Bethenny Frankel became a household name thanks to her headline-making (and oftentimes volatile) stint on The Real Housewives of New York City, which began in 2008. Since then, she’s become, as she states it on her website, a “self-made businesswoman, TV producer, multiple New York Times bestselling author, and mother.” Over the years, she has tried her hand at numerous media ventures, including a short-lived daytime talk show. Frankel also founded the popular Skinnygirl cocktail brand, starred in a RHONY spin-off that documented her marriage to estranged Jason Hoppy, and was named one of the most powerful celebrities by Forbes in 2012. As of 2020, her net worth reportedly sits at $70 million, which she amassed in large part thanks to her time on reality TV, as well as the sale of Skinnygirl.
Yes, Frankel has made buckets of money, but she has also done a lot of good for others. Her disaster relief initiative, Bstrong, provides assistance and supplies to people impacted by natural disasters. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, People reported that Bstrong and their partner, Global Empowerment Mission, were working toward distributing kits that, as Frankel put it, “will have the essentials for families to prevent [coronavirus].” TMZ also reported she donated thousands of N-95 masks to essential workers.
But despite all of her highs and successes, the former Real Housewives star has also had plenty of lows and questionable moments in both her professional and personal life. This is the shady side of Bethenny Frankel.
Bethenny Frankel's mother says she's a 'liar'
Bethenny Frankel has been estranged from her mom, Bernadette Birk, and dad, legendary horse trainer Bobby Frankel, for most of her life. Bethenny told People that she “never had a true childhood” and that Bernadette “was never a mother to me.” She also accused her parents of causing “a lot of destruction: alcohol abuse, eating disorders and violent fights.” However, Bernadette told Life & Style that her daughter is “a liar and a shark” who “ran through my guts.” It’s safe to assume Bernadette didn’t mean the kind of Shark who listens to pitches on a hit ABC show.
In 2016, Bethenny told listeners of her radio show, B Real with Bethenny, that she took the high road and reached out to her estranged mom. “My daughter said, ‘Mommy, are your parents alive? […] I want to meet your mommy.’ And I thought, ‘Oh God, I’ve got to reach out to her,'” she recalled.
Unfortunately, Bernadette saw it differently. “I don’t think she really reached out, her daughter asked about me. She didn’t reach out; the daughter did,” she told Radar Online, adding that it was far from a heartfelt reunion. “It took me a long time to get over [Bethenny’s] lies and I have no feelings for her at all,” she said, adding that the get-together was a one-off. “She didn’t leave a number and quite honestly, I didn’t think to ask for it,” Bernadette concluded.
A lawyer was called out during Bethenny Frankel's divorce
Bethenny Frankel and Jason Hoppy called it quits in December 2012 after two years of marriage, and a bitter battle ensued. In 2016, it was reported that they settled their divorce (but it wasn’t finalized), and then, Frankel turned on her former lawyer, Jamie Andrew Schreck. According to People, Frankel sued Schreck for $2 million in 2016 for malpractice. She claimed when she bought her $5 million condo in Manhattan in 2011, she agreed to put it in a trust at Hoppy’s suggestion, but had no idea that the contract drafted by her lawyer gave her ex 50% ownership of the condo and the right to live in it without paying rent. Asked why she had signed the papers without reading them, a source told People that Frankel “believed, based on her communication with her husband, that the trust was to maintain privacy given her public recognition.” In the lawsuit, Frankel alleged that the condo fiasco was the reason why the divorce took so long. According to The Blast, Frankel and Schreck were slated to face off in court before December 6, 2019.
In August 2019, it was revealed that the divorce still wasn’t final when Frankel wished her former Real Housewives of New York City costars luck ahead of Season 12. She tweeted, “I had to go since I’m the only one that is actually married.” Hoppy’s lawyer confirmed to ET that “Jason and Bethenny are still technically married.”
Bethenny Frankel wore her 4-year-old daughter's clothes
Bethenny Frankel knows how to make a splash on Instagram, and in 2014, she stirred up some waves when she posted a photo she took while wearing her then-four-year-old child’s pajamas. “This is my daughter’s nightgown and PJ shorts,” she wrote in the photo’s caption, asking, “Think we’re ready to start sharing clothes yet?”
