious dog lover with eight of her own rescue dogs. And despite all this—imagine starring in not one but two reality shows and helming multiple restaurants and product lines—this powerhouse has still carved out time to start her own dog foundation and tackle, head on and personally, the atrocities of the Yulin Dog Meat Festival, even speaking in front of Congress and organizing marches against it. Seriously inspirational, right? Lisa, in her own words, “walks the walk.” Here she answers our questions about her goals and passions. Prepare to come away inspired.
Q: How did you make the jump from restaurateur to reality star?
It evolved really over the course of seven years. I use the term reality star loosely. It was an opportunity, and at first I was hesitant…I had no idea I’d be here seven years later.
Q: Best part of being famous?
Well I think there are many pitfalls. I used to think it was ridiculous when I used to read in the papers that a celebrity said that. But I think when you live the experience you have a better understanding of the lack of privacy. However, 95 percent of being a celebrity has been positive and has given me a voice for many things that I’m passionate about, such as going to United Nations, speaking in front of Congress, starting the Vanderpump Dog Foundation, so its been an incredible experience.
Q: What’s the worst part of being famous?
Sometimes it can be a little difficult to go about daily life, especially in the restaurant business. Sometimes people don’t understand that I have a job to do. However, I love when people come up to me saying how much they love the show.
Q: Top three career highlights?
Seeing my daughter Pandora marrying her husband Jason Sabo on show. Dancing with the Stars. Vanderpump Rules continues to be popular in its fifth year.
Q: Tell us about your own dogs?
I have eight dogs. Four Pomeranians: Pikachu, Poppy, Gigalo (aka Giggy), and Pink dog. Poppy I got from a rescue center in Sacramento. He unfortunately has alopecia, but he’s doing a lot better now. Plus, I have one Maltese named Lollypop, one American Cocker Spaniel—a wedding anniversary gift to us—named Schnoooky, and a Golden Retriever named Rumpy who ended up falling in love with an older woman, Avery, another Golden Retriever.
Q: Will you be adding to your pack?
Eight is enough really. I think I can safely say that. It’s quite an overwhelming situation entering the house with eight dogs running towards you.
Q: What inspired you to start Vanderpump Pets? Do you design the products yourself?
Giggy has always worn clothes and hats. Remember, Giggy has to wear clothes because of his alopecia. Like a child, he has to be dressed up to protect his skin in warm weather and against the cold in winter. I just really had a lot of fun doing it. I thought Vanderpump Pets would be a fun project. I’ve been very involved in designing the products. My favourite item is the Vanderpump Pets crystal bowl. We’re trying to keep items very affordable.
When Vanderpump Pets was created, it led to my fight against the Yulin Dog Meat Festival—as I became more immersed in the pet world, I saw the atrocities that were happening. The fight against Yulin Dog Meat Festival is about stopping dog torture. It’s ridiculous—if you go on my Twitter, there’s a picture of a sad, terrified dog, face down with paws tied behind his back. What kind of society do we live in that would do that?
People ask me what about the treatment of cows or pigs. I agree we should fight those causes as well but don’t minimize mine. It’s the cause I’ve chosen. I just think they are incredible creatures. Maybe it’s ambitious to try to stop the Yulin Dog Meat Festival—but I am going to be relentless in my fight to stop the torture.
Q: How did you make the transition from dog lover to starting your own foundation?
I created the Foundation so that I could get others on board in terms of fighting for dogs around the world. We’re working on a documentary about the Yulin Dog Meat Festival, we did World Dog Day, we also did a PSA with Sharon Osbourne, and she helped us in delivering a speech.
We’ve sent images and banners all over the world to encourage other countries to get on board in the fight as well. It has taken a life of its own. The Vanderpump Dog Foundation is also opening a dog rescue center. Vanderpump Pets products sold there will benefit the Vanderpump Dog Foundation. We hope to give the rescue dogs at the center a chance. It’s a bigger deal than we realized.
Q: Why is this cause so close to your heart?
I knew when I saw those pictures of dogs being tortured, that to turn away was to condone it. I look at every dog in those pictures; I look into their eyes and all they ask is: what did we do to deserve this? The answer is nothing; they are wonderful creatures that should be loved. To see them tortured and literally piled up on top of each other going to the slaughter breaks my heart and encourages me to act.
The Vanderpump Dog Foundation has rescued 90 dogs from China, and they were absolutely terrorized, given no food or water, and they had limbs broken. Some didn’t make it. If you go to my website, VanderpumpDogs.org, you can see. I’ve been ignorant of this, and have chastised myself for not knowing earlier.
Q: What was the impetus behind the foundation’s creation?
My work supporting fighting against Yulin became unsustainable—though I work really hard, I realized I needed more people to get involved.
Having a gala, we raised a lot of money for the Vanderpump Dog Foundation. We had people buying rescue puppies for $25,000 dollars [at our silent auction] and then giving them back knowing that money would go to fight Yulin and save a dog’s life.
When I had the march to the Chinese embassy in Los Angeles, we produced placards, t-shirts and had to get the appropriate permits. It was worth it because 2,000 people joined me. For World Dog Day we celebrated the beauty of these incredible beings, and 4,000 people joined in. We really have found our footing, and people really do want to join us.
There are lots of problems in world, and I do what I can. The cause for dogs is something dear to my heart. Being altruistic and philanthropic is extremely important to me, and fortunately, I’m married to someone who feels the same.
Q: Do you have celebrity support?
A lot. There are a lot of people who love their dogs and treat them like children. To name a few, Lance Bass, Leona Lewis (who lent her voice to sing a song for our cause against Yulin Dog Meat Festival), Eric Benet, Kristin Chenowith, and many others.
Q: What is your primary goal?
Well, what would really make me happy is to have on my epitaph that I was instrumental in drawing attention to the atrocities of the Yulin Dog Meat festival. I want to use my celebrity as voice to give people a better understanding of what is actually happening. To torture any living being is a crime against humanity.
Another goal is to save as many little furry people as I can. To know when I look at pictures of and into the eyes of a tortured and beaten dog, one we were unable to save, that they did not die in vain. They will be on the rainbow bridge where everyone will be reunited.
Q: Have you set a timeline for achieving it?
No, I don’t think that’s possible with all the work that needs to be done. June 21st is the next Yulin Dog Meat Festival. We’ve done PSAs, and taken to social media to draw attention. We’ve done news shows around the country. The work doesn’t stop there. I want to carry on and bring more people on board. I cannot do this on my own. My partner Dr. John Sessa has been to the slaughter, and he has seen the barbarity first hand. These dogs just lay there just knowing that they are going to die. I can’t sleep at night unless I do something about it. Luckily my husband and Dr. John Sessa feel the same.
Q: What initiatives do you have in the works?
We’re going to keep going. I plan on going to England to speak at parliament about Yulin. The Daily Mail has shed a lot of light on the issue. I spoke in front of Congress about Resolution 752, denouncing Yulin Dog Meat Festival, and we’re waiting for that to be passed. I advise and urge all dog lovers to reach out to all politicians to have them support Resolution 752.
I am a doer—I walk the walk and talk the talk. I’m going to be proactive and use my celebrity and my social media audience to make sure to draw attention to as many things as I can. I can’t speak on every cause because there’s only 24 hours in a day. I need the support of other people now. We’re only three people (My husband Ken Todd, my partner Dr. John Sessa and myself) and we’ve done so much. Imagine what could be done with more people on board?
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