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The Daily Dish The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills

Sutton Stracke Details Her Life Before RHOBH, Including Her Time Working with Merce Cunningham

The RHOBH cast member shares photos of herself through the years and the stories behind them.

By Laura Rosenfeld

Sutton Stracke is synonymous with the most exclusive social circle in the 90210 as one of the cast members of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. However, the sweet and sassy boutique owner we know and love today actually got her start in the South, having been born and raised in Augusta, Georgia.

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"I kind of always keep home inside my heart," Sutton shared during an interview with The Daily Dish. "And I keep home in the way I live."

Growing up in Augusta was definitely a different experience than Sutton's current life on the West Coast. "Oh my gosh. I mean, there's just so many differences. You can't even count," Sutton said. "L.A. is much more fast-paced. It’s much bigger. There's many more walks of life in L.A. There's many more opportunities here. It’s a very cosmopolitan city."

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Sutton still gets the chance to return to her roots every now and then, such as when she visited Augusta in 2021, taking safety precautions amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. "My store, we did a trunk show in Augusta at my house. I have a house there, and I got to see my family for the first time, like in a year," she shared. "And it was really nice to go home and see everybody."

Though Sutton said that she is "still an Augusta girl at heart," she admitted, "I think L.A. has kind of infiltrated my life in a way bigger way than I think I realize."

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One way Sutton has definitely not changed is in her love of animals as the proud mother of both cats and dogs in her fur family, which she often shows off on Instagram (and we hope to see more of in the new season of RHOBH!). Sutton said she "always" had animals around when she was growing up, including labs and a Brittany Spaniel, with her affinity for felines coming from her grandmother. "My grandmother always had cats," she said. "We had lots of kittens at my grandmother’s house, and I would just take them home with me. So I always had cats. Always. So crazy. So, you know, I love them."

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Sutton has carried on her grandmother's tradition of having lots of cats at home with three of her own today. "They're the best things. I love them, and my cats are like dogs. They follow me. They follow all of us. They're like little mini-dog-humans," Sutton shared. "They're the weirdest cats. They will kind of claim their space, but they really like everybody. They like the dogs even. Of course, I would have the strange cat. They don’t hiss. They just like everybody. They want to hang out and be social."

Sutton's life as a socialite and knack for entertaining were also instilled in her early when she officially entered society at a debutante ball at the age of 18. "I think it’s kind of a rite of passage for where I come from, and we do it in college. The tradition is that it comes from where your parents present you to society when you're ready to marry," Sutton said of her days as a debutante. "Now, when I did it, it was 1990, I think, is when I came out, they call it. Obviously, I wasn’t ready to marry, but it’s traditional, and your father presents you. You have two escorts, [you] wear white. Basically, like a wedding dress. And all the men are in white ties and white tails. And you get to dance with your father, you dance with your escorts, and it’s a really nice, fun party, and then you have a year of parties. They make you write thank you letters, and you bring hostess gifts."

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"It’s really kind of the art of attending parties and seeing how grown-ups do things instead of, like, keg parties at college," Sutton added. "So, I enjoyed it. It was really fun."

Sutton said that she "learned a lot" from her debutante season, including "the art of place card seating," which she said "was probably my biggest takeaway," something that would come in handy later on when she served as the director of development for the Merce Cunningham Dance Company in New York. "We would do big galas, you know, for like 600 people. And in New York’s society, that is a very difficult task to do gala seating for New York socialites, and they take it super seriously," Sutton recalled. "And as daunting as it was, I would sit there with our gala chair, and I got it. I was not nearly as intimidated as one should have been as, you know, [a] 25-year-old, 26-year-old young woman entering this New York socialite world. But I was like, OK, we've got this and doing it kind of eased me into that job. So, yeah, I appreciated my debutante days after that."

Sutton first made her way to the Big Apple intending to pursue a career in dance. "I was a choreographer. I was a dancer, I was a ballet dancer, and then I studied modern dance," she said. "And I really wanted to continue my choreography, and I had big dreams of being, like, this profound modern dance choreographer. And I wanted to study the technique of José Limón, and I did. I studied for a year."

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Then, Sutton was offered a huge opportunity with the José Limón Dance Company. "They asked me to take the company audition, and I was ready, and I just didn’t go, and I don’t know why. There was something in me that just said, 'I don’t want to do this.' And so that’s when I took a job working for Merce Cunningham as the studio manager," Sutton explained. "It was a very strange moment for me, but I kept dancing. I did choreograph some things after that, but I just didn’t want to be on the stage. That’s why it’s so ironic that I'm now on television screens. What happened? I don’t know. I got stage fright at that moment in my life, and here I am."

We think things turned out pretty well for Sutton regardless, although she revealed that her twentysomething self probably wouldn't approve of her current life as a Housewife. "Oh, she would think it was terrible," Sutton said with a laugh. "Because I was sort of this avant-garde artist and would probably look down on anything so trivial."

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But after living RHOBH, Sutton now recognizes the gravitas of the show, including its impact on pop culture. "I think the older you get, the more you can see the larger part of art, and, you know, this show has really opened my eyes to so many different things, and I do think that there is a social art inspection of this show that I find fascinating," Sutton said. "So I think I'm keeping true to my inner artist. So I would have to tell my younger self, 'It’s OK.' Just, 'You're OK. You're still keeping your integrity intact.'"

Merce Cunningham, Sutton Stracke's Connection

Sutton opened up about her bond with her former boss — an iconic dancer and choreographer — on RHOBH Season 13, Episode 13 on January 25. Sutton and Merce were so close, in fact, that after he passed, she received his ashes. As such, she wanted to bring them with her on the cast trip to Spain. As Sutton put it, "I want to release these ashes in a significant place and make this a really meaningful trip."

Originally published May 14, 2021.

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