If you’d like a lengthy and relaxed sit-down chat with Bethenny Frankel of Bravo’s “The Real Housewives of New York City,” you’d be best served not to schedule it six days before her wedding. Because on this day, just minutes after an hour-long photo shoot for this magazine’s cover, Bethenny is facing a dizzying list of “todo” items, both personal and professional. Over the course of the next few months, she will marry her fiancé, Jason Hoppy, give birth to their first child (she’s due in June), release a new book, introduce a fitness video, launch a skincare line, and star in her second Bravo TV reality series, “Bethenny Getting Married?” which trails her current life with Hoppy (including scenes from their wedding) and will premiere this summer. And you thought your second-grader was overscheduled?
This is a woman who is clearly passionate about her life, her future, and the many opportunities within reach. Combine that with her wit and acerbic take on the people around her, and it’s easy to see why Bethenny has long been a fan favorite on the “The Real Housewives,” now in its third season. Here, she dishes on everything from her relationships with the other women on the show (including whether we’ll see her and Jill Zarin make up), her blossoming career, and her impending motherhood.
Tell me a bit about your
background—what was your path to “The Real Housewives of NYC”?
I was at [a] polo
[match] in the Hamptons and I was approached by one of the girls who is
now on the show saying they were looking for a mom who was married. I
said I was none of those things and she pulled a producer over— it was
called “Manhattan Moms” at the time—and I subsequently was offered the
show. I turned it down for two months thinking it would ruin my career.
Why, because it was
Because I had already
done “The Apprentice: Martha Stewart” and because it was called
“Manhattan Moms” and there was no precedent set. I thought it would be a
bunch of women acting, you know, drunk and stupid, which is, in fact,
often the case. And [I thought] it would just be a train wreck.
What finally changed
That it’s Bravo and
they have a very educated, sophisticated audience that is affluent. They
actually buy. And I had a brand, SkinnyGirl Margarita. I had my book
that I had just written. I was just starting to work with Pepperidge
Farm and Health magazine. So I figured I could really use it to my
advantage right away. It was a fifty-fifty shot for me. It would either
change my life in one direction or the other. But the upside was huge.
In terms of this show,
how real is “reality” television?
What, if anything, is scripted? It’s not scripted at
all. Circumstances are sometimes, you know, arranged. They’ll say “We’d
like to get you guys together.” But what’s said is really said.
How do they keep the drama
It’s six women!
How do you explain the popularity of the show?
voyeurs, and I think that truth is stranger than fiction. And I think if
men watch it, it makes them feel better about their own lives because
they realize how crazy women are. They feel better about their own wife,
for example. It brings up a lot of things all of us go through, just
until now, you weren’t a housewife, you weren’t a mom, yet you’re the
one people seem to talk about and respond to most. How do you explain
I probably have a bigger
arc in my story. I was in another relationship, and then it didn’t work
out. People were rooting for me. And now I have a fiancé and I’m
finally getting “what I want.” And can you have it all? It’s a question a
lot of people ask themselves. It’s not so traditional to be getting
pregnant at 39 and then getting married. It’s the reason why “Sex and
the City” was successful; it just shows women in their thirties in a
different, more liberated way.
Do you think the show
portrays women and female friendships fairly?
Unfortunately, I do. I
just think it’s more exacerbated. People gossip and talk about each
other and don’t always say what they want to their face. In this
situation it’s more like truth serum and you say it to someone’s face.
And then when you say it to someone’s face, you’re a mean girl; if you
say it behind their back, you’re mean. You can’t win for losing.
How do you feel about the
“cattiness” factor and the constant fighting?
It’s brutal. It definitely
feels embarrassing on some levels. It’s not really me; I’m not really
the girly-girl. I’m not the one who goes out for SkinnyGirl Margaritas
with five different women on a Thursday night. I’m not really that into
Girls’ Night. It does represent a lot of women; it doesn’t really
represent me, necessarily, in terms of the whole entire show. It’s been
three seasons and I’m glad I have my own show now. It can wear you down.
Will we get to see you
and Jill Zarin make up this season? You both seem sad apart.
At one point
on “The Real Housewives,” one of the women referred to you as the
“underdog.” Yet, you were a finalist on “The Apprentice,” you’re a
best-selling author…you don’t seem like much of an underdog. How did you react to that
It was just a projection of women thinking everyone
wants to have what they have. That I should want the marriages and the
kids they wanted. And I didn’t really necessarily want them.
How and when did you and
We met in a nightclub called Tenjune and we met on November
quickly did you know he was “the one”?
Not quickly, no. We had different
backgrounds and we met at a club. So, it took me a long time.
He seems like a willing
participant on the show. Did he ever have any concerns about appearing?
He is embarrassed
by “The Housewives” and he does have concerns about being on the show.
He is not nervous about appearing on my show because it supports me and
us and our future.
does he feel about having his relationship so out there?
