The Untold Truth Of Leah McSweeney

This article contains references to mental illness, allegations of police brutality, drug use, and addiction. 

Bravo's "The Real Housewives" franchise has turned out some of the boldest, most beautiful, and wealthy reality stars television has ever known. You would be hard-pressed to find even one who isn't accomplished in some way — they are all eclectic women who pride themselves on being mothers and wives, but also so much more. "The Real Housewives of New York" is packed full of just such high-powered, badass businesswomen. Arriving on the scene in 2020, Leah McSweeney sits at the top of the pack. Just don't expect her to rest on her reality show laurels. 

Speaking to GQ in 2022, the Married to the Mob founder revealed that while creativity and hard work are in her nature, being a celebrity is not. "I never set out to be famous or anything like that," she insisted. "I just wanted to do cool sh*t that made me feel good and I've had different outlets to express myself. Being in the public eye is not a creative outlet."

McSweeney is smart, talented, and unapologetically fierce. Everything this native New Yorker does, from raising her nearly-teenage daughter to running an empire, is done with passion, power, and purpose. Sure, she lives her truth out on television, but there is so much more to this housewife than what is shown on camera — and every little learned detail makes us love McSweeney that much more. This is her untold truth.

Her mom saved her life

As a woman seemingly juggling a million moving pieces at any given time, Leah McSweeney appears to have everything together. Cool, calm, and collected, the "RHONY" star is now a far cry from her younger self, when she had a crystal meth addiction. In an episode of the Bravo show, McSweeney revealed that her teen years were blighted by such extreme behavioral issues she was kicked out of her school and her family home. "Right after high school, I went to rehab for three months," she confided in her castmates. "... And so when my parents came to come get me ... they were like, 'You're not coming home.'"

The alternative was for her to live in a halfway house run by nuns. While the major life change did not feel great at the time, McSweeney added that she now understands this was her mother's way of trying to save her life. Ultimately, the experience allowed her to gain control of her future and succeed against all odds. "It gave me the perseverance to be like I'm starting my own company," she said. "I'm doing things my way because I've already been through the worst."

Reflecting on this period of her life to Nylon, she shared her grief at having lost so many years to drugs. "I tend to look back at my adolescence with irreverence ... But I also missed out on a lot," she said.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

She knows every New York hidden gem

Leah McSweeney is a New Yorker through and through. Born and raised in the Empire State, she's enjoyed over four decades of life in the Big Apple, and some notable favorite hot spots in the heart of the city. Viewers of "The Real Housewives of New York" might assume the star's favorite places to hang out are bougie Upper East Side jaunts, where everyone who is anyone can be spotted out and about — not true! While she is seen frequenting uptown on her hit reality show, McSweeney is a true downtown gal and a resident of the city's Financial District, giving her an inside track to hidden gems.

When she needs her daily dose of caffeine to get her through her busy days as a streetwear mogul, reality star, and mother, she hits up Hungry Ghost Coffee in the TriBeCa area. McSweeney told Time Out that her go-to drinks are a matcha latte, a regular coffee with almond milk, or a cortado. In 2020, the star elaborated to Nylon that she preferred bites at cozy gems like the Asian-fusion restaurant Macao over high-profile restaurants like Catch or Tao. However, she also held a soft spot for the rabble-rousing burlesque club, The Box — a joint that Vanity Fair once described as "New York's hottest freak show." "That's the first place I'll go to when everything opens back up," she told Nylon before restrictions eased. "Weird sh*t goes down there."

Leah McSweeney has a wrap sheet

These days Leah McSweeney is recognized for her dazzling smile, outgoing personality, and booming brands, but years ago, the only place her image was widely seen was on a mugshot. Yeah, your girl has a wrap sheet, and the story is pretty wild. But in true McSweeney fashion, she isn't about to hide the truth of her arrest. "There's no shame in my game, I am a straight shooter," she told People while chronicling the details of her run-in with the NYPD.

The year was 2002, and McSweeney was having a heck of a New Year's Eve, engaging in a 4 am NYC street make-out session following a concert. Suddenly police forces came in, breaking up the crowds and parting McSweeney from her date. Next thing she knew, the guy she'd been smooching was reportedly receiving a beat-down courtesy of the NYPD. 20-year-old McSweeney was frightened and spontaneously threw a water bottle, hitting a police officer in the back.

"He turned around and lunged at me and punched me in the face, I fell onto the sidewalk, and suddenly I had four cops on my back, cuffing me," she said. "I just felt so many knees on my back. And one of them slammed my face into the subway grates and knocked my tooth out." Although she wound up in the clink, McSweeney turned those lemons into lemonade when she received a $75,000 compensation settlement from the NYPD following the violent incident, per the Daily Mail.

