Bethenny Frankel on Breakout Podcast Success & New Series 'The Big Shot'

Bethenny Frankel
Q&A
Zev Sarr-Tambor

Multifaceted entrepreneur Bethenny Frankel has had a very busy year, but not how you might expect. The Skinnygirl founder, wasting no time following her final season on Real Housewives of New York, announced her new HBO Max series, The Big Shot with Bethennyin February, a competition series in which aspiring business moguls compete for a job on her executive team. And then COVID-19 hit.

Philanthropist Frankel pivoted her disaster relief initiative BSTRONG to focus on getting over $20 million worth of PPE distributed to all 50 states. BSTRONG, in partnership with Global Empowerment Mission, also says it raised over $5.7 million in funds to directly assist hospitals and medical workers treating patients on the frontline. The ongoing effort is believed to be one of the largest private donations for COVID relief. To further help out during the pandemic, Skinnygirl released a line of women's supplements for healthy self-care.

Just B with Bethenny Frankel

In late September, Frankel launched her Apple podcast, Just B with Bethenny Frankel, which debuted at the top of the charts. Her guests have included Mark Cuban, Paris Hilton and, most recently, Hillary Clinton.

Now, after months of production delays, Frankel has finally started filming her unscripted eight-episode competition series The Big Shot with Bethenny, which is focused on fostering a new generation of business moguls. The Big Shot is co-produced by Frankel's B. Real Productions and Mark Burnett.

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Frankel took time out of running her lifestyle empire to discuss working with Burnett's "not-f*cking-around crew," breakdown how Just B audiences reacted to her discussion with Clinton a week before the election, and why The Big Shot will be unlike anything else on TV.

Congratulations on the success of your podcast, Just B with Bethenny! What do you look for in a guest? 

Bethenny Frankel: The filter for the guests is that they have to have either started from the bottom, now they're here, they changed the game, or they're a maverick and they're just a mogul. They've created something and done it in a nontraditional way that they're only like a force or a warrior. That's the filter. It's not about being famous, it's not about being rich. It's not about being a Republican or a Democrat. I would love to have Mark Zuckerberg on, Jack Dorsey, Elon Musk, Donald Trump, Obama. I would love to have so many different people on.

You spoke with Hillary Clinton on the podcast a week before the election, and later posted on Instagram about the reaction. How was that episode received? 

It's very polarizing. My post was very polarizing. I had vomit emojis all over my Instagram account this week and last week, because as I discussed with Hillary, it's a zero-sum game. If you don't agree with someone or you're doing something that is not exactly what they in their mind have designed you to do, then it's goodbye. And that's the problem. These are people I'm having a real conversation with that is important to me and that will move the conversation forward, and you should be able to be mature enough to listen [to] someone you don't like in a mature way and still disagree, but at least understand why they might think that way. I want to hear what makes [people] tick. That's the only way to possibly grow.

 

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I had the opportunity to interview @hillaryclinton on @justbwithbethenny. She tweeted about the podcast, and I was humbled and flabbergasted when she agreed to be a guest. This is a conversation with no agenda. She didn’t ask for questions ahead of time, nothing was off limits, and she agreed to talk for 45 minutes—a lot of time for a busy woman. This was not a political discussion—it was a life conversation between two opinionated, intelligent, and often polarizing women. #justbwithbethenny is a podcast where I explore the natural curiosity about what makes an undeniably accomplished person tick. I have had staunch Republicans and liberal Democrats on this show because game changers, moguls, and successful people come in all ages, colors, races, religions, and political affiliations. I have never loved any job that I have had more. I have already learned so much about myself, life, success, relationships, and how infinitely similar and different we are at the same time. If we only listen to people with our own point of view, we will be stuck inside our own heads talking to different versions of ourselves. The world has become a place where one is right and everyone else is wrong; it’s become a bitter, angry, and divisive environment. I am proud of these interviews and grateful for the time that I am given to explore the many nontraditional routes to success. Take this ride with me no matter what your personal feelings and opinions are—we just might learn something together. #aplaceofYES

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I think it's important that I continue to be a messenger for that and I continue to stand for something. I'm not going to be the person that's going to hide under my covers and be terrified that I'm going to say the wrong thing or say it the wrong way or offend the wrong group. I've been called a "Karen," I've been called a racist, now I've got vomit emojis. The more opinionated I am and the more that I truly be myself, and chose proactively to do a podcast and just be really honest about my opinion and have my point of view and stand for something, the more it's getting really hot in here. And I'm OK with it. It's game time now. It's not just posting cute pictures of me and my dogs, or filter myself in a bikini. We're talking about real sh*t, the election is [almost here] and everyone's opinion matters. Everybody has to listen to everybody else's ideas and opinions because otherwise we keep staying in the same place listening to the voices in our own head.

Exactly. And that's the only way to move forward and hopefully heal the divisiveness that we see going on, too. 

Right.

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You also started filming The Big Shot with Bethenny for HBO Max this month after COVID delays in August. What has it been like returning to reality TV, and can you tease anything about the show?

