Jackie Kennedy's assistant reveals details about her restricted diet in a new memoir

By Liz McNeil
April 26, 2017 12:00 PM
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Jackie Kennedy was the most famous woman in the world when Kathy McKeon, a 19-year-old Irish immigrant, became her live-in assistant and occasional nanny to her two young kids, Caroline and John, in 1964.

McKeon worked for the former First Lady for 13 years (living in her fabled apartment at 1040 5th Avenue for 11 of those years) and grew quite fond of Jackie and her children, whom she writes about in her new memoir, Jackie’s Girl: My Life With The Kennedy Family, excerpted exclusively in ns week’s PEOPLE.

McKeon, 72, saw a human side of the private woman she called “Madam” that few ever saw, including how she maintained her fashionably thin figure.

She noticed that Jackie never seemed very hungry, which she attributed to her grief after JFK’s assassination.

“She never had much of an appetite,” writes McKeon, “and the toll of the horror she survived was plain to see on her painfully thin frame.”

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After McKeon gained some 40 lbs from her late night kitchen visits, she became upset and one day, broke down in front of Jackie, whom she asked for help.

Jackie brought McKeon into the kitchen to speak to her cook, Annemarie. “Kathy wants to lose some weight and you and I are going to help her,” she announced to the cook.

From then on, McKeon began to follow Jackie’s strict regimen: a boiled egg and tea for breakfast, cottage cheese with fresh fruit at lunch, and a poached chicken breast or fish, with a salad or steamed vegetables for dinner (with plain yogurt to snack on when she was hungry).

“The diet was almost exactly what Madam herself ate at home when she wasn’t entertaining,” writes McKeon.

However, she did have a few indulgences. When Aristotle Onassis, who would become her second husband, came to visit, he and Jackie would enjoy cocktail hour before heading out to one of their favorite restaurants, such as the 21 Club.

For more on Jackie Kennedy, and the new memoir by her former assistant, pick up the new issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday

“They always had a cocktail in the evening and little hors d’oeuvres,” says McKeon. “She’d serve the popcorn you put on the stove and shake. Jiffy Pop.”

And that wasn’t her only treat.

“If she went into the kitchen and saw my brownies or chocolate chip cookies she would grab one and eat it right there,” McKeon recalls. “Sometimes we’d crash into each other at night in the kitchen pantry. She didn’t put on the light because she didn’t want anyone to know she was in there!”

“She was eating ice cream out of the container with a big spoon,” she says with a laugh. “Not a teaspoon but a big spoon! She was a lot of fun.”

It’s one of the many warm and poignant memories of their time together that McKeon shares in her new book. “She welcomed me into her home and made me part of the family,” she says. “I wanted people to know that.”