He feels mixed
about it. There are a lot of wonderful things; there are some good
things that come of it and some of it, you know… We were walking down
yesterday and there were paparazzi, and he said: “Is this what our life
is going to be?” We spend a lot of time alone and in bed and just
watching TV. He knows that for me, it’s work and then down time. I don’t
want to go to hip places unless I have to for work.
Do you have any worries about having your relationship
We have a pretty solid relationship. And the good news
is that this all started happening to me while I was with him. It wasn’t
like he came into this relationship and I already had exploded. We met
and he went through it with me. He knows who I really am. He gets where
it started. He gets where we are. It’s an evolution.
In previous seasons, you
made no secret about wanting children. How excited were you to learn you
I was, first of all, freaked out, immediately,
instantly. We were sort of not trying, but trying. We were not being
careful, because we knew my age and it would probably take a long time.
So, I got pregnant right away, and it was just a little alarming. It was
exciting, but it sounded like something you’d watch on a television
show—not “The Housewives”—it just felt like an out-of-body experience. I
went through many phases; emotion, fear, anxiety. What are we going to
do about getting married? Are we getting married sooner because of the
baby? It just brought up a lot. The first three months were really
emotional; and then I was flying the second trimester, you know, really
loving it; and now in the third trimester, I’m exhausted. I do so much. I
was on a 21-day book tour in 12 cities, I’m writing my third book which
is due the same day as my wedding. It’s ridiculous; it’s absurd what
I’m doing. But, it is what it is.
How has the pregnancy been for you?
I think it’s been
pretty good. I feel great.
You’ve made a name and a brand for yourself as the “skinny
girl.” What are your reactions to the body changes pregnancy brings?
It’s kind of fun, because I appreciate
comedy, and so it’s comical for your boobs to be resting on your
stomach, and that your butt is spreading, and all that stuff. I don’t
have any tremendous anxiety about it.
Are you concerned about the
Physically? No, that will come back, it’s fine.
know the baby’s sex?
No, I had a dream last night it was a girl, but I don’t know.
looking forward to motherhood?
I really am. I’m now
getting excited. It’s all happening as it should. Now it’s starting to
Anything you’re not looking forward to?
neurotic…being neurotic about safety and leaving the baby with someone,
just being a worry wart.
How do you plan to balance motherhood
and your career?
I don’t know. The same way I am now. Luckily most of
the seeds that I’ve planted are grown now—my fitness video is coming out
in May, my skincare line is coming out in September. I can rest on it a
little bit. Not rest, but I could do different things.
you learned about motherhood from the other housewives on the show?
learned nothing; I don’t pay attention to anything anyone else is doing.
I’ve never met the perfect-perfect person, who’s had the perfect
parents. I’m playing my own game.
Anyone whose parenting skills
you hope not to emulate?
There’s a little of all of them that I
like; and there’s a little bit that I don’t. You don’t know if it’s
genetics or the environment. You’ve no idea. The truth is, I’m pretty
well-adjusted and I had no parenting. I think LuAnn’s kids are really
disciplined and really well mannered, and do I think that’s necessarily a
reflection on her? I don’t know. In some cases, I thought Kelly was
crazy and her kids seem normal. I don’t know. Ramona can sort of be the
crazy one on the show, but she must be a great mother, because her
daughter Avery is really well-adjusted.
your own parents like?How do you hope to be the same or
different from them when it comes to parenting?
I don’t hope to be the
same as my own parents. I had zero parenting—dysfunctional, toxic. From
eating disorders to alcoholism to abuse to instability to gambling to
nothing. I once heard a line: The only thing worse than having no
parents was having my parents.
What’s next for you both short- and
I just want my relationship to be successful. I want to be a
calm mother who is communicative. And I hope all the seeds that I’ve
planted mean that I can focus more on that.
Bethenny The Business Woman
Frankel as the straight-talking, no-nonsense reality TV star on “The
Real Housewives of New York City,” off the air she fills many other
roles. A graduate of the Natural Gourmet Institute, Frankel is most
passionate about promoting healthy living. She’s written two books:
“Naturally Thin: Unleash Your Skinnygirl and Free Yourself from a
Lifetime of Dieting,” which was on the New York Times bestsellers list
for 18 weeks, and “The Skinnygirl Dish: Easy Recipes for Your Naturally
Thin Life,” released last year. This year she expanded her “Skinnygirl”
brand with the Skinnygirl Margarita, a bottled, 100-calorie per serving
cocktail mixed with clear tequila, a hint of agave nectar, fresh lime
juice and a splash of Triple Sec (visit skinnygirlcocktails.com for info
on where to buy). And May marks the release of her new workout video,
“Body By Bethenny,” in which she’s joined by celebrity instructor
Kristin McGee for a 55-minute yoga and strength-training program that
focuses on toning abs, thighs, glutes and arms (and even includes a
“5-Minute Booty Blast”).
information on Frankel’s life and business
ventures, visit bethenny.com.