Even those who have never watched a single episode of The Real Housewives of New York City have undoubtedly heard of Bethenny Frankel. Since her television debut in 2008, the 44-year-old reality star serendipitously transformed from a broke girl-about-town into a self-help author, prime-time talk show host, and wildly successful entrepreneur with a range of lifestyle products—and a reported net worth of $25 million. “I didn’t have a grand plan,” she says earnestly. “I thought I had something special and I thought I wanted to be in the public eye in some level, but I definitely didn’t think I’d be what people call ‘a mogul’ or ‘a brand’ or anything like that.”
But that she is—her company, Skinnygirl, encompasses everything from salad dressings and liquid sweeteners, to blenders and SodaStream machines. And of course, the ready-to-serve low-calorie cocktails—including the famous Skinnygirl margarita—that put her on the map. “Everything starts with a little seed. Today, we’re in more than 10 categories and it’s pretty remarkable. It’s the American dream and it’s great because it inspires other women.
On paper, Frankel appears to have it all—a burgeoning business, a legion of loyal followers, a spanking new SoHo apartment, even a cherub-faced 4-year-old daughter—but she’s yet to find lasting love. And it’s not for lack of trying. It’s because Frankel stinks at relationships—or so she argues in the title of her latest book: I Suck at Relationships So You Don’t Have To, which was released in early April. “My therapist would say that I don’t suck at relationships and that I give it my all, but if I had to be honest, I think I suck at choosing the right people for me,” she admits. “I don’t think that I actually suck when I’m in a relationship, but I think that I haven’t gone with my gut enough. I’ve made decisions out of fear, which is the biggest mistake people can make. You have to make decisions out of truth.”
Though she’s still entrenched in a hostile divorce from her second husband, Jason Hoppy—the couple split in 2012 and is still arguing over finances and their Tribeca residence—Frankel remains characteristically candid and self-deprecating as ever, especially relating to matters of the heart. “I hope that people learn from my mistakes,” she explains. “I really feel that I have a gift for communicating what I’m going through, and I definitely feel like people can hear my voice and that I can help them. Learn from my mistakes! I am very, very well aware of what my mistakes are.”
But what’s so interesting about Frankel—besides her uncanny ability to pen a deeply personal dating-advice book while in the throes of a legal battle, and not have it come off as an angry tell-all or a shameless plug of self-promotion—is that she’s also acutely aware of her strengths. She’s able to compartmentalize her promotional obligations and motherhood; she’s embraced her career as a “professional reality star,” and though it may seem trite in comparison to her professional accomplishments, she’s mastered the art of breaking up. “I am a big fan of the Methadone plan verses the cold turkey plan. You need to be busy, busy, busy, busy! The idle mind is a devil’s playground,” she says. “You should process what you’ve gone through; you shouldn’t obsess, but going through a breakup is like going through a death, and I think that you need to be busy. You have to say, ‘Whatever I’m going through there is a reason for it, and I’ll find out later.’ You have to be fatalistic about it—you have to say, this is supposed to be happening.”
“Time heals all wounds, and you have to know that,” she continues. “Don’t medicate by drinking too much, eating too much, or putting your face in a pint full of ice cream. Go out, be confident, look good, try to feel good, and don’t beat yourself up and do things that are self-destructive. Don’t text and call and drink and obsess—it’s so hard. I really think that you should process and go through it. Leave it all on the table and be vulnerable so you don’t second-guess yourself and then build yourself back up.”
And that’s exactly what Frankel is doing by re-joining the cast of Bravo’s RHONY for season seven—rebuilding. “I felt that people had lost touch with me and thought that maybe I had lost touch. I miss the connection, the journey, and the relationship,” she admits. “It’s very comfortable for me to open my life up to the cameras right now because I’m a single woman going through a lot of changes, transformations, transitions, and it’s my experience and my journey. I don’t want to bring other people into this experience.” For viewers who followed along with every step of Frankel’s pregnancy on her reality-television spinoff, Bethenny Ever After, sadly, that means no on-screen time between Frankel and her daughter, Bryn.
“My life is very segmented today. Mommy time is mommy time,” she states emphatically. “Yesterday, we went ice-skating and the day before we decorated cupcakes. When I have the ability to be with my child, I’m with my child. When I don’t have the ability, that’s when I work—and that’s how I found my balance.” ∎
So many young women look up to you as a role model. What advice would you give to your 20-something self?
Live in the moment. Youth really is wasted on the young. We want to have everything figured out and know exactly what we’re doing, so we feel very anxiety-ridden. I would say that your twenties are about having fun and figuring it out, your thirties are for a little more soul searching, and your forties are about knowing.
What is the most challenging part about being on reality TV?
I’m not really that challenged by it because it’s comfortable to me and it’s who I am. It’s challenging when you have other people in your life—when you have other people around you that you’re including. The housewives are all there on their own volition.
Do you make it a point not to read the blogs and tabloids?
I don’t make it a point not to and I don’t make it a point to. I just make it a point to not care. I don’t even make it a point to not care—I just don’t really care.
How do you handle the media attention?
Ellen DeGeneres said to me, “Don’t buy into the good and don’t buy into the bad.” So don’t get all excited that everyone loves you and upset that everyone hates you. I’ve never had someone personally come up to me and say something negative.
Were the day-to-day realities of hosting a talk show different than what you imagined?
Yes, it was way more constricting—it was like directing traffic. It was way more filtered and edited than I like to be—I need to be free, I really do. I need to be able to express myself. I have a mouth for nighttime and I can’t be shackled.