While Frankel surely intended for the post to be funny, she soon came under fire when some followers accused her of propagating unhealthy body expectations. As Access reported, one critic slammed, “Trying to understand how a potential eating disorder, poor body image, and setting a poor example for your child equates to a joke.” Another added, “This is not cute or funny in any way,” and someone else referenced Frankel’s Skinnygirl brand, writing, “More like skeleton girl than skinny girl.”
Much of the criticism stemmed from concerns over the impact on Bryn’s own body image. As one commenter posted (via ET), “I would just caution doing this as she gets more impressionable. She needs to develop a healthy self-image because she may not have all of your genes […] and it won’t be obvious to you, but it will look as though you are competing with her.”
Frankel remained relatively unbothered and made fun of the controversy. In the wake of the drama, she tweeted, “BREAKING NEWS! World Scandal: Former reality star, failed talk show host & cocktail maven jokes by wearing her kids’ pjs! #itcantbetrue.”
Things got litigious for Bethenny Frankel and her manager
Bethenny Frankel made a fortune by teaming up with Skyy Vodka alum David Kanbar to create her low-calorie Skinnygirl cocktail line in 2009, and two years later, she sold the company for a good chunk of money. According to The Hollywood Reporter, it went for $120 million in 2011; Forbes reported the price tag was at $100 million. It was a lucrative deal that her former manager, Raw Talent co-president Doug Wald, believes would never have happened without him.
Following the Skinnygirl sale, Wald sued Frankel for $100 million, claiming that he was working as her personal manager and, according to The Hollywood Reporter, that Frankel allegedly agreed to pay Raw Talent 10% of her earnings when he introduced her to Kanbar. According to court documents, the reality TV star allegedly “expressly represented that any agreement relating to the exploitation of the Skinnygirl Cocktail Brand would be commissionable under their management agreement.” However, the documents claim that “days before signing her deal to develop and market Skinnygirl,” she fired Wald. So, in March 2011, he sued Frankel, saying she owed Raw Talent their 10% fee. He also wanted $100 million in damages to “make an example out of” the Bravolebrity.
In June 2012, The Hollywood Reporter confirmed that Frankel had agreed to a settlement, although details would not be made available to the public.
The Skinnygirl Margarita and Whole Foods don't mix
Bethenny Frankel’s courtroom drama with former manager Doug Wald wasn’t the only controversy to stem from her Skinnygirl brand. In September 2011, a source told the New York Post that Whole Foods apparently pulled the Skinnygirl Margarita off its shelves “after discovering that it contains a preservative that does not meet our quality standards”: sodium benzoate. According to Healthline, sodium benzoate has the “ability to convert to benzene, a known carcinogen […] in soda and other drinks that contain both sodium benzoate and vitamin C.” Yikes.
Rather than go the apologetic route or look into Whole Foods’ concerns, Frankel, who sold the brand that spring, shot back. In a statement to Access, she defended the ingredients, saying, “I’m not making wheatgrass here. If I could put an agave plant and some limes on a shelf I would,” she quipped, adding, “[The Skinnygirl Margarita] is as close to nature as possible, while still being a shelf-stable product.” Frankel then seemingly tried to change the narrative regarding who was actually behind the decision to part ways, saying, “With all due respect to Whole Foods, we were in a dozen of their stores and have decided not to continue in these stores.” Saying they “represent an infinitesimal fraction of our business,” she concluded, “We were bound to piss someone off, and everyone loves to try to tear down a success. This is a non-event. I haven’t lost even a wink of sleep.”
Bethenny Frankel was 'relieved' her show was canceled
Bethenny Frankel has a penchant for trying to turn things around on others whenever there’s a negative story about her in the news, and the cancelation of her daytime talk show was no different. In 2014, Deadline confirmed Bethenny was being pulled off the air after just one season.
Rather than just saying farewell, Frankel penned an open letter on her blog in which she threw her network under the bus and claimed to be “relieved” by the series’ termination. (The blog has since been deleted.) “Unlike my time on Bravo, I felt a bit diluted, filtered and somewhat constricted,” she wrote (via Deadline). “I am more comfortable in my natural surroundings and in a setting where I’m surrounded by crazy, where anything goes and where I can be authentically me,” she added, noting, “I always said that it could only work if I was true to myself and only if it was genuinely a good fit and marriage which it turned out not to be.”
