Bethenny Frankel Tells Us Why She’s Returning to Housewife Craziness

The Real Housewives of New York City
Mathieu Young/Bravo
The Real Housewives of New York City

The “B” is back–and not a moment too soon! The Real Housewives of New York City kicks off Season 7 with the much-anticipated return of original cast member Bethenny Frankel, who spent three years on the show before landing her own now-defunct Bravo spinoff and syndicated talk show. But the lifestyle mogul isn’t here to take a victory lap: The April 7 premiere finds her reeling over her messy divorce from Jason Hoppy. Frankel tells us about her next act.

Let’s start with the obvious: Why put yourself through this craziness again?

When I left the show, I really wasn’t enjoying it anymore. I wasn’t happy and I didn’t like the experience or what it represented. But gradually I realized that I missed the connection with the viewers, and how liberating it is to say whatever you want. I’ve accepted and embraced that I am a professional reality star—it makes me feel natural and alive!

Your eponymous talk show was canceled after one season. Why do you think that medium wasn’t the right fit?

It was so different from what I imagined it to be. You’d think, “My show, my name on the stage, I can do what I want.” But there’s a big difference between being on edgy cable like Bravo and hosting a network television show that’s airing in the Bible Belt. I would say things that I considered so PG and the producer would be just shake his head, like, “No.” And there’s so much directing traffic you have to do—”We’ll be back in a minute,” “Now let’s promote this!”—that it felt really orchestrated to me. I have such respect for the people who can do it well, like Ellen DeGeneres and Kelly Ripa, because it looks much easier than it is.

What’s the biggest difference about being a Housewife the second time around?

I don’t get riled up about every little thing like I used to—I’m able to laugh more. Of course there’s drama, but for the most part it’s like, “Who cares?”

Did the other gals roll out the welcome wagon for you?

There was a certain reconnection with LuAnn [de Lesseps] and Ramona [Singer], because we all started out together—we’re like the O.G.s. of this franchise—although there’s no denying that we had some Ramona-coaster moments. And I really ended up liking and respecting Carol [Radziwill]. From what little I’d seen of her before, I wasn’t that keen, so that was a big surprise.

How’d you hit it off with the freshman cast member, Dorinda Medley?

She’s a great addition and a great Housewife. Dorinda was brand new, and I think she saw me as a veteran guiding her through the process and what this whole thing means. It’s funny, because the older cast members who’ve known me for years see me as the same person I always was. The newer women only know me from my success story, so they’re intrigued by it and want to talk business.

The title of your latest book, I Suck At Relationships So You Don’t Have To, says it all. Will your romantic life be featured on screen?

Not really—mainly because I wouldn’t want to date someone who wants to be on reality television. If it were a really significant part of the story, I might show just a glance of the person. I don’t know. But everybody seems to think my romantic life is a lot more interesting and intense than it actually is.

You’ve been through a lot over the past couple years—how would you describe your state of mind when the cameras started rolling?

Definitely emotional, but the tide was just starting to turn and I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s a very fine line, because I don’t want to complain. People think I have the greatest life in the world, but just because I’ve sold a lot of Skinnygirl cocktails doesn’t mean that I don’t know pain. I don’t go to bed on a mattress made of money! There have been rough times, and I’m ready for the sun to come up.

You were the first Housewife to use the series as a business launching pad. How much Skinnygirl can we expect to see?

The show is a great platform, and I paved the way for how to monetize it. But it’s not a commercial—at this point, Skinnygirl is just a part of my life. If I’m making a drink, it’s going to be with my own booze!

The Real Housewives of New York City, Season premiere, April 7, 9/8c, Bravo