She is a business baddie

Leah McSweeney's arrest and case of police brutality was certainly not a high point in the reality star's life, but she managed to somehow take the event and come out on top — way on top. As she told the Daily Mail in 2010, the star took her $75,000 NYPD lawsuit money and used it to launch her apparel business, Married to the Mob. As of 2022, it now distributes to over 100 retailers

Her seed of an idea has grown into an empire with massive names in the entertainment industry like oh ... say, Rhianna, rocking her gear. McSweeney even told People that one of her all-time best NYC moments was at a post-Met Gala party, where she was introduced to the iconic singer. The fashion entrepreneur thanked Rihanna for supporting her brand, and suddenly it was the Barbados-born superstar who had a star-struck moment. 'You're the girl that does that brand? Oh my god, come here!' [She] gave me a huge hug again and she was just so cool," the reality star recollected. "That's definitely one of my best New York nights."

McSweeney has since launched a second brand, Happy Place, that focuses on towels, blankets, pajamas, and all things cozy — and the style magnate isn't content with simply stopping there. On top of her fashion brands, she also runs her own podcast and is a published author.

She was inspired by love and Lil'Kim

When Leah McSweeney saw a need in the market for women's streetwear, she started Married to the Mob. While she had the capital to take her idea and turn it into action, she also had plenty of inspiration to see the whole process move forward. In an interview with Idea Generation, McSweeney shared that her life changed with she met Rob Cristofaro, the founder of the streetwear brand, Alife, whom McSweeney now shares a daughter with. "I was really inspired by him and his creativity and his work ethic and his passion for his brand," she explained. Cristofaro certainly showed her all things were possible, but he wasn't her only source of inspiration. 

In a 2007 interview with Observer, McSweeney described the core influences of her brand. Stating that Married to the Mob was born from the loud and luscious vibe of the '90s, Chanel's iconic styling, and the irrepressible muse of New York City itself, she added that rap icon Lil'Kim was also a huge source of inspiration. Speaking to Paper, she fessed up that Kim has been her idol since she was 13 years old. In 2020, she even rocked up to Sonja Morgan's NYFW fashion show in a full-length Rxch dress featuring a print of Kim's mugshot. A year later, McSweeney told Paper that the two had enjoyed dinner together. They were also snapped at Christian Siriano's fashion show (above).

Leah McSweeney is part of the millionaires club

Leah McSweeney isn't the wealthiest housewife in the Bravo franchise, especially when compared to the likes of Carlton Gebbia or Kyle Richards, who each have a net worth of around $100 million, as of 2022. Still, she does pretty darn well when it comes to financials and is considered to be part of the millionaire's club. The primary reason for McSweeney's millionaire status is she is a mega hustler. She doesn't limit herself to one or even two avenues of income; instead, she has all irons in the fire, from brand building to reality television to authorship.  

Making a dollar is clearly her strong suit. Her business is still bustling, her brands are branching, and she is pulling a hefty salary for her Bravo show appearances. Page Six reported that she went from $3,000 for her Season 1 stints to $10,000 for each episode she filmed in season 2. By 2021, McSweeney had used all of her business-savvy brains to amass a fortune somewhere in the ballpark of $3.5 million.

As she told Idea Generation, this New York gal came from humble beginnings. While her mom was a social worker and her father worked as a health inspector, McSweeney worked in retail before she heeded her calling as an entrepreneur. She's come a long way from her roots.  

She has struggled with her mental health

When it comes to mental health, Leah McSweeney is an open book. The reality star was diagnosed with Bipolar II disorder at age 30, first writing about her condition on HypeBae in an anthem of sorts called "Manic McSweeney: My Love Affair With My Bipolar II Disorder." The star commented on her diagnosis in a "Real Housewives of New York" confessional, where she shared, "I was diagnosed with bipolar II disorder on my 30th birthday, and really dedicated the last seven years of my life to getting it under control and to getting myself to a good place." 

While McSweeney never intended for her mental health to evolve into a show plotline, she's nonetheless glad that it did. "I didn't go on the show being like, 'I'm using this as a platform for this or that,' she told Today. "... But I'm so happy it got brought up, and now I see the power of the show and being able to talk about a topic like that." By the next season, McSweeney was shown navigating some serious mental health challenges, telling Us Weekly, "Season 13 wasn't the easiest, I was dealing with my grandmother's death. I was dealing with COVID ... depression, just like a lot of other people were." 

