Memo to Heidi Montag: This is how a career in reality TV is done. Smart as a whip and just as thin, Bethenny Frankel rose to fame on the small screen — first as the runner-up on the Martha Stewart edition of The Apprentice, later on three seasons of The Real Housewives of New York City, and now on her own show, Bethenny Ever After, which kicked off Season 2 last week, all the while parlaying her notoriety into a multi-million-dollar healthy lifestyle brand in the process. The new mom — she and husband Jason Hoppy welcomed daughter Bryn in May — took a breather at NYC's Mr. Chow over (what else?) some Skinnygirl margaritas.
TV Guide Magazine: Flashback to 2005. You were a culinary school grad with a made-for-TV personality — did you think The Apprentice would be your big break?
Frankel: Oh, it was fool's gold! I had a cookie company that was losing money and I was driving a $500 piece-of-junk car — I looked like a crack dealer — and I thought it was going to save me. I had a whole plan in my head: "Martha is getting older, and she will be smart enough to have me come on board."
TV Guide Magazine: And...?
Frankel: Meeting her was a disappointment. I thought she would be as warm and fuzzy as her brand — like she'd want to bake you cupcakes. Sometimes when you meet your idol, it doesn't live up to your expectations.
TV Guide Magazine: Then along came Housewives.
Frankel: For two months I turned it down. But I just kept thinking about it — with my business ideas, I had a tree with fruit ripe for the picking. Finally I said yes.
TV Guide Magazine: It was like having your own infomercial!
Frankel: I was the first Housewife to monetize it. I said to Jill [Zarin] and Ramona [Singer] and everyone else, "Why are we getting facials and buying diamonds? You're on television — pick a business and go do something." For me, it was a perfect fit.
TV Guide Magazine: But it became about more than just business.
Frankel: At the time I was alone in a 700-square-foot apartment, and my boyfriend did not want to live with me. It was not very Bravo. I started getting all these letters from women who were going through the same thing... And I said, "Oh, my goodness, I have a relationship with my fans." Over time it's become so much greater. I feel a responsibility to share my real life with them.
TV Guide Magazine: Is it a relief to be through with Housewives?
Frankel: Yes. Women should not be rewarded for bad behavior. The show evolved — or devolved — into something that is not even remotely who I am. The last season was excruciating.
TV Guide Magazine: You and former BFF Jill had a major on-air falling out. Have you reconciled?
Frankel: She never contacted me after the reunion show. She'd been contacting me for days upon days up until then, because I think she was nervous about how it would come off. I do not think her apology was genuine.
TV Guide Magazine: Jason — a businessman — seems to be a good sport about having his life documented.
Frankel: It's exactly the right balance: He's not Spencer Pratt, but he's not angry at it. He supports me. I have a more difficult time than he does — I hit the wall. It's a lot of people in my apartment, around my baby.
TV Guide Magazine: How is it having Bryn in the mix?
Frankel: She's now 9, 10 months old and she can see the boom [microphone] — and Jason and I have started to talk about how long we would do this. I don't know that I'd want to go on forever with her.
TV Guide Magazine: Has parenthood changed your marriage?
Frankel: It totally cut the honeymoon short. I got pregnant, got married and got success and money all at the same time — and all when I turned 40. We crammed a lot in. Do I feel like a newlywed? No. We can't just pick up and go. We have these plane tickets to anywhere in the world; Jason says, "Let's go to the Maldives — we'll take the baby!" I'm like, "You don't want to be on a plane for 21 hours with a baby."
TV Guide Magazine: This season, we'll see you struggle with your in-laws over their complaints that you don't spend enough time with them....
Frankel: It strikes a chord — you're not mad at me, you're not mad at them, they're nice people. But watching it, you'll see the passive-aggressive comments that made me feel crazy. In my life, in many cases I look like the bad guy. But sometimes it's like, maybe she's not entirely insane.
TV Guide Magazine: Bethenny Ever After really breaks the fourth wall about your fame.
Frankel: We had to! I think it's the first show that's ever gone through the happening of fame in real time. I'm not going to act like, "Oh, my! Why is there paparazzi outside?"
TV Guide Magazine: With everything on your plate, do you ever feel overprogrammed?
Frankel: I do feel like I'm being pulled in a million different directions. I took on too much; a speaking tour, Skating With the Stars, these businesses... I am now cutting the fat. I say no more than I say yes. You don't want too much of Bethenny.
Bethenny Ever After airs Mondays at 10/9c on Bravo.
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