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All About Kyle Richards' Mom Kathleen Richards

Kyle Richards’ drama series 'American Woman' was inspired by her mom

<p>Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection/Getty</p> Kathleen Richards, Kyle Richards and Kim Richards sighted on April 23, 1983 at the Palace Theater in Hollywood, California.

Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection/Getty

Kathleen Richards, Kyle Richards and Kim Richards sighted on April 23, 1983 at the Palace Theater in Hollywood, California.

Kyle Richards has said her late mother, Kathleen Richards, was her "biggest cheerleader."

The New York-born casting director was the proud mother of three entrepreneurs, socialites and actresses: Kathy Hilton (née Avanzino), Kim Richards and Kyle — all of whom have starred on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. Kyle has been a series regular since the show's conception in 2010.

Speaking with PEOPLE in 2018, Kyle said it’s no secret where she and her sisters got their fiery side.

My mom was a strong woman, opinionated and outspoken,” she said, adding that they had a very “unconventional” childhood. Kyle continued, “She made me feel like I was the greatest thing in the world.”

Related: A Complete Timeline of Kyle Richards, Kim Richards and Kathy Hilton's Family Drama

Kyle, Kathy and Kim have had their fair share of family drama on- and off-screen, but the love they share for their late mother has been a throughline. After Kathleen died in 2002 from breast cancer, the sisters have opened up about her lasting impact on their lives.

Here’s everything to know about Kyle Richards' late mother, Kathleen Richards.

She was married four times

<p>Kyle Richards Instagram</p> Kathleen Richards.

Kyle Richards Instagram

Kathleen Richards.

Hailing from an Irish Catholic family, Kathleen grew up in Manhasset, Long Island. She was married four times to Laurence Avanzino, Kenneth “Ken” Richards, Jack Catain and Richard Fenton.

She welcomed her oldest daughter, Kathy, whom she shares with Avanzino, on March 13, 1959. Passing her namesake onto her daughter, Kathleen became known as “Big Kathy,” while her daughter went by “Little Kathy.”

After their split, Kathleen met Ken. The pair welcomed two daughters, Kim and Kyle, five years apart.

She had dreams of becoming an actress

<p>Kyle Richards Instagram</p> Kathleen Richards.

Kyle Richards Instagram

Kathleen Richards.

Long before her daughters became famous, Kathleen had dreams of becoming an actress herself. When she was young, Kathleen moved to New York City and enrolled at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts but she dropped out when she discovered she was pregnant with her first daughter, Kathy.

In an interview with San Diego Entertainer Magazine, Kyle said Kathy was the first of her sisters to get noticed by modeling scouts. Then Kim came into the picture, and both sisters began appearing in TV commercials. A cross-country move to Los Angeles landed the Richardses in Hollywood, opening up even more acting opportunities.

Kim and Kyle were both child stars in the ‘70s, appearing in Nanny and the Professor and Little House on the Prairie, respectively. Kathleen negotiated with scouts and managed their finances in these early days of their careers.

She raised Kathy, Kim and Kyle in Bel Air

<p>Ron Gallela, Ltd. / Getty</p> Kyle Richards and mother Kathleen Richards on September 28, 1985 in West Hollywood, California..

Ron Gallela, Ltd. / Getty

Kyle Richards and mother Kathleen Richards on September 28, 1985 in West Hollywood, California..

In the mid-'60s, the Richardses relocated to California. Though Kathleen and Ken later divorced, she kept their estate in Bel Air and became their daughters’ primary guardian.

Related: Kyle Richards and Mauricio Umansky's Relationship Timeline

On RHOBH, the Richards family home has been both a source of nostalgia and contention amongst the sisters. However, one of Kyle’s fondest childhood memories was growing up in her own version of a “big sorority house."

“I grew up in a house filled with women. My mom, my grandmother, my sisters, my mom’s friends ... and my sister Kathy had these two best friends that basically lived at our house,” Kyle said in her San Diego Entertainer Magazine feature. “There was a lot of fun in our house.”

She taught her daughters to be financially independent

<p>Ron Gallela, Ltd. / Getty</p> Kyle Richards, Kathleen Richards, and Kim Richards at the Wedding of Kim Richards and G. Monty Brinson on August 3, 1985.

