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Behind the scenes of her 'Rinnavation' project

From her days as a skinny little small-town kid with fashionista aspirations to becoming a Hollywood red carpet star, Lisa Rinna is telling all — and showing all.

May has been a big month for the 45-year-old former Medford resident. Her new self-help book, "Rinnavation — Getting Your Best Life Ever," is set for release next week. And her eight-page Playboy spread, featuring Rinna on the cover as "the Graduate" seductress "Mrs. Robinson," is already on the magazine racks.

This is the second time Rinna has been on the cover of Playboy. Almost a dozen years ago Rinna posed for the adult magazine when she was nearly seven months' pregnant with her daughter Delilah.

"I'm not someone who ever set out to pose nude," Rinna said in a telephone interview Monday. "But when I was pregnant I felt so beautiful. And now I'm 45, and I still feel like a sexual, viable being."

The actress and television host is best known for her roles on "Days of Our Lives" and "Melrose Place," and for her red-carpet interviews for TV Guide Network. A stint on the wildly popular "Dancing with the Stars" television show led Rinna to create a series of dance-themed workout DVDs with her partner on the show, Louis Van Amstel.

The mother of two is getting ready to launch her own line of clothing and skin care items on QVC. And there is a reality show in the works with hubby actor Harry Hamlin. A real-life version of her crazy life, but spoofing the old "I Love Lucy" shows, Rinna said.

"We're calling it 'I Love Lisa,' " she said.

Hamlin describes the first moment he laid eyes on his bride in the forward of Rinna's book. It was 16 years ago, and Hamlin writes like it was yesterday.

"Her eyes said, 'Here I am; what you see is what you get,'" Hamlin wrote, going on to describe Rinna as "game. Always up for a challenge. Always up for an adventure. ... Little Lisa Rinna from Medford, Oregon, never ceases to surprise me."

Rinna puts it all out there on the pages of Playboy and in her book. The autobiographical self-help book goes up for sale Tuesday for $26 at Amazon.com. In it Rinna offers 203 pages of upbeat advice on what to eat, what to wear, and what to do in the bedroom to spice up your sex life.

Her show-and-tell style suits her extraverted personality, Rinna said. But her husband is a private person. To meet in the middle required compromise, she said.

"Harry doesn't mind me talking about sex," Rinna said. "But he didn't want me to open the door to our bedroom and say 'Come on in.'"

Rinna also discusses internal matters — self-esteem issues, her two bouts with post-partum depression, family tragedies and her spiritual quests. Accepting the challenge to be vulnerable is key to empowering yourself — and possibly others, Rinna said.

"My story about post-partum depression might help someone," Rinna said.

The book includes photos of Rinna's path through life, from childhood to stardom.

Several were shot by her proud mom, Lois Rinna. A series of informal family shots adorn the refrigerator in her east Medford home. Down the hallway, her daughter's magazine covers are framed and on display. The brown-eyed brunette is smiling in every image, her famous pouty lips adorned in myriad shades of lipstick.

"She keeps telling me, 'Mom, you can get rid of those photos!,'" said Lois Rinna with a laugh. "I keep telling her 'It's my house. I can keep them up if I want.'"

Growing up in Medford wasn't easy for her daughter. The family moved from Corona del Mar, Calif.,

(this name has been corrected) to Medford when Lisa was seven, after her father, Frank Rinna, was offered a job as art director at Harry & David.

The culture shock flowed in both directions, Lisa Rinna said. Her classmates weren't used to seeing a dark-skinned kid who had a penchant for cashmere sweaters and suede pumps. She couldn't believe she'd landed in a place that didn't have a single fashion-forward clothing store, much less a mall.

Rinna describes being called a "black cow" and teased mercilessly in her book. One day a boy knocked her down as her classmates stood by and laughed. Rinna got up, dusted herself off and moved on.

"They could knock me down. But they could never keep me down," she wrote.

Today she owns her own clothing store, Belle Gray,

(this name has been corrected) wears the finest in designer duds, and is designing her own clothing line.

She said she came to realize that no matter where you live, kids will find a way to tease each other about something. And that country living had its charms.

"It was rough growing up there," said Rinna. "But I love Medford. And I'm glad I grew up there. It wasn't anybody's fault. It's universal, teasing."

When it comes to bullying, Rinna said she advises her own daughters to remember to be kind themselves and offer a blessing to any bullies they come across — to "wish them well." And if that doesn't work, give 'em a "sock in the face," Rinna wrote.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 776-4497 or e-mail sspecht@mailtribune.com.

Behind the scenes of her 'Rinnavation' project