Edgy, loudmouthed and inappropriate at times, Frankel has become one of show business’ more polarizing high-heeled figures. And her new talk show, “Bethenny,” hasn’t even started yet. (It launches Monday.)
The reality-star-turned-business-mogul left an impression as a cast member of “The Real Housewives of New York City” from 2008 to 2010. She was rewarded with her own show, this one chronicling her marriage and the birth of a daughter. Multiple New York Times bestsellers later and the estimated $100 million sale of her Skinnygirl Cocktails brand to Jim Beam, it’s clear that Frankel is on a roll.
Grounded by a difficult childhood and an impending divorce, Frankel says she has the empathy it takes to be daytime’s newest talk show host.
“I’m going to talk to women openly and candidly about real issues,” she said. “Anything goes.”
Recently, Frankel was in Minneapolis, where she received a queen’s welcome from her overzealous fans on the rooftop of downtown restaurant Union. Between hugs, Frankel talked candidly about her stardom, divorce and being sexy in Minnesota.
On being both loved and hated: “I say what’s on my mind. Not everyone has to love me. ... Some people do love me. It doesn’t really matter; it’s about being honest. A lot of times you hear things you don’t want to hear and they upset you, but maybe they’re true or maybe they make you feel differently. The show [will] be thought-provoking and spark a conversation. If I try to play it safe, we’re not going to get anywhere. And if you try to please everybody, you end up pleasing nobody.”
Many of the “Real Housewives” have had fleeting fame, but you’ve created a business empire. What makes you special? “You know how you have a friend who you just develop a relationship with that gets deeper and deeper and stronger and stronger? It’s kind of my relationship with women. It started from being on the Martha Stewart apprentice show, then the ‘Housewives.’ I was just really open about who I was. My success is attributed to being straightforward and honest. That’s why people feel like they can trust whatever I’m marketing.”
What can we expect from the show? “The show ‘Bethenny’ is a truthful conversation about what women talk to women about when men aren’t around. It’s about marriage, relationships, dating, food, exercise, being a mom, feeling guilty, not being able to get good sleep, not feeling like you look your best — just what we talk about.”
Sally Jessy Raphael or Phil Donahue? Who’s your talk show inspiration? “Ellen [DeGeneres] is the woman whom I’m partners with and the one who inspires me and who I admire the most because she broke through. At that time it was very groundbreaking that you had a woman who was gay, who wasn’t married, didn’t have kids, going into daytime television. Like me, they were afraid of her. She’s not as edgy as I am in the inappropriate department, but she had other things that made her different, and everyone ended up being OK. Everyone loves her. When you scare people a little bit, maybe you’re just pushing the envelope a little bit and maybe people need that.” (DeGeneres is one of the executive producers of “Bethenny.”)
On sex and Minnesota: “Minnesota people are so nice, but they do have a little bit of an edge. Women here can handle a dirty joke and a little inappropriate behavior. People like to make it like this is the middle of the country and it’s so conservative, and yeah, some people are a little more conservative than others, but I do think women are basically the same everywhere and there are a lot of things we can connect on. That’s what my show will be. Whether you’re rich, poor, white, black, living in Minnesota or right in the middle of Manhattan, what do we all have in common? Sex is something that everyone is going through or not going through. … It’s all in the delivery. It has to be in good fun and it shouldn’t be crass. It should just be lighthearted and truthful.”
On surviving divorce: “Know that you’re going through a difficult time but that it will pass. Sometimes you’re in the moment and it feels like it’s so difficult that you’re never going to see the light at the end of the tunnel. You have to just breathe and try to get a good night’s sleep, you shouldn’t be drinking too much [or] drinking too much caffeine. You want to have your wits about you so you can be calm, focused and centered. Yoga is great. It’s like anything else — you just have to get through it and you’ll realize later why negative things happen.”
If you could go back to the “Real Housewives,” who would you take on in a fight? “I would never fight the way they fight on reality television now. It’s just not my way. I want to have a conversation. I use my mind, not my physicality. I’d go right back to New York. I don’t miss it, but sometimes I think about what I would say or do if I were there. It was a great moment in time, I’m very grateful for it, but I’m glad that I’m here. I like the moment I’m in.”