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The Daily Dish The Real Housewives of New York City

How Jenna Lyons' Genetic Condition Inspired Her Iconic Glasses and Slicked Back Pony

"I’ll never forget the humiliation of the seventh-grade dance, literally being the last girl standing," Jenna Lyons told Oprah Daily as she opened up about how childhood bullying and her genetic disorder impacted her life.

By Caitlin Schunn

You may know Jenna Lyons as a fashion icon, after her signature style skyrocketed her to fame while she was the former creative director of J.Crew. But one of the newest housewives on The Real Housewives of New York City is revealing more on how a genetic condition and years of bullying influenced her well-known “look.”

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Jenna shared more about her difficult childhood in an interview with Oprah Daily in April 2023, describing how she was sitting in a school assembly in third or fourth grade when she heard girls behind her whispering.

“I couldn’t hear exactly what they were saying, but they were snickering and saying stuff like ‘Bald!’ and ‘Why does she have that spot?’” Jenna said.

Although she was diagnosed at just seven months old with a rare genetic disorder called Incontinentia Pigmenti, she never realized she was different until that school assembly, as she said her parents never told her about her condition.

RELATED: Go Inside Jenna Lyons’ Romantic Getaway with Her Girlfriend, Cass Bird

“I definitely got teased and beaten up at school, though nobody called it ‘bullying’ back then,” Jenna said to Oprah Daily. “I remember this one boy would chase and punch me…all this did a number on me emotionally, and it was only later in my life that I started to undo some of it.”

How Jenna Lyons' condition influenced her "signature look"

Jenna is known for open button-down shirts, suits, slicked back hair, and thick-rimmed, large glasses. Her experimentation with this “look” began when she started to get photographed for her work with J. Crew.

“I started wearing my hair slicked back because it was easier, and wearing progressive lenses,” Jenna told Oprah Daily. “This combination of hair and heavy, black-rimmed glasses became my go-to look, and I noticed in pictures I looked cleaner and less disheveled.”

Jenna revealed another reason for wearing her iconic glasses — they hide the scarring above her left eye from her condition. Her disorder came up on the show, when Jenna declined to model lingerie in front of the other ‘Wives while on a girls’ trip to Erin Lichy’s Sag Harbor home.

Jenna in a pink, floral, tulle top and thick, framed, eyeglasses and an updo.

“You will see behind closed doors why I cannot,” Jenna said in Episode 2. “I have a pretty rare genetic disorder. That’s why I never show any skin.”

Jenna showed off her arms and hands in the episode, and shared her chest is not impacted by the disorder, which is “why it’s often on display,” with open button-down shirts.

As for her bold lip color, she told Oprah Daily, “And then one day, a makeup artist put red lipstick on me — I have big, nice lips, thank God — and I remember seeing that one picture and thinking, I actually look okay.” 

What other medical symptoms does Jenna have?

Incontinentia pigmenti affects skin, teeth and hair, Jenna told Oprah Daily.

“I have bald spots, scarred and hyperpigmented skin (especially behind my knees and under my arms), and almost no eyebrows or eyelashes,” Jenna said in the interview. “Maybe worst of all are my teeth.”

As an adult, Jenna visited a dentist in New York City, who said all her teeth would fall out eventually, and she could either get dentures or reconstruction with implants. She told Oprah Daily she’s been on a years-long journey to fix her teeth, including procedures such as bone grafts, sinus lifts, and all-new implants.

RELATED: "One Of The Hardest Things I've Ever Experienced": Jenna Lyons Discusses Her Coming Out Process

“I’ve had 14 oral surgeries so far,” Jenna told Oprah Daily. “What we originally thought was going to take two and a half to three years just to do the upper teeth has taken six years. I literally could have bought a house with what those teeth cost me, and I still have a way to go.”

After leaving J. Crew, as part of battling her condition, Jenna became the CEO and founder of LoveSeen, a brand that sells fake, cruelty-free eyelashes.

“Listen, I’m more comfortable with myself than I used to be,” Jenna told Oprah Daily. “I’m definitely better. But I am just as insecure as the next person, and there are a lot of things I still hide.”

Watch new episodes of The Real Housewives of New York City Sundays at 9/8c on Bravo and the next day on Peacock.

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