A Tribute to Ma

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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.

The big decision scene in Pierre Sang Boyer, Oberkampf in the 11th Arr. The big decision scene in Pierre Sang Boyer, Oberkampf in the 11th Arr.

The big decision scene in Pierre Sang Boyer, Oberkampf in the 11th Arr. Courtesy of HGTV.

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.

Teary remembrance of ma.

Teary remembrance of Ma.

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.

Happier times. With Ma and my sister, Maria (far right) at a friend's wedding.

Happier times. With Ma and my sister, Maria (far right), at a friend’s wedding.

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.

Happy tears. Happy new life. Happy ending.

Happy tears. Happy new life. Happy ending.

Here, some highlights from the episode:

Viewing a crazy bathroom that made me crack up.

A kinky bathroom breaks me up.

At one of the apartments

At one of the apartments.

Adrian making me laugh.

Paris real estate agent Adrian Leeds asks me if I see any cute neighbors.

My friend, architect Daniela Busarello, asks me which apartment gives me the "coup de coeur."

My friend, architect Daniela Busarello, asks me which apartment gives me the “coup de coeur.”

At home in my new home town.

At home in my new home town.

See behind-the-scenes photos of the shoot here.






12 responses to “A Tribute to Ma

  1. Hi there – I just saw your HHI episode and was so touched.

    I worked in publishing for a long time in NYC and after some time not working in that field I am working to move to Europe – preferably belgium or Germany- around there.
    I’m working towards that and your episode gave me much inspiration!

    I will start reading your blog now from the start. Can’t wait!

    Best wishes to you –

  2. I just caught the first couple of minutes, and then my power went out. My sister and I were talking about going to Paris and your episode aired the night we talked about it. I took it as a sign, and couldn’t wait to watch. It is so nice to hear that they seem to care about the person, and not just the ratings.

    • They were wonderful to work with, too. Very ethical, and they edit in a way that is the most complimentary, too. They were very interested in telling my story and I’m happy with how it turned out. Hope you get to watch the whole thing soon.

  3. Really sweet post, I will have to look your episode up! I was on HHI with a friend earlier this year and Adrian was her agent as well. It is a neat experience and how cool that they were able to make a little time capsule for you. 🙂

  4. Pingback: Watch My Story on House Hunters International (Again!) | My (Parttime) Paris Life·

  5. If you ever see this post I have a very shallow question 🙂 can you tell me the brand of the gorgeous camel wrap coat you are wearing in that episode? Thanks

  6. Like others, I’ve found inspiration in your story, though not the inspiration to move abroad–not that it wouldn’t be lovely. I’m inspired by the way you rose above the ultimate heartbreak to find happiness again. My mother is dying. We don’t know exactly when it will happen. It could be months, or (please, God) years. She has terminal cancer and though she is stable, I can’t help but fear what’s to come for her and for myself. We’re close and I often worry that I won’t find a way past the grief even with the best support system a girl could ask for. I didn’t think it was possible to get past the lost of a mother when you’re as close as we are…and then I saw your story.
    Paris was your lifeline and your story and your courage may be mine.
    Every time the episode repeats and I happen to catch it, I am reminded that things will get better.

    Thank you for being so open about your mother’s passing and your grief. It certainly did end up being more than just good television.

    – A

    • Dear A.
      Your message moved me deeply. That I might have inspired you gives me a great sense of purpose. Who could have imagined that my story might have touched and inspired others. I understand, fully, what you are going through and send courage for all you will be going through. Your message has inspired me, too. It has shown me that the more I share my story honestly, the more I can help others. I am doing this in a book, for Thomas Dunn/St. Martin’s Press, which is coming out hopefully in the fall of 2016, and in that book I really bare my soul about my relationship with my Ma, and how I worked through (and am still working though) the pain and loss. It has been a difficult process to write this book, but your message has shown me that the story needs to be told and shared.

      You will get through this, and if I can say anything more, I would say, do not spend your time worrying about how much time your mother has, or fearing what it would be like without her. Instead, live each day with her as fully as you can. Stay in the moment, but be aware of all your feelings throughout this journey.

      I send you blessings and thanks for your wonderful message. Lisa


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