S.Kessler

Perched on a barstool in a straight out of a Sex-and-the-City-style apartment on West 23rd, Stacy Kessler, an actress, model, host and lifestyle coach, tilts her head from side to side. Sasha, the stunning young woman doing Kessler’s makeup on this unseasonably warm February evening, is adjusting different lights to set the best environment in the large pad. She settles on twisting two arms of a floor lamp directly towards Kessler’s unlined, unmarred face and positions one bulb straight up, forming a halo of light on the high ceiling. Kessler leans forward in her seat, her thick dark hair pulled into an elegant ponytail and the soles of her five-inch heels resting on the bottom bar of the stool. Nonfat decaf grande cappuccino in hand, Kessler energetically gestures in my direction with her other hand, saying, “Ask me anything.”

In an hour Kessler and her crew are attending the party for “The Cost of Living,” a dystopian thriller short movie in which Kessler plays a prosecutor. Kessler is a 48-year-old with the toned body of a 30-something and the contagious energy of a 20-something. Arguably, though, she is most famous as an actress, or perhaps infamous, for her three-episode stint from 2010-11 on Bravo’s “Millionaire Matchmaker,” a reality show that sets up wealthy singles with potential partners.

Chakra-changing crystals, lie detector tests, and accusations of midlife crises; Kessler dealt with these and more on her appearances on the increasingly popular show, which draws on average over one million viewers per weekly episode. The season four finale on which Kessler guest starred racked up over two million viewers, which is a 63% increase in viewership from season three finale.

After sending in a bio clip, Kessler was accepted on the show. Well aware of the reality of the nature of reality television, however, Kessler knew how to use her acting chops to become one of the most recognizable contestants of the six-season-long show.

“It was quite a rude awakening to reality television and the reality of life, actually, for me,” says Kessler, as Sasha applies her foundation. She continued, saying, “But you work at everything to bring it in the right direction…to bring it where you need to be. It was my first time, you know, so I was like a novice.”

Singles searching for love on television, which is the basic premise of the show, is not novel. “Millionaire Matchmaker” is predated by similarly successful shows like ABC’s “The Bachelor,” FOX’s “Joe Millionaire” and VH1’s “Flavor of Love.” Partially what makes “Matchmaker” stand out, though, is its host and CEO of the matchmaking service The Millionaire’s Club, Patti Stanger.

Stanger, an unmarried modern day matchmaker with jet-black hair and a fluctuating figure, receives assistance screening candidates from a quirky, tattooed couple. Her strict rules – a two-drink maximum on dates, no exchanging cell numbers at the mixers, sex is forbidden until exclusive commitment – combined with the occasional vitriolic quips like “You could lose some weight” and “I think you need to go back to the Midwest if you want to dress like this” make her a standout among reality show hosts. Her acid tongue turned on Kessler when she first appeared on “Millionaire Matchmaker.”

Viewers were first introduced to Kessler in season four in 2010, when Patti’s assistant Rachel described Kessler (in a tacky imitation of a New Jersey accent), “She’s forty-five, she’s from New Jersey, she’s got four kids, she doesn’t really know who she is, and she’s kind of all over the place.” ignored was that Kessler earned both a Master’s and an MBA, speaks fluent Hebrew, and is actively involved in charities like Skate Against Cancer. They also never addressed from where her wealth comes.

Not surprisingly the episode opened on a negative note. During the episode, called “Dateapause,” the drama escalated with Stanger blasting Kessler, saying “obviously there’s a problem” when it comes to her love life and tells her she “sends mixed messages” and “has no one.” Finally, the two come to blows when Stanger orders her off the show with a “Get the f— out of here!”

So after all of the drama, what is Kessler’s lasting opinion of her interactions with the Millionaire Matchmaker?

“So Patti is a doll – no, I’m kidding,” says Kessler as Sasha perfects her eyebrows, a playful smile on Kessler’s lips. “Patti and I had no relationship whatsoever. Everything you saw was specifically filmed for television purposes only.”

This is where Kessler’s experience as an actress does come into play.  She says that she never felt personally attacked because she recognized that all of the drama was for the benefit of television. She is comfortable in how she appeared on the show because Kessler is all about honesty; during the hour-long interview, Kessler states this three different times, serving as somewhat of a personal motto.

In the season four finale, “Fred-Ex Delivers,” Kessler was back and Stanger administered a lie detector test to see if she really did want to find love. Despite criticism from fans, Kessler views it all differently.

“Patti is an employee. She gets paid, and she’s talent,” says Kessler, as her smokey-eyed makeup is applied. “She’s not making those decisions. It’s the production that makes the decisions.”

She paused, continuing with a smirk, “If your question was, ‘do you think it’s right that Bravo made you do that?’…I mean it was good television. It’s a good thing they didn’t tell me to take my clothes off or something. Better to go on a lie detector test, don’t you think?”

The drama—real or staged—helped the episodes receive record ratings, so for the reunion episode of season five Bravo flew Kessler to Los Angeles.

Unsurprisingly, Kessler’s appearances on the show led to a rise in her profile. Her fifteen minutes of fame became forty-five.

“Exponentially, yes [it helped my career],” says Kessler, who recently scored a 30-minute commercial for a gym company, a campaign for Spice Market and a gig showroom modeling for EcoChi fashion. “I got a tremendous amount of publicity and PR just because they used it all the time in promoting the show.”

So can this matchmaking model really work; the show helped her career, but what about her love life? Kessler says the show’s format was “absolutely not” conducive to her finding a mate.

“I don’t think it’s really about that…but I made the best of the situation,” says Kessler, though recognizing the normal difficulties of dating. “How many times do you meet guys that just aren’t for you?”

Though she did not go on any second dates with men from the show, she is feeling better about her love life now. “Millionaire Matchmaker” she says, “Threw me – what’s that expression, to be thrown in with the sharks? That show threw me in with the sharks.”

Towards the end of the interview, Kessler’s makeup is done. I have run out of questions. Her tight-fitting textured silvery dress works marvelously with her smoky eyes. We are chitchatting, and while I try to poke into her background – what is the ex-husband and father of those four kids like, where she lives, who she is seeing now – I get few solid responses. I am talking myself out, trying to elicit a reaction. But then I pause, not saying anything, when Kessler starts speaking:

“So basically, here’s the deal…life is so short and sometimes it’s so stressful, and sometimes you harp on the negative, if you just think about all the positive things you’re so much happier. And I know I’ve had a very…full life up to this point. And you can’t always do things that you want to do that will make you happy.”

Despite being happy with her previous work, Kessler wants more.

“I’d love to be on a television show, or a film, where I can make people laugh, or cry, or scared, or terrified, you know, anything. Just make them feel.”

With that, the thank-you’s and we’ll-be-in-contacts were exchanged, business cards were handed out, used tissues from the makeup and barely-touched, lipstick-stained coffee cup were thrown out. Kessler and crew stood up to walk out of the apartment, doing one last check of Kessler’s outfit. We all agreed she looked stunning. The star and a friend left the apartment with one last thank you. There was a car waiting for them downstairs.