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The Ravenous and Resourceful Sandra Lee

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As for Lasagna-gate— the tabloid controversy sparked when Matilda was quoted as saying of a Semi-Homemade recipe, “That’s not how you make lasagna”—Lee says, “We laughed about it.” She thinks the press shouldn’t have asked about it at a mentoring event. “But I have to say, if you’re going to have a scandal, Lasagna-gate is genius.”

Lee, who has chosen not to have children of her own, has been extremely generous with her siblings and nieces and nephews, buying homes and cars, paying for hockey lessons and college tuition. And by all accounts, she has also embraced Cuomo’s children, whom she calls her “semi-homemade daughters.” Before the inauguration, she went to lunch with Anna Wintour, seeking her advice on what the girls should wear for the occasion. While there, she wangled an internship at Teen Vogue this summer for Michaela, Cuomo’s 13-year-old daughter. “I thought she was going to hit her head on the ceiling she jumped so high,” Lee says.

Lee is at pains to portray her life with Cuomo as nothing fancy. “We do not have full-time help,” she says. “We are normal people. Our basement flooded this morning. Two weeks ago, the snow melted and came in between the floors, and we had buckets in the living room.” Still, Lee has traveled an almost unthinkable distance in her 44 years. She has changed names and religions and coasts. She has scaled steep socioeconomic heights and done so by eking wealth from her woes. So far, she has managed to remain sensitive to the nettlesome realities that press in on an over­extended working mother, even as she now employs many people, attends glittery parties, and makes her home with a governor. As Lee sits one afternoon in stylish Tory Burch boots on a sofa in the corner office of her publicist, surrounded by mementos of his superstar clients—Leonardo DiCaprio, Barbra Streisand, Justin Timberlake—I ask if it has been difficult to stay in touch with the hardships of her audience. “I’m still a semi-homemaker,” she insists. “I still go to the grocery store. I still shop price.”


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