Luckily, she clawed her way back to better mental health. In a different interview with Us Weekly, she credited exercise, spiritual work, and her daughter's love as helping her through darker times

If you or someone you know needs help with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.

She put out an honest memoir

Considering how comfortable Leah McSweeney is with sharing her life with the world, it only made sense to put it all down on paper. "I've always wanted to write a book," she told Nylon. "That's been a dream for a very long time, but for this particular book, my amazing editor Julie Will approached me and said, 'You're so open about mental health and addiction, write a book for us,' and that's kind of how it came to be." Released in 2022, "Chaos Theory: Finding Meaning in the Madness, One Bad Decision at a Time" chronicled the reality star's life, her journey with her mental health, and how she created a business empire from the ground up.

While the process of taking her experiences and putting them into words wasn't easy, it was certainly worthwhile. As much as it helped the author to process her own past, McSweeney also wanted others to feel as if they weren't alone in their own in their struggles. She told In the Know how a spark of an idea turned into something beautiful and empowering — and devastating, as she realized while recording the audiobook. "First, it was triggering; then it was cathartic. It definitely had more of an impact on me emotionally than I thought it was going to, especially ... reading it out loud, I was like, Oh, my God. Why did I write this stuff?" 

If you or someone you know needs help with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.

Joining RHONY was a terrifying prospect

There is absolutely nothing about Leah McSweeney that says timid or nervous. Her fashion line is mob-tastic, her looks and styles are forever fierce, and she has never shied away from a challenge. Knowing this, it comes as a shock to learn that a gaggle of housewives had her shaking in her boots. Speaking with In the Know, McSweeney revealed she was uber-intimidated by the "RHONY" OG'S prior to her debut on the show. "When I knew I was possibly going to be on the show, I tried watching the season that was going on, and I couldn't do it, because I would start getting massive anxiety being like, 'How am I going to connect to them? They're nothing like me. This is scaring me, and I'm freaking out." 

The outspoken entrepreneur went into the reality television experience as she does most things, being her authentic self, for better or for worse. In doing so she gained some fast friends on the show, initially growing close with Sonja Morgan and Eboni K. Williams. Sadly, those friendships soon hit the skids. She also got especially tight with Ramona Singer, not that their friendship was all sunshine and roses, either. In 2020, McSweeney told the New York Post the two shared a unique if challenging connection. "[Ramona] took a liking to me right away," she said. "But she also, I felt, was hard on me and holds me to a different expectation."

She loves boxing

Leah McSweeney is one tough cookie. She has stood up against the likes of the NYPD and has been sued by major companies, yet this no-nonsense lady keeps her head up. She doesn't just roll with the punches, she also doles them out as well. As well as being mentally and emotionally tough, McSweeney is also physically tough, much in thanks to one of her favorite pastimes, boxing. She loves the sport so much that she named Trinity Boxing Club her fave New York City spot to unwind and relax, during an interview with Time Out. McSweeney explained, "Boxing trainer Martin Snow is ... my life-coach-slash-soul-mate, in a way. I like to hang out there and I work out but, sometimes, I just go and sit in the rocking chair and we just talk."

When headed into the lionesses' den, otherwise known as "The Real Housewives of New York," McSweeney channeled all she had learned in boxing to help her duck and weave everything that her castmates threw her way. The reality star explained the correlation between boxing and starring on her hit show while appearing on "The Daily Dish" (via BravoTV). "It's such a psychological and mental strengthening exercise. It definitely helped me prepare," she said. "I think what I've gotten out of it most is just Martin basically telling me to not try to not be crazy, and just embrace the crazy."

McSweeney is good pals with Julia Fox

In 2022, Julia Fox became Kanye West's ride-or-die for a hot minute, and thus her name was suddenly heavy on everyone's lips. It turns out Fox is an old pal of Leah McSweeney's, and their connection didn't stem from both beauties living the good life, running in high-powered social circles, or being involved in the fashion industry. Instead, their authentic friendship started during the harder times in both ladies' lives. On an episode of "Forbidden Fruits," the pair recollected how they had met in Alcoholics Anonymous. McSweeney served as Fox's sponsor with the "Uncut Gems" star reflecting, "We were both so sick and suffering."

A decade later, the "RHONY" cast member is still a huge supporter of her pal, singing Fox's praises to In the Know. Discussing the eccentric IT girl's rise to the mainstream, she stated, "She's just in her element! This is where she should be: with everyone paying attention. She drives people crazy; they don't understand her, they don't get her [and] it's f***ing brilliant." McSweeney further explained that anyone who thinks they have the upper hand on Fox is sorely mistaken, stating, "She's beyond self-aware, so she's trolling everyone. Some of it with Kanye [West] was performance art, and I loved it."

