It’s easy to see why the producer of Bravo’s “Pregnant in Heels” was drawn to Rosie Pope when he first saw her—pregnant and screaming at construction workers—at the site of her maternity store on Madison Avenue. Pope is a tough cookie when she needs to be. But she’s also effortlessly charming (hello, that smile!) and exudes three-scoops-please delight when talking about what drives her most—being a mother, and helping others enjoy the experience of becoming a parent, too.
Pope seems to be the quintessential New York mommy–she’s got a fabulous career, a former Wall Street hubby-turned business partner, two super cute sons (James and Wellington), and a place on the Upper East Side. So who would have guessed that she wants her story to end with a house and a big family in Charleston, South Carolina? With a pied-a-terre in the city, of course.
So, you’ve been a ballerina, model, private detective, a neuroscience student at Columbia, and you’re now a mommy concierge and maternity store owner turned reality show personality. How did you end up taking this journey?
I grew up in a household where it didn’t seem abnormal to have really big career swings if that’s what interested you. My mother was a doctor and a genetic researcher, and my father was a geophysicist and then in the eighties he became a very successful ballet dancer. When I was eighteen, they let me come to New York to dance and I think that’s when I started to grow up for the first time. I spent my whole life trying to get straight A’s and trying to be [the] best ballet
dancer and not thinking about what I wanted to do. When I came to New
York, it was a city full of so many interesting people and opportunities—that’s when I started to try to find myself and it led me to all these interesting things.
What inspires you to take on new challenges?
For me it’s really important to be happy. I think it makes you a better person, makes a marriage better and it definitely makes you a better parent. It’s really hard if you get into a rut of responsibility and before you know it, life’s going to pass you by.
You just finished the first season of “Pregnant in Heels.” How would you describe your show to someone who hasn’t seen it?
It’s a show that that tracks me and my more outlandish clients in New York City and their requests on the way to giving birth. Although at face value, all of their requests seem kind of insane, underneath it all, they have the same insecurities that everybody has about being a parent and they just want to celebrate [the experience of new parenthood] and want to be well-prepared.
How do you explain the show’s appeal?
Even though on the outside it’s about pregnancy, it really touches on human emotions—fear, responsibility, love—all the things we go through. When you first try to get pregnant or you know someone getting pregnant, you don’t really know much about it. Then all of the sudden, the floodgates open and everyone tells you these stories. It’s one of those subjects that seems kind of secretive until you’re in it. I think people want to know more.
You’ve done a lot for your clients—help pick out baby names, help find nannies. What has been your most challenging request so far?
On the show, one of the ladies wanted to be painted naked on a horse. But for me, it wasn’t so much the request that was challenging. The underlying issue was that her mother had died when she was very young and she was terrified that in some way she would leave her baby, too. She worked at a zoo and was really good with animals. So my point was that those are going to be the same instincts that you’re going to use to take care of the child, only stronger. And for her, having a painting of her on a horse with her baby [was] what she needed to look at every morning to remind herself that she could do it. It sounds like such a crazy request, and it was, but underneath it was one of the most touching stories.
How has the show changed your life?
I get nervous if my children cry on the street. People look at me weird. People
expect me to be like the Baby Whisperer and then my kids are crying. But honestly, it’s changed my life for the better. I am really touched [when] traveling outside New York City [by] how many people are inspired by the show—especially the fertility story. It’s really made me feel a lot closer to all of our fans and it makes me want to do it more and more.
What made you decide to share your story about trying to get pregnant with your audience?
I felt that if I didn’t tell the story of my pregnancy, I wasn’t being honest about what we’d been through. I’ve known so many people who have had difficulties with fertility and I thought that there were very few people in the media openly talking about it. Ever since it happened, I’ve been so glad that we did it. Many people have come up to me and thanked me for putting it out there because they felt so alone with the struggles they were having.
Can you tell me about your store, Rosie Pope Maternity?
We have a motto—”every day is a baby shower.” When you come into the store, it’s very celebratory. We have chandeliers, mocktails, candy and cupcakes, and a lot of really fun music. It’s an experience, not just shopping. We have everything from diaper bags to dresses to t-shirts and nursing bras.
What makes the clothes in your store different?
I really try to design them so they also work after you’ve had the baby. We work a lot on fit and cut, and we don’t just rely on stretch fabric with spandex to make things work. I spend a lot more time on the tailoring to make it a great piece for your wardrobe in general.
Where did you learn to design clothes?
I don’t have a traditional design background. I didn’t have any money in college, so I made all my own clothes. And I think my
science background lent to the fit aspect.
You’ve partnered with Citibabes with regard to your MomPrep courses. How do you decide what classes to offer in MomPrep?
The thing about the New York moms is that you don’t have a lot of time. You want things that are convenient—so we have a studio Uptown on Madison Avenue and we also wanted to have classes Downtown [where Citibabes is located] so people didn’t have to travel. I think that taking the core curriculum classes gives you the confidence to enjoy your baby more. They include: A-Z of Childbirth & Newborn Care, Infant CPR & First Aid and Prenatal Breastfeeding. Then we have a lot more classes that come [from working] with clients privately. Whether it’s decorating the nursery or baby showers, I like to turn those [experiences] into an affordable class for everyone.
How do you manage it all—your own show, designing, having a store and being a mom?
I gave up sleep the last few years. But I’m really lucky because I work with my husband who left his job on Wall Street last summer. We run the business together and have an amazing team. We are able to control our schedule, to some extent, which allows us to tag team with the kids and it gives us a lot more flexibility than if we were in a more corporate environment.
Speaking of your husband, tell me how you met.
We got into the elevator together [at the Gansevoort Hotel] and one of the other men was trying to hit on me. And Daron, who’s a southern gentleman, stepped in and sort of saved the day. And that guy, by the way, ended up being a guest of honor at our wedding. So I always tell people to look around when you’re in an elevator—you never know.
Tell me about your children.
My oldest son, James, is almost three and is very energetic. I think he’s a genius, but I know probably every parent [says that]. He’s very into role play, but apparently I suck. I take everything a little too literally. And my youngest son, Wellington, is five months and is the complete opposite. He’s very calm and relaxed, and likes to hang out and watch what’s going on. I appreciate every single second I have with them—it’s the highlight of every day for me.
How has your view of the city changed since becoming a parent?
I thought that once I became a parent, I would want to leave instantly. But the complete opposite happened. I think especially for young children, it’s brilliant. The space is a little bit limited, but that’s why we have places like Kidville and Citibabes.
As a mom, why do you like living on the Upper East Side?
It’s very family-oriented and there are lots of little shops, coffee stores and bakeries, so it feels very community-driven and it’s away from the madness a little bit. We love getting cookies at Sarabeth’s!
If you get a chance, what’s your favorite way to pamper yourself?
Honestly, I’m not good with that at all—I just end up stressing out. I was teasing my husband because he keeps telling me to do yoga, but having all that quiet [left me] much more anxious. The most relaxing time is being with my kids.
What do you see in your future?
I would really like to start expanding our store into different cities. But I’m also interested in working on product lines that are more affordable so that we really reach a lot of our fans.
If you could give one piece of advice to all pregnant women, what would it be?
Take the time to enjoy yourself. I think the more education you’ve had and the more things you’ve read and the more people you talk to—it will just give you the confidence and the tools so that when your baby comes, you can relax and enjoy them and [actually] have the time to get to know who they are.
For more Rosie, catch her at the New York Baby Show taking place the weekend of May 18-19!
Photography by Thaddeus Harden
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