Sonja Morgan is most known being herself on the hit TV show, The Real Housewives Of New York. Her straight talking, fun and hardworking nature has given her a real connection with fans of the show across the globe.
Kim O'Meara caught up with Sonja to find out about two of the most loyal men in her life, her dogs Millou and Marley, and to hear what's next for Sonja as she keeps herself busy with her business ventures, such as her catering and events business, 'Sonja In The City', and her Toaster Ovens through her company, 'Sonja Home Innovative Living'.
Tell us about your dogs - we'd like to know everything about them!
Well first there's Millou. He was 18 years old and a Gemini. He was my dog. He was a miniature Poodle and we named him because he had such short legs, when he was a puppy we thought he looked like he had just come out of a meatloaf tin. We got him from a French boutique called 'Le Chien' which doesn't exist anymore. Sadly, my boy died recently but he'll always be my boy and a big part of my heart. He was just the most gorgeous dog.
He was nominated for a Golden Collar award and was up against Uggie. I was so proud and being my dog he was just like 'I'm at home' on the red carpet. It was such an honour for him to be nominated and his last hurrah really.
In fact I've just taken two portraits down from our kitchen. One was of Millou and I and they were both very fine portraits, but it was just too hard to see. I think I was like a lot of people really when I got Millou.
You get a dog in your 20's, you've just bought your first apartment, you feel stable and you think you can take care of someone else so you get a dog and then 17-18 years old, I had Millou, I've gone from being married to a single mom and so I grew up with him. He loved life, he was just the greatest dog.
We also have Marley, He's named after Ziggy and Bob Marley and he's a Poodle also. We bought him from Edward Alava at The Dog Store in NY where he still goes regularly to be groomed and they're just fabulous there. Marley is more my daughter's dog. She's 11 years old and she's so talented, gets straight A's in school and is so artistic. Marley is just a total rasta dog, so laid back and relaxed – just like her.
We had a really sad time with Marley just after Hurricane Irene hit us last year. It really did so much damage in New York as a state. In fact at the same time Marley got hit by a car and was really ill. I'm a single mom, life doesn't come easy and this house here doesn't pay for itself – apart from child support, I pay for everything myself and I was so worried we wouldn't be able to afford Marley's hospital bills.
The weekend it happened I met Dr. Dominic J. Marino, it was in the Hamptons and Labor Day weekend. At the time we met I happened to be on the cover of a Hamptons magazine. He had his own trauma 1 centre called Long Island Veterinary Specialists and he took Marley free for two months and nursed him back to full health. Without Dr. Marino I don't know what would have happened.
It is funny, I'd often heard people say dogs are just like their owners and I really didn't know this was true until we had Millou and Marley.
Millou had a real wiggle and would have been happy in heels and a tiara – just like me. Marley would be happy just living a bohemian life – just like my daughter.
When did your interest in pets/animals begin and how long have you been a pet owner?
I definitely grew up with a menagerie of pets. I've got a rescue kitty now, a very beautiful and neutered cat. Growing up we had St Bernards, Labradors, Jack Russell Terriers.
When I was married we had Labradors and Jack Russell Terriers. My ex-husbands mother had Labradors in the tens, so we both had dogs in common.
You're a huge supporter of animal rescues. Being in the public eye, do you think it's almost a duty as well as a privilege to be able to show your support for causes close to your heart? Tell us a little about some of the campaigns you're currently involved in.
I've been involved in philanthropic work for years and really do as much as I can for the causes close to my heart. I'm honored to be involved and in fact I was honored in 1991 for the work I'd done to that point. I really support the arts, animals, children and the LGBT – they're the main areas I'm involved in.
Marley and I do fashion shows for the ASPCA and do whatever we can to help them. I really believe that you have to nurture, we need these charities for all the good they do.
I'm also on the board of The American Friends of Blérancourt which is the only French American museum in the world. Blérancourt belonged to Anne Morgan, the daughter of JP Morgan (my ex-husband is John Adams Morgan).
The Real Housewives Of New York has become a huge success and we first saw you appear in season 3, although you've been friends with some of the ladies for years. What made you decide to open yourself bare almost to the viewers by appearing on the show?
It was a real leap of faith to be honest. I used to think reality TV was scary so when I was originally approached about being involved in 'Manhattan Moms', I had to think about it. I had a 5 year old daughter, I'd just split from my husband and I didn't know what the show would turn out like – there were too many 'what if's' so I said no. My daughter comes first, as always, and I thought there's too much unknown and I was a single mom so it would have been a big commitment to be involved at that time with all the 'what if's' surrounding.
Then I saw how well my now co-stars were doing and the opportunities that presented themselves for their children, aside from all the drama on the show, there was a lot of doors opening and things happening for their children that was just wonderful.
Financially, I thought 'ok my divorce settlement isn't coming, I need to make some money to cover the bills and provide for my daughter as a mom' and seeing the girls all doing so well from the show I made the call. I had legal bills coming in to fight all through my divorce, I had the movie deal which went bad so it was all happening at once.
On top of that I thought it must be great to see moms doing so well for themselves. So I called the producers of 'Manhattan Moms' and they told the new production company and they called me back straight away. Literally the next day I had the cameras set up and we started filming.
