Who Is Bethenny Frankel?
Bethenny Frankel was born in New York City on November 4, 1970. The health-conscious chef and entrepreneur became a TV celebrity on The Real Housewives of New York City starting in 2008 and became a bestselling author of various self-help books. Other reality shows followed, as did her Skinnygirl brand of cocktails and other products. The self-made millionaire mom has also made headlines for her drawn-out and highly contentious divorce with husband Jason Hoppy in 2013.
Divorce with Jason Hoppy
Although Frankel has found great success in business, her relationship with pharmaceutical sales executive Jason Hoppy has been anything but. The reality star announced the couple's breakup on December 23, 2012 and filed papers the following January. Three weeks later, Hoppy did the same. Although a custody agreement of their daughter Bryn was finalized in 2014, the couple's divorce wasn't finalized until July 2016. During that time, Frankel and Hoppy were contentiously battling out their division of assets; the relationship became so toxic Frankel feared for her life and obtained a restraining order against Hoppy. In the summer of 2017 the situation worsened and she brought charges against him for stalking and harassing her. In October 2017 Hoppy decided to take a plea deal, which prohibits him from contacting her for six months.
Tough Childhood & Early Entrepreneurial Pursuits
Bethenny Frankel was born on November 4, 1970, in New York City, to renowned horse trainer Bobby Frankel and his wife Bernadette. Her father left when she was only four years old, and Frankel's mother married another horse trainer, John Parisella. According to Frankel, her childhood wasn't easy, partially due to moving from home to home, along with her dysfunctional relationship with her mother. The instability caused adolescent self-loathing and a dieting obsession.
Her troubled teen years didn't hinder Frankel from graduating from New York University with a degree in communications and psychology. Education aside, Frankel possessed Hollywood dreams. She moved to Los Angeles to pursue acting. But when her on-camera future wasn't panning out, Frankel took nanny jobs, including tending to a teenage Paris Hilton. She also was employed as television/film producer Jerry Bruckheimer's personal assistant. The go-getter used her powerful connections to launch a party-planning business and later a venture selling pashmina scarves. Both faltered.
Makings of a Chef
Frankel switched gears, returning to the Big Apple and school. She studied at the Natural Gourmet Institute in 2002. The newly trained chef started Bethenny Bakes, specializing in healthy cookies for New York's society crowd. But this business didn't prosper, either. However, it was her gateway to TV notoriety.
Reality-Television Stardom: From 'The Apprentice' to 'RHONYC'
In 2005, Frankel's high-profile baking background led her to being selected as a competitor on The Apprentice: Martha Stewart. A natural on TV, she made it as a finalist. As a result, Bravo cast Frankel on The Real Housewives of New York City. The reality show debuted in March of 2008 and was an instant hit. Suddenly, the only singleton of the series was famous. Frankel appeared on the program for three seasons and eventually returned to the franchise in 2010.
Recognizing Frankel's popularity, Bravo created Bethenny Getting Married?, a spin-off following her journey into marriage and parenthood with pharmaceutical exec Jason Hoppy. She tied the knot with Hoppy on March 28, 2010, while seven months pregnant. Her daughter, Bryn Casey Hoppy, was born just weeks later, on May 8th.
The premiere of Bethenny Getting Married? earned record-breaking ratings for the network on June 10, 2010, and ran for a second season, when it took on the title Bethenny Ever After.
The Skinnygirl Explosion
While achieving celebrity status, Frankel focused on creating her own brand, Skinnygirl. It took off with her 2009 bestseller, Naturally Thin: Unleash Your Skinnygirl and Free Yourself from a Lifetime of Dieting. She became known for her low-cal cocktail recipes, especially her margarita.
Frankel kept writing, including the recipe guide The Skinnygirl Dish, the autobiographical A Place of Yes and the novel Skinnydipping. Her Skinnygirl brand also included premixed cocktails. (Fortune Brands Inc. acquired the beverage line for an estimated $100 million). Frankel expanded the brand into exercise accessories, undergarments and other creations. In 2012, Forbes estimated her yearly earnings at $12 million.
Riding high on her success as a reality star and multimillionaire entrepreneur, Frankel dabbled in the talk show circuit in 2013. Executive-produced by Ellen DeGeneres, bethenny launched nationally but only aired for one season.
Diaster Relief Intiatives
Working with Dress for Success, Frankel launched her B Strong initiative, which helps women in crisis. In 2017 she extended the program to aid with disaster relief, first delivering goods to Mexico after it was hit by a 7.1 magnitude earthquake in September and then a month later, bringing aid to victims in Puerto Rico after the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria.
“People are dying. This is not a joke. This is not the blame game," she told talk show host Ellen DeGeneres about Puerto Rico. "People get in my Twitter to fight over whose fault it is — it doesn’t matter. There’s a mess; we have to clean it up."
As her divorce from Hoppy was still playing out, Frankel began dating banker Dennis Shields. Shields reportedly proposed to the TV star, though the situation was complicated by the fact that he was still legally married (albeit separated), to a former high school classmate of Frankel's. The situation took a tragic turn when Shields was found dead in his apartment in August 2018, from a reported drug overdose.
Frankel was previously married to entertainment executive Peter Sussman from 1996 to 1997.
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