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

She isn't ashamed of getting plastic surgery

When it comes to the extended cast of "The Real Housewives" franchise, undergoing plastic surgery isn't exactly a special rarity. Heck, "RHOC" star Heather Dubrow is even married to a plastic surgeon. What is special about Leah McSweeney's plastic surgery experience is that she's completely open about the cosmetic procedures she's had done, having openly received breast augmentation, rhinoplasty, and a septoplasty in 2020. 

As she griped to Real Self, she sees no need to lie about such work. "When someone like JLo comes out and says she looks the way she does because of olive oil, it's just so freaking wrong," she said. "I understand that everyone gets to have their privacy if they want, but I just don't see any shame in plastic surgery."

While she respects other people's decisions to stay mum about the changes they make to their faces and bodies, she also firmly believes that people have to walk the walk and talk the talk. As she explained to New Beauty, there needs to be greater transparency regarding cosmetic procedures as they pertain to influencers within the beauty industry. "Everyone has a right to their own privacy, but if you weren't going to be selling products based on how you look and you look the way you look, not really because of that product, but because of a $100,000 worth of surgery, I think it's fair, to be honest about it," she explained.

She had an awkward feud with Michael Che

Honestly, you never know exactly what is going to fly out of Leah McSweeney's mouth and she held nothing back when lashing out against the comedian Michael Che. During a 2017 episode of her podcast, "Improper Etiquette" (via Page Six), the "RHONY" star alleged that the "SNL" star had been kind of a jerk to her during an ongoing text exchange after meeting on Raya. "Why are you on a dating app if you hate women?" she said. "Literally, you've never met me and you're texting me ... and being mad rude."

Unluckily for her, Che shared screenshots of the text exchange which disputed her version of events. Per Page Six, McSweeney appeared to have texted him several times, without receiving a response. One message read, "U hate me cos I'm white." Later, he stated that he wasn't interested in meeting her IRL, writing, "You text really strange declarations looking for a reaction, and I don't wanna know what's the real-life equivalent of that." The text in question appeared to have been sent shortly before McSweeney's podcast statements. 

While other women came out to share their own stories of Che being unpleasant to them on dating apps, McSweeney doubled down and copped to her mistakes on another episode of "Improper Etiquette" (via Page Six), "You guys got to see my petty side," she said. "You got to see me being spiteful and angry cause I got rejected."

Leah McSweeney was on Millionaire Matchmaker

As of April 2022, Leah McSweeney wasn't exactly swimming around in the dating pool. As she revealed to E! News (via Yahoo!), although she was open to jump-starting her love life again, things had been quiet. "I'm not dating. If I was dating I would have no problem being open about it. I feel like I've been so busy with the book, but look, maybe that's what's next for me." Obviously, this isn't to say she hasn't given dating a good go in the past. In 2010, she even turned to Patti Stranger, the infamous "Millionaire Matchmaker," in hopes of finding her forever person, making an appearance on the show of the same name in Season 4, Episode 7

In the episode, Stranger told the streetwear tycoon that she is an alpha personality type who would need to tone down her assertive nature if she wanted to find herself a man. The advice didn't help McSweeney find her prince charming. However, she did end up going on a date with a guy named Will, as she explained to Bravo TV. "He was nice. He was such a sweetheart. I just talked to him on Instagram like a week ago [at the time of this interview]. He was sweet. The total truth is that me and [my daughter] KiKi's dad decided to try to work things out. Now, obviously, it didn't work out either."

She's proud of her co-parenting skills

While Leah McSweeney has much to be proud of, nothing appears to bring her more pride and joy than her daughter, Kier. Like many of the relationships between Real Housewives cast members and their former partners, the "RHONY" star has a healthy relationship with Kier's father, Rob Cristofaro. Even though McSweeney and her former partner are no longer a romantic item, she continues to speak highly of him and is ever grateful for his contributions to her life. 

As she revealed on "Watch What Happens Live," despite them continuing to be actively involved in each other's lives, reconciliation isn't written in the stars for them. "We have great chemistry as friends and co-parents and exes. If me and him were dating or trying to have a relationship together or live together, we would hate each other and be ruining our daughter's life."

So no rekindling is in the works, but McSweeney still takes every opportunity to shout out Cristofaro when she can. In 2020, she shared a sweet tribute to her ex on Instagram where she wrote, "One thing for certain is we have each other's backs, even through our ups and downs." These two show the world that families come in all shapes and sizes.