Ron Gallela, Ltd. / Getty

Kyle Richards, Kathleen Richards, and Kim Richards at the Wedding of Kim Richards and G. Monty Brinson on August 3, 1985.

Kathleen divorced Ken following his affair with another woman — at the time, she was without a job, having dedicated all her time and energy to managing her daughters’ rising acting careers.

“She didn’t know about money or what they had. She didn’t even have a checkbook,” Kyle revealed of her mother’s finances during a 2018 appearance on Megyn Kelly Today.

Related: Who Is Kyle Richards' Ex-Husband? All About Guraish Aldjufrie

As a result, Kathleen made a point to teach her daughters how to be financially independent at a very young age, so they could always take care of themselves.

In honor of Kyle’s 10th birthday, Kathleen took her to the bank to open her very own checking account. “My mom got me a checkbook and I was allowed to have my ‘unemployment checks’ from my TV shows,” Kyle recalled on the show. “She wanted me to take control and learn from a young age how to look after myself, because she didn’t like finding herself in that position in the ’70s.”

She was strict with her daughters

<p>Amanda Edwards/Getty</p> Kyle Richards, Kathy Hilton and Kim Richards attend the DIRECTV Celebrates Christmas At Kathy's event on November 28, 2023 in Los Angeles, California.

Amanda Edwards/Getty

Kyle Richards, Kathy Hilton and Kim Richards attend the DIRECTV Celebrates Christmas At Kathy's event on November 28, 2023 in Los Angeles, California.

According to Kyle, Kathleen wasn’t a permissive parent.

“Even though we had this nice house in Bel Air, my mom was very strict,” the Halloween star told San Diego Entertainer Magazine. The Richards daughters were expected to make their beds, and when they became car owners, Kathleen forbade them from going to a car wash. Instead, they were instructed to wash the vehicles themselves at home.

“My kids now go and get their nails done. I wasn’t allowed to get my nails done. I did my own nails,” Kyle added.

She inspired Kyle's drama series American Woman

<p>Kyle Richards Instagram</p> Kyle Richards and her mom Kathleen.

Kyle Richards Instagram

Kyle Richards and her mom Kathleen.

American Woman premiered on the Paramount Network in 2018. The drama series, which Kyle co-executive produced, was largely inspired by Kathleen’s story: a newly single mom trying to make ends meet, while raising her daughters in the ‘70s. The fictional portrayal of Kathleen was played by Alicia Silverstone.

“I did not have a conventional life growing up at all. When my mom passed away, I was reflecting on her and I love to write, so I would write stories about her and growing up. I thought, ‘I really want to make this into a TV show one day.’ And here we are,” Kyle said on Megyn Kelly Today of the show’s origin.

Kyle added that she felt her mom was paving the way for feminists during that period.

“My mom was a very strong, outspoken woman and in that time, women weren’t supposed to be like that,” she continued. “Now it’s like, ‘boss lady’ — that’s a term now. But in the ’70s, if you were strong and opinionated and outspoken, it was looked down upon. And my mom was that woman — very strong.”

Despite Kyle's intention to tell an inspirational story, American Woman caused a major rift between her and Kathy, who was against the project out of fear of it being too autobiographical.

“I felt bad because she thought it was something that it wasn't. I was inspired by my mom [Kathleen], being a single mom in the '70s. It was a crazy, fun, reckless time. But it's not based on my actual life,” Kyle explained to PEOPLE at the time. Kim, meanwhile, was in favor of the show’s release.

She died in 2002 from breast cancer

<p>Kim Richards Instagram</p> Kathleen Richards.

Kim Richards Instagram

Kathleen Richards.

In 2002, Kathleen died after being diagnosed with breast cancer. On the 15th anniversary of her death, Kim penned a heartfelt tribute to her late mom, whom she described as “the most amazing person” and “most loving & caring woman.”

“She loved her girls and grandchildren more than anything in the world…always taking people under her wing,” she wrote on Instagram in 2017. “There is not a day that I don't think of my mom and wish she was still here. But I do know she is watching over all of us… and gives me peace knowing she can see all the good that is happening in our lives.”

Kyle, for her part, echoed a similar sentiment about Kathleen in a 2020 tribute. “I lost my Mom 18 years ago today. Not a day goes by that I don't think about her. I wonder what she's thinking looking down upon our family. Wish she was here to be a part of it all in person,” she wrote on Instagram.

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