On August 7th, my episode of House Hunters International debuted in the States on HGTV, which I watched via Slingbox at 4:30am Paris time. Afterward (and in some cases, during), I received hundreds of touching and supportive comments from friends and followers on my Facebook pages. One in particular from a childhood friend, Gary, really hit me:
“Great show. Loved seeing the pics of u and your mom. The show was really a tribute to her!“
Maybe that’s why I was bawling my eyes out as I watched.
Sure, the episode followed the usual format: tour of three apartments, followed by the grueling decision scene replete with hugs and tears. And of course, the best part: the before and after shots of the final apartment.
But there was another story—a theme that ran like a soundtrack underneath—the story of my mom.
The team at Leopard Films and HGTV didn’t just make a piece of entertainment, they told the story of me and my relationship with my mother, never letting the viewer forget that I wasn’t just someone shopping for a pied-à-terre; I was a woman who was searching for a reason to live, who was broken inside and thought an apartment in Paris would fix it.
Throughout the episode, they’d cut to me talking about my mother, often tearfully, and there were photos—lots of photos—of moments from my life with mom: at a friend’s wedding with my sister, Maria; New Years 2000; our trip to Italy in 2001; after my debut as Musetta in the opera La Boheme. Always big smiles—hers and mine, identical. Happy times.
Yeah, I bawled like a baby. So, it seems, did a lot of other people:
“Lisa, just finished watching the show with tears in my eyes thinking of your mom…she would be so proud.”
“Shed a few tears when I saw the pics of [your] mom. She sure had her hand in you finding that place!”
“The end brought me to tears!”
Indeed, the ending was painstakingly crafted for maximum tear-jerking potential: Shot of me in my new apartment with happy tears. Me: “It’s like mom is saying, ‘I’m proud of you, baby girl’.” Cut to photo of mom and me hugging. Roll credits.
Yeah, brutal. And wonderful.
When I decided to do House Hunters International, I thought it would be fun; a chance to document probably the boldest move I’ve ever made. As the cameraman, Mike Hodder, told me during filming, “It will be a great momento of this time in your life.” And he’s right; it is. But it turned out to be even more. It was a chance to immortalize an incredible soul, to tell the story of Lillian Anselmo. It was my tribute to Ma.
Here, some highlights from the episode:
See behind-the-scenes photos of the shoot here.