The show's now syndicated around the world and I can't go to Rome, London, Paris – anywhere without people recognising me from the show which is quite amusing.
Your first series, season 3, had a lot of controversy with bickering, arguments and ongoing feuds between Bethenny, Jill and the Kelly saga. Did you ever have doubts about returning for season 4 or beyond?
I went into RHONY thinking remember who you are and what's important to you but there is a lot of drama on the show.
For me I don't have the constitution for it so I let a lot go over my head. I think, you know, the girls might have 'this' as the limit for their tolerance and what they have to deal with but in real life I'm handling so much more. My limit bar is so far above that with everything that's been going on and that I have to deal with.
Why do you think reality shows are so popular across the globe?
I think reality TV is raw and that's why it's so popular. You see into people's lives and their homes, their ups and their downs, and you know I've been through some tough times that've been shown on the show but there's been a lot going on in the background that hasn't shown through.
Do you have a motto that you live your life by? What would you say Millou and Marley's mottos might be?
Mine would be this is today and give it all you have. I have great people around me so I think enjoy what you have. You reach my age and I've lost friends through illness and I think it makes you appreciate every day so live in the moment.
I support those who support me and I think be true to yourself. I want to make my daughter proud of me, I always tell her you only have your name and your word.
I think Millou's motto would have been live in the moment and look good at all times. I think Marley's would be let it hang baby and let's party all the time!
If you were to swap roles with Millou and Marley for a day, how do you think the'd cope being you and what would you most love about being either of them?
Well Marley's the total opposite but Millou was like a mini me, he liked to look great, had a fabulous ass and he was well travelled. He travelled across the globe. I think blondes definitely have more fun and I think he felt the same. He had the life.
But I don't think he would want to be me really. I'm fighting for my life as a single mom. I'm working on new ventures through my company, Sonja Home Innovative Living, such as my Toaster Ovens and I have a catering and events company in New York called Sonja in the City and I'm working every day to make them a success. It's hard work but that's okay. I'm taking care of things for them.
For this question, we ask our celebs to match up the following people’s personality to a breed of dog, for example, Winston Churchill = Bulldog or J.Lo = Afghan Hound, Frank Bruno = Boxer etc. If the following celebrities and dog lovers were breeds of dogs, based on their personalities alone, what type of breed do you think they'd be...
Ramona Singer (friend and co-star on The Real Housewives Of New York) – She'd be a Shih Tzu.Very temperamental with beautiful hair. She likes to treat herself and look good, but she's worked hard to get to where she is. No one's ever given her anything.
Justin Bieber – He'd be a Beagle, all bark and no bite.
Victoria Beckham – She'd definitely be a short-haired Dachshund. Long, lean and always in fashion.
Barack Obama – He'd have to be a Basset Hound, but one who needs a muzzle! I recently saw a taped interview with him talking about missile launches and I just thought 'stop'.
Describe the last time you laughed outloud because of something you saw Millou or Marley, or another dog do.
The funniest thing was when Millou was with me once as I got a pedicure and he jumped up on my lap. He hadn't seen the pedi bucket full of water and he fell in it. His face was such a picture!
One of my most memorable Millou moments was when we were at a very famous rock star friends home. My daughter was in the pool and the pool had a hot tub attached to it bubbling away.
My daughter had a cuddly toy in her hands in the pool and the dog of our hosts was a Jack Russell Terrier and he ran into the pool and I thought he was going to attack my daughter, instead he actually just wanted the cuddly toy she had in her hands.
Well Millou saw this and with his short legs he started running and running to get to my daughter to save her. Unfortunately he ran into the hot tub, which had the jets going and bubbles all around him, and he couldn't get out. The Jack Russell Terrier was still going after this cuddly toy so I said to my au pair 'you save Millou' and I saved my daughter.
If you had the choice to arrange a dinner party taking three people (choosing from any era, past or present), who would you choose and why?
I'd have to choose Winston Churchill. I've read all of his books. I think he's just a mesmerizing man and very witty. And I'd choose Coco Chanel and thirdly I'd have to invite Diana Vreeland. She's an independent woman who lived on her own, she had a huge family of friends. She dressed to the nines, not a great beauty but she had an eye. The same could be said for Coco I think.
I lived in Italy for some time so I'd serve up a mean pasta and I think we'd all be fascinated by what Winston Churchill had to say. That would be some dinner party, right?
If you could sum it up, what do you think is the best thing about being a dog owner?
I think the best thing is that you're never alone.They're always there and you can always rely on them. I think Poodles are honestly my favourite breed, they're a very loyal breed.
I think owning a dog can be a great way to turn your life around and give you focus because their energy is so good.
Finish the following sentence, my dogs are...an important part of our family. They make us laugh and they make us cry and life wouldn't be the same without them.
And finally, this is always a tough question and often requires a fair degree of thinking time but….If Millou and Marley had the ability to speak and answer one question and one question only, what would you ask them and what do you think that they would say?
I think if I were to think about what I'd like to have asked Millou I'll get choked up. In the case of both Millou and Marley I'd really like to think I'm in tune with them so I already know what their needs are.
Many Thanks Sonja!
Sonja Morgan Was Speaking With Kim O'Meara