Lisa Robertson Lisa Robertson

The queen of home-shopping mecca QVC, Lisa Robertson is more gorgeous, personable and, yes, popular than any soap star out there. And she could sell space heaters in hell. "I grew up in a small town of 4,000 people in the mountains of Tennessee where you didn't think — much less dream — of being on TV," says Robertson, now in her 16th year with QVC. "My mother was only wrong about one thing in her entire life. When I was in high school, she used to say, 'Lisa, you better study hard, because you will never get a job shopping and talking on the phone!'"

This week Robertson is heading to Vicenza, Italy, where QVC airs three days of live jewelry shows starting Friday (June 3, 6/5c). She won't just be peddling gold, silver and bronze — she'll also do some time travel. "We'll bring you right into the heart of ancient jewelry-making to see techniques and traditions that have survived for centuries," she says. "This is serious stuff for the Italians. Their relationship with jewelry is one of the great love affairs of history."

Despite her überglamness, Robertson is real, self-deprecating and — whether selling jewels, purses or laptops — she won't play us for fools. "Lisa has a massive following because people trust her," says actress-designer Linda Dano, herself a QVC fixture. "She's totally irreverent and bloody honest. If she's gained a couple of pounds and her underwear is pinching her, she says so. America loves her for that." All this comes easy, by the way. Says Robertson: "We all have something we're bad at, and I am really bad at lying."

Truth be told, there's one more thing Robertson can't do. "I could never model because I'm too short and built like a Shetland pony," she says. So how come she was Miss Tennessee 1989? "When you're a girl from the South, you have to do at least one pageant. I think it's in the bylaws."

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