She's made a name for herself as TV's Queen of Kinda-Sorta-Not-Really-Homemade Cooking, and the world adores her for it. But behind Sandra Lee's weirdest "semi-homemade" recipes and intricate "tablescapes" is an entrepreneurial woman who built an empire centered on her unique brand of cooking and lifestyle instruction.
Refreshingly, Lee never set out to be another Julia Child, Ina Garten, or Paula Deen (Newsweek even called her "the anti-Julia Child"). She's always been just who she is: charming, smart, and, yes, a little wacky. You can tune in to any of Lee's strangest moments to get a taste of how irreverent and off-the-wall she can be, but under her kookiness lies authenticity.
Her life hasn't been all sunshine and cheer: Lee faced major challenges and used those tough experiences to shape her persona. So while her Food Network series includes more than a few bizarre episodes - like the one featuring her infamous Kwanzaa cake - Lee is anything but a flighty oddball. She's a self-made businesswoman and a survivor.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo Is Her Longtime Boyfriend
Since 2005, Lee has been in a long-term relationship with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. A mutual friend introduced the two at a party, and their relationship only deepened and expanded over the years.
"I've got a good one," she told Vogue. "He's loyal and dedicated."
She's A Breast Cancer Survivor
In 2015, Lee disclosed she'd been diagnosed with breast cancer. She had a double mastectomy shortly after the announcement. Four months later, doctors gave her a clean bill of health.
"I was early stage, and what the beautiful thing is about early stage cancer... is it gives you every option in the world, and that is what I took," she told Good Morning America. "My doctors have said that I am cancer-free and that I am ready to go."
- Photo: Amazon
Her First Success Was As An Inventor
Lee didn't start out as a cooking personality. She made her first foray as an entrepreneur by inventing a line of window coverings called Sandra Lee Kurtain Kraft when she was in her 20s.
"I used old wire coat hangers to create hooks and loops that I wove fabric around and created valances and curtain panels," she told Vogue.
The Kurtains were a smash. Lee pitched them on QVC and was soon grossing $6 million a year.
She Had A Very Rough Childhood
Born in Santa Monica, CA, in 1966, Lee had a rough start in life. Her mother was just 16 when she gave birth, and for several years Lee's grandmother raised her. When Lee moved back in with her newly remarried mom, her mother became addicted to pills and physically abusive.
At age 12, Lee nearly ran the household. Her stepfather had left, her mother was bedridden with addiction, and she had four younger siblings to raise.
"I began biting and chewing my nails until they bled," she recalled in her autobiography, Made From Scratch.