Sandra Lee wore a daring translucent outfit to celebrate her 56th birthday with her fiancé Ben Youcef in a very romantic vacation to Lake Como.
During her trip to the Italian resort, the former Food Network actress, who has been dating Youcef, 43, for almost a year, was photographed giving him a passionate kiss.
The happy pair enjoyed a summer vacation at Villa d’Este in Lake Como over the weekend, but they couldn’t keep their hands off one another.
Lee, who celebrated her 56th birthday on Sunday, gushed on Instagram about the man who was by her side and the celebration.
‘Romantic Sunset cruise on Lake Como pre-party with my Ben,’ she captioned a photo of herself passionately kissing Youcef… so romantic and special for my birthday!! Happy birthday everyone- may your kisses be filled with love and passion. Loving 56 so far! So grateful…Xoxo Sandy.’
On Saturday, she posted a photo of herself passionately kissing Youcef on a balcony in Verona, the setting for Shakespearian romantic tragedy Romeo and Juliet.
‘So lots to share from today on!! ‘ she wrote. ‘First and most importantly I am making my years count instead of counting the years. Yesterday my Pre-birthday day, a Magical day in Verona was spent at Juliet’s balcony (the Romeo and Juliet balcony) with my Ben.
‘After this past year of health struggles, I know that life is too short not celebrate every single chance I can get. So looking forward to Ben’s next surprise! Yay Birthdays, what a gift they are!! Xo Sandy’.
Lee revealed earlier this year that she underwent a hysterectomy, at the time admitting that the procedure had been a “bit rough” and that she still had a “long road to recovery ahead” of her.
Andrew Cuomo, a former governor of New York, who is Lee’s ex, was at her side when she received a breast cancer diagnosis and underwent a double mastectomy in 2015.
Although they broke up in 2019, leaving Lee distraught, she has commended him for being tremendously supportive throughout her struggle with cancer and following reconstructive surgery.
In August 2015, Lee underwent a double mastectomy and then got an infection.
‘I did my very best to avoid this (when I tell you I did everything, I mean everything – modern, Eastern and holistic) but infection is an incredible monster,’ she wrote in a Facebook message to fans at the time.
‘I am a long way from where I was and a long way from where I need to be, but at this point I understand that right now I just need to complete this unexpected phase of a tough journey.’
Lee started her reconstructive surgeries in 2016, and it took four years for them to be completed due to complications.
‘It’s a really intense thing, having that operation,’ she told People in June 2016. ‘Being put out, it’s lights out. You go, ‘Oh God, please sweet Lord, take care of me while I’m here.”
Lee — who was dubbed ‘First Girlfriend’ while she was with Cuomo — kept a low profile during most of his first two terms as governor, but she emerged as an advocate for cancer screening after her own diagnosis.
‘Early diagnosis just gives you the opportunity to be the most aggressive that you can be,’ she told People in 2018. ‘It’s the best treatment.’
Lee also opened up about her cancer diagnosis in the 2018 HBO documentary ‘RX: Early Detection, A Cancer Journey with Sandra Lee.’
After she and Cuomo parted ways in September 2019, she relocated to Malibu. They lived together and dated for 14 years, yet during their 15 years together, they never got married.
Youcef is thought to have initiated contact with Lee when they first met in March 2021 at a charity event in Santa Monica.
He and his soon-to-be ex-wife, California realtor Apryl Stephenson, have twins who are five years old.
Although they are still technically married, the couple split in 2019 and filed for divorce the following month.
During their brief trip to France in August, which they took concurrently with the Cuomo sexual harassment scandal, Youcef proposed to Lee.
‘Ben really wanted to distract Sandra from all the news, so he whisked her away to Paris,’ an unnamed source close to Youcef told the New York Post.
‘He knows how hard this has been on her and he wants to make sure she feels loved and supported.’
The source added: ‘Ben is incredibly protective of Sandra. They’re soulmates and head-over-heels in love.’
After researchers for New York Attorney General Letitia James wrote a study indicating that Cuomo, 64, had sexually assaulted 11 women, he announced his resignation from office in August.
While Youcef was the subject of a gushing Valentine’s Day article last month, Lee couldn’t be happier with him. She posted a carousel of images of the two of them together, some of which showed them kissing.
‘So this happened! Ben happened! Love happened! Happiness happened!’ she wrote. ‘I was certain it never would again. I was shocked when it did. I swore I would never fall again, trust again, love again or open myself up again.
‘On our one year anniversary I shall share the story of how we met but until then, my wish for you is that no matter where you are, how old you are or what has happened, you can welcome hope back into your life again.’