It's completely real. It's completely derived from a need. It's conceived by me, produced by me, every inch of it is produced by me — from the look to what everyone is doing. It's intense and it's high-pressure, which is what my life is. I'm going to find one or maybe more people that are really qualified and exceptional, and hopefully they can do this job at the end of it. But it's based on my real brands: I really have coffee that I'm drinking out of a mug right now, I really have supplements that I take every day. So that's what makes the show different than people coming in to pay to do these random arbitrary tasks that have nothing to do with what the job would end up being.

That hypothetical play-pretend that some other shows do... 

Yeah, The Apprentice is an amazing, ground-breaking show, and it's an international franchise, but selling lemonade or doing a commercial for Delta airlines really doesn't have much to do with working for Martha Stewart or Donald Trump.

Bethenny Frankel

Viewers will definitely get a chance to see the behind-the-scenes of your Skinnygirl empire on Big Shot. What do you think may surprise audiences about your work as an entrepreneur? 

Everybody thinks we're sitting here curling our eyelashes, wearing heels and drinking cocktails. It's hardcore. I'm hardcore; I'm fair but I'm tough. I'm not Miranda Priestly throwing my jacket at people when I walk into a room but it's no picnic and the job is no picnic. It's a riot, a laugh-a-minute, but it's very serious business. I haven't met anybody who can keep up with me yet. That being said, the people who have worked for me have gone on to work for Paul Allen, Red Bull, companies like Rite Aid and Campbells, and do incredible things. But no one has come with me all the way to the top, which is what I'm looking for now that we're hitting our stride. So whoever is on the frontline now is really going to reap the benefits.

In addition to Big Shot, your B. Real Productions has signed on to develop a number of other shows with megaproducer Mark Burnett. Why did you feel like Mark was the person to partner with next, and what kind of other shows might we see from this deal?

I was on the original The Apprentice: Martha Stewart. I met Mark for 10 seconds. Then I guess he watched my trajectory and came up to me at Shark Tank and it was an amazing full-circle moment that I would be a Shark on a Mark Burnett-produced show when I was just a peon living in a tiny studio apartment, flat broke. I had one business idea and I just called him. I don't remember how I got his number, but he got on the phone and he said the greatest compliment: "You are like me. You are me. You work hard, you don't stop. You are a visionary and I see so much of myself in you. We are very similar." So he had me meet with his president. I wasn't looking for a production deal, per se.

 

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I have hesitated to post about this application process given this terrible crisis our nation is facing. . Yet, I came to the realization that we will, at some point soon, need to return to a new normal, rebuild our lives, and to restore our faith in our society. For many, business will have changed as we know it. We will need to pivot and find creative ways to succeed. . I've spent a lot of this very challenging time doing relief work-finding a way to help those warriors risking their lives for ours, who need essential protective gear, to do their jobs properly and safely-to protect themselves. I believe I've been effective and had an impact because I've treated it like a business, setting goals, and executing them one by one. . THE BIG SHOT WITH BETHENNY (working title) is a show with an authentic genuine look into what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur through a non traditional approach. With branding, marketing, sales, and creative projects, applicants will be working in a real life business community learning what it takes to make it in our cutthroat world. I will let people into the inner workings of my life, my business, and my philanthropy to show how to be successful and execute a vision, even when the odds are against me. The participants and the audience will see how decisions get made and failures and successes happen every day. . I am looking to and for the future...I want to pay it forward and give someone the opportunity to carve their own path to success by truly taking them under my wing. I also want the audience to see how they can come from 'A Place of Yes' and make their business dreams come true once we enter the “new normal” in the coming months. . Please join me on a journey to become THE BIG SHOT. For more information, check out the link in my bio. . #theBIGSHOTwithBETHENNY @HBOMax @MGM_Studios @bigfishusa

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I'm an idea a minute, I'm an idea hamster. I really needed the right partner to run and gun and execute, and the Mark Burnett team I call the not-f*cking-around crew. We are literally just constantly like "Here's an idea, let's vet it, let's question it, let's shoot it, let's make it." I remember on The Apprentice saying, "This guy is a gangster. This show is produced like a military operation." It's going to be amazing. HBO Max is another level. They're like the crème de la crème.

Your initiative BSTRONG has helped so many families during the COVID-19 crisis. Can you share a little bit about what the pivot was like for BSTRONG back in early March? 

BSTRONG and I have been in Mexico, Guatemala, the Amazon, California, Puerto Rico, the Bahamas so many times it's crazy. But this was the big game. This was the Super Bowl of relief work because it was a worldwide effort. I don't how but we managed to get PPE to all 50 states, $20 million worth of PPE, more than $5.7 million in cash cards and aid distributed. At one point we did 1 million hazmat suits to the state of New York, and 100,000 masks to the city of New York. It almost killed me. It was very stressful.

Well BSTRONG has made a huge difference, just looking at the stats. It's extremely admirable. 

Thank you.

The Big Shot with Bethenny, Coming, HBO Max