Say what you will about Bethenny Frankel, but she’s a real go-getter. As a reality television staple—having appeared on The Apprentice: Martha Stewart, The Real Housewives Of New York, Skating With The Stars, and her own show on Bravo, Bethenny Getting Married?—author, and brand unto herself, Frankel has made a career out of being sharp, brazen, and just a little bit fabulous.
The A.V. Club caught up with Frankel to talk about her Chicagoland speaking engagements (Jan. 28 at the Genesee Theatre in Waukegan and Jan. 29 at the Rialto Square Theatre in Joliet), her baby, her new Bravo show, and why in the world there was a question mark on the title of her last series.
The A.V. Club: It says in the press materials for your tour that you’ll be dishing a whole bunch of television and life dirt at these speaking engagements. What can people actually expect from coming to hear you speak?
Bethenny Frankel: It’s a little bit of what I’m up to, some gossip. I’m going to talk about when I lived in Chicago. I’m going to talk about marriage, restaurants, the baby. Then I’ll get to the real meat of the matter, which is how I’ve helped hundreds upon thousands of women lose weight, and never have to diet again. How I’ve helped women liberate themselves in their kitchens using what they have, and not getting bogged down with expensive ingredients and big messes.
I’m also going to talk about Place Of Yes, which is the book I’m just finishing now. It’s about how I found a husband, had a baby, and how it happened a little later in life, and it wasn’t all tied up in a perfect Tiffany bow.
AVC: When did you live in Chicago?
BF: I lived in Chicago in 1999 and 2000. I was at George and Racine, right next to the Elbo Room, where I never went.
AVC: Oh, that’s funny. Your baby’s there with you now? How are you going to deal with being on tour with her being so young?
BF: She’s coming everywhere with me. My husband comes, and we bring a nanny sometimes, or most of the time. I wear leggings, and change her on my lap on the plane.
We just all want to be together. I would be miserable otherwise. We just all go together.
I think we’re going to have a tour bus this time, so we can have a play area during the day, and a place to cook. It’s very Griswold.
AVC: Your Bravo shows—Real Housewives Of New York and Bethenny Getting Married?—did very well, but I feel like, with all reality TV, you always have to wonder how real anything is that’s going on there onscreen. How real, really, are your shows?
BF: Bethenny Getting Married? is the most real-life reality show there is, period. I’m an executive producer, and everyone in my life on the show is in my life in real life. I can control the environment. On that first season of the show, you had the baby being born, and getting married, and those were some big events that made drama. This year, with the new show [Bethenny Ever After], there’s no big, giant things happening. It’s just the texture of our lives.
With Real Housewives, that’s how everyone really is in real life. Bravo’s great at not really editing things too ridiculously. Now, are some of the Real Housewives acting a little exaggerated and trying to create drama? Probably. But Bravo’s done 19 seasons of Housewives, and so they know what they’re doing. It seems more real to me than a lot of other reality TV.
AVC: How real was Skating With The Stars for you? Did you really get into it with Johnny Weir?
BF: I wasn’t really talking to him off set, because he was a judge. He was also just incredibly mean. Whatever.
That whole experience was absolutely excruciating for me. I just took on more than I could handle. I was doing that, travelling with a baby, taking care of that baby, shooting my own show, writing the new book, and getting up at 6 a.m. to try and accommodate both filming schedules. I just took on too much.
You know, I always say to women that if you commit to something, do it to the best of your ability, but that show tested me. I wanted to get out so bad. I was miserable. It wasn’t their fault, though.
AVC: But now you’re great at figure skating.
BF: Yeah, I’m great at pairs figure skating.
AVC: You did come in second, though.
BF: I do like that I was the underdog, and I was the most improved. I couldn’t get down the ramp the first week. That whole experience was difficult, but I committed, and did try and show women that if you push through something, you can get there.
So, I was a finalist, but I wasn’t close to the best of the whole group. I did improve, though. [The baby starts talking again, saying “mama.” Frankel notes that most babies say “dada” first.]
AVC: Now that you have the baby, do you have any reservations about having her on TV? Do you want to raise her in front of the reality cameras, in front of viewers?
BF: I do have reservations; my husband and I both do. Bravo’s been so good to me, though. It all began on that network. They’ve supported my experiences when I couldn’t pay my rent, and there are so many great things about working with them.
I like showing moms what it’s really like having a baby, and how it’s not Hollywood life. It’s breast-feeding, the fights we really have, and I can help women solve problems and make them feel better about where they are.
That’s the price, though, having Bryn on camera. I agreed to do the new show, and she’s on season two. She’s starting to notice the equipment, though, and know what’s going on, so I think her presence is going to reduce drastically next season, if we have season three. I might not have her on at all next time. I’d rather just have a talk show, not in my house.
AVC: That has to bother you, right? Having people in your actual house all the time?
BF: I’m very private. I like my home to be my home. I’m always in my pajamas, unless I know for a fact that people are taking my picture.
I don’t enjoy that part of having a show at all. I mean, other than the fact that I don’t have to leave my house to go to work sometimes. It’s not the crew’s fault, though. That’s why everyone’s there. It is hard having 15 people in your house on a daily basis, though.
I’m not very social when I’m not working, and it’s hard for my husband to understand.
AVC: How do you deal with all that interference into your life? Has it helped you handle criticism better? Like, do you watch the Shep And Tiffany sketches about you?
BF: I’m on the cover of Star Magazine right now as one of the women without makeup, and I don’t look great. I like to look nice, but I’m not marketing being beautiful. Most of what people say and make fun of, it’s the truth. People just can’t handle the truth.
AVC: Are you glad you didn’t win The Apprentice: Martha Stewart? It seems like your life would be a lot different now.
BF: I just finished editing that chapter of the book! I’m very glad I didn’t win. I wouldn’t want to be stuck in a cubicle for a year and never heard from again after that year. Look at the girl who won. I wouldn’t be as motivated to do everything for myself as I am now.
AVC: One more question. Why in the world was there a question mark at the end of Bethenny Getting Married? We all knew you were getting married.
BF: The way they made it sound, whenever you’d hear the show’s announcer, it was supposed to sound like “Bethenny? Getting married?” Like, a lot of it was supposed to be that it was hard to believe that I’d ever get married, and it wasn’t easy to get me down the aisle. I think Bravo was hedging their bets, like, “What if this broad doesn’t make it down the aisle?”