Luann De Lesseps has given the American people numerous cultural touchstones in her decade-long career as a reality television starlet. During her early years on Real Housewives of New York, she wrote a book, Class With the Countess, which has served as a drinking party game at a variety of parties I’ve attended. Her numerous singles have backdropped more pride parties than any other song I know: “Money Can’t Buy You Class,” “Chic, C’est La Vie,” and “Girl Code.” And much like her book, the songs serve as instructional guides to the lifestyle of a countess. “Class With the Countess” stresses the perceived importance of archaic social signifiers. “Chic, C’est La Vie” is a romp through the daily life of the ruling class, detailing the waste and excess of their very existence. “Girl Code” is a hymnal on the relationships between women that warns against girl on girl violence. Don’t you love to learn?
When the former Countess released her first single in four years, “Feeling Jovani,” I expected a similar course on the necessity for class warfare. Instead, her new song is not just a complex dialogue on the metatextual relationship between a television star and a meme, but the many nuances of Jovani as a feeling and a social group. A genuine shock! After she read the scholarly text during Thursday night’s Watch What Happens Live, I set out to dissect its secrets.
The initial body of her magnum opus consists of the repeated phrase: “Feeling Jovani/And it feels so good.” The recurring “feeling” was my primary concern. A base interpretation is that Luann De Lesseps, donning the prom gowns associated with the brand Jovani, feels the luxury present in the polyester fabric. And above that primal urge is the learned social deference to hot bitches in sparkly dresses. Could “Jovani” signify the privilege afforded to the women of the ruling class in modern day America? It might work! Consider these lines from the first verse:
I fall hard, yes I do
Watch me go, it’s nothing new
What they say may be true
I keep walking, wouldn’t you?
For those that remember, De Lesseps formerly lived the lifestyle of a transcontinental countess, homesteading in the Swiss Alps, dining with royalty, and enjoying the homeliness of a Manhattan brownstone. After losing much of that maneuverability in a divorce, subsequent financial hardships, and crippling alcoholism—one might long for the feeling of Jovani! As the experience of past pleasure, it represents forks plated in gold, shop clerks with offers of Champagne, houses on three continents, and dinner parties attended by the titans of global industries. But as an interpretation, it doesn’t sufficiently interrogate the Jovani brand’s relationship with De Lesseps’ meme-able star power. Further down we go!
Jovani first entered the popular consciousness when Dorinda Medley screamed the words over the Countess’s Season 10 finale performance of her cabaret act. Amidst flashes of Sonja Morgan’s breast, and De Lesseps’s many gowns, Dorinda narrated with outcries of: “Jovani! Jovani! Jovani!” And while the ensuing drama has lasted a season, the behavior wasn’t unexpected. Medley, prone to “random” outbursts, has attempted to coin similar phrases before: “Clip! Clip! Clip!” and “Make It Nice” being the most notable. In that moment, then, one woman was attempting to create a meme about another woman, who co-opted that meme and re-appropriated it into a rallying cry for a cross-country cabaret tour. De Lesseps is now a spokesperson for the brand, receives custom gowns, and has helped reintroduce it back into the red carpet ecosystem. She further reveals the endless options this dynamic provides in the second verse:
Showroom shopping, what to wear
Pick the dress, I don’t care
Can one’s subject reclaim a meme and redefine it? It seems like De Lesseps has! Despite her many years as a starlet of RHONY, “Jovani” has ostensibly made De Lesseps more famous than before. Did anyone expect that a re-appropriated GIF would elevate the social standing of an already established reality TV fixture? Even the former Countess can’t help but marvel at the fame a meme has afforded her:
Check the billboard, see my name
Up in lights everyday
Get your tickets come and play
Cabaret’s my Cabernet
I’d like to end on an examination of Jovani as not just a feeling or merchandisable catchphrase, but as a social group. One defined by their relationships to wealth, infamy, and the manufactured freedom that reality TV provides. To illustrate: social media has widened the landscape of celebrity status to an alarming degree. As a gossip archeologist, I’m constantly introduced to newer and newer iterations of culture’s obsession with animatronic Instagram accounts. Common headlines now read: “Wife of Former Musical.ly Star Found Cheating With Brother of Famous Vlogger At Party Hosted By A Brand and Popular Twitter User.” Therefore, I’d posit that Jovani is an emerging signifier for disparate celebrity figures defined by our culture’s parasocial relationship to media. Consider it!
To “feel” Jovani is to experience the alchemy of irony, memes, and an Instagram account that acts as your entrance into DailyMail headlines. In keeping with the pulse of culture, I think it’d be helpful to move past “social media stars” and instead refer to this new group of people as “Jovanis.” It’d certainly help delineate those who came from the old world and those birthed in the new! Meryl Streep? A celebrity. Kylie Jenner? A Jovani!
As with anything, interpretations vary wildly and I look forward to the many rebuttals on JSTOR that await me in the future. More than anything, I’m both shocked and delighted that Luann De Lesseps has not only provided a decade of iconic quotes and television scenes, but a scholarly text that could revolutionize celebrity culture. How will the Jovanis mobilize in the wake of their newfound cultural identity? Their leader has helpfully issued a foundational command:
One day at a time
Keep your cool and you’ll be fine
One day at a time
Keep your cool, don’t lose your mind
Question for all the newly identified Jovanis: Does it feel so good?