It’s worth noting that a report that ahead of the cancelation, a report surfaced that suggested drama on the show’s set. In October 2013, Radar Online reported that the Real Housewives of New York City alum allegedly lashed out at Bethenny staff. According to an insider, Frankel allegedly was “seeing red and accused her staff of leaking the stories to the press” and called the show “not a very happy place to work these days.”
Some of Bethenny Frankel's posts are controversial
Some celebrities are quick to apologize for inappropriate comments they make, but Bethenny Frankel is another story. While shopping at Kmart in January 2016, the reality TV star fired off a heated tweet in which she criticized the retailer for having “2 registers open [with] 5 other employees standing around & two speak no English whatsoever. Shoes are sapatos right?”
Reaction was swift, as Frankel was accused of being “racist” and “a miserable, dreadful human being.” One user slammed, “You know people are allowed to speak any language in this country, right? There is no official language. Racist as hell.” Another wrote, “It isn’t Bergdorf. YOU walk through the store and find the department you want. It has big signs. Be self-sufficient.” Rather than apologizing or deleting the comment, Frankel stood her ground, tweeting, “No excuse for being at a retailer & not able to be directed to what [you] need. 0 to do [with] race. I’ll explain but can’t understand it for you.”
Jump to May 2018 when Access reported on another insensitive post from the RHONY star. Frankel Instagrammed herself wearing a sombrero, fake mustache, margarita sunglasses, and a chili pepper necklace to celebrate Cinco de Mayo. Fans called her out for cultural appropriation, with one posting, “I love you but this is offensive. Take it down.” Another referenced a Real Housewives controversy, writing, “You can’t criticize Luanne for her Diana Ross costume and then post a pic like this.”
Bethenny Frankel said some odd things at a conference
In April 2016, Mary Pryor, founder of Urban Socialista, a consulting firm, attended Project Entrepreneur, a growth accelerator for female entrepreneurs. Bethenny Frankel was a guest speaker that year, but as Pryor proclaimed in a piece for All Digitocracy, the Skinnygirl founder gave a lesson in “how NOT to empower a room full of women founders.”
Reporting on the event, Pryor wrote that she “was stunned when Frankel implied that women should have sex with men in exchange for capital.” She was also “offended when she expressed some kind of kinship with black women because she’s ‘loud'” and was “taken aback when she advised those of us in the room to get business advice to hire a white man as the face of our companies.” In a tweet that has since been deleted (via All Digitocracy), she called the advice a “racial microaggression.” And Pryor wasn’t the only person taken aback by the comments. One tweeted that Frankel “essentially proposed the erasure of black women as faces of entrepreneurship,” and another asked, “Did Bethenny really tell black women to make a white man the face of their company???”
Evidently, Frankel didn’t agree with the recap. She fired back at Pryor, telling Inc., “Why doesn’t that woman go do some work and succeed and stop making up stories about other people?” She continued, “That’s how you succeed, by doing the work and not complaining about what you don’t get.”
Bethenny Frankel's dog emergency was on social media
Bethenny Frankel’s “furry baby,” Cookie, was a huge part of her life, and when the pooch suffered a major medical emergency in October 2017, she looked for help online before she sought out a professional. This didn’t go over well with some. It started at 8:26pm when Frankel took to Twitter to ask, “What do I do when dog [is having a] seizure???” At the same time, she posted a video to Instagram Stories and pleaded (via People), “Help me, what do we do? Help us! I don’t know what to do. I don’t know where to go. There’s no vet-911,” she told fans. In another video, she added, “My poor daughter and I have been watching our dog have a seizure for 45 minutes. The hospital’s so far, I don’t think she’s going to make it.” That night, she tweeted that she went to social media for advice because she “literally didn’t know if lifting her would kill her or if she’d swallow tongue.”
When a person asked, “Why on earth didn’t you go to a Vet??? 40 minutes away is nothing,” she fired back, “We did 3 [minutes] into foaming/seizure.” According to People, Frankel eventually got Cookie to a hospital and, the following morning, she was back on Twitter, writing, “She is not regaining consciousness. It’s to be expected but this was a horrifying experience.” Cookie passed away a few days later.
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