Sandra Lee has a new hottie, but sources close to her say she’s still nursing the wounds of her breakup with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.
The 55-year-old lifestyle guru is now dating Ben Youcef, a 46-year-old Algerian interfaith leader, actor, writer, and producer, as Page Six reported yesterday.
As the two relaxed together in St. Tropez, France, she was wearing what appeared to be an engagement ring.
People close to Lee, however, say she’s struggled to reclaim her life in the two years since her divorce from Cuomo and her public battle with breast cancer.
“It’s very hard for Sandra to move on — she’s not done licking her wounds,” a friend said. “She’s just trying to do the best she can to keep her head above water right now.”
And Attorney General Letitia James’ bombshell report this week that Cuomo allegedly sexually harassed 11 women is a new source of torment, according to the source.
Cuomo’s alleged cheating on Lee during their time together was a “open secret,” according to The Post in April, and “this has all been tremendously horrible and painful for her to read about,” said the friend.
“Her heart was absolutely shattered when she split with Andrew, she has never even spoken out about her time with him, she’s always kept her mouth shut. She’s just trying to find some kind of solace and happiness.”
In September 2019, Lee and Cuomo announced the end of their 14-year relationship, prompting her to relocate to Malibu, California, where she purchased a $3.4 million beach house.
“This is the first joy Sandra has had in years, but it’s really not accurate to say she’s moved on,” said another source.
“She’s spent the past two years in anguish since her split from Andrew. She had to move across the country to get her life back together again.”
According to sources, Lee has always been adamant about her love for Cuomo’s daughters from his ex-wife Kerry Kennedy, whom she adores as if they were her own.
All three are Ivy League graduates, with Mariah and Cara, 26, and Michaela, 23, serving as executive producers on Lee’s recent Starz documentary about Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
One source stated, “The girls are first and foremost what she cares about.”
Lee and Youcef are thought to have met in March at a charity event in Santa Monica, with Youcef initiating contact.
The couple was drawn together, according to a friend, because they are both “grounded in spirituality.”
Said another close source: “We’re just happy for her. We want Sandra to be happy, she deserves it.”
Youcef is a loving father to twins who are five years old. In 2019, he and his wife, California-based realtor Apryl Stephenson, divorced, and in January 2020, they filed for divorce.
In his 2005 film “Munich,” director Steven Spielberg discovered Youcef and gave him his acting break as a Palestinian member of Black September.
Youcef, who studied theater in London, is said to have been mentored by Spielberg and persuaded to take on the role.
Youcef, on the other hand, has turned down roles that he believes degrade his community. He claims that reciting calls to prayer all over the world, which he has done since he was eight years old, keeps his life in balance.
He’s appeared in episodes of “Law & Order,” “CSI New York,” and, most recently, CBS’s “SEAL Team.”
On his website, the former model wrote: “I was born in Algiers on The Mediterranean Coast into a family of 7 children. Fighting for attention among my brothers and sisters was probably where my acting career really began.
“My objective as an actor is to bring a new understanding of the Middle Eastern culture to the rest of the world. My life integrates the Islamic spirit with modern energy. I still retain an almost naive way of seeing the world that comes from a truthful place of a kid that was me.”