How Bethenny Frankel Used a Reality Show to Amass over $100 Million

Bethenny Frankel Skinnygirl

Becoming a Real Housewife can launch a career, and no housewife from any franchise is more successful than Bethenny Frankel. The former Real Housewives of New York City star has gone from being a finalist on Martha Stewart’s version of The Apprentice to being a real housewife looking for love, to being one o of the most successful business women in the country. She’s the creator of SkinnyGirl cocktails, the brand she sold for more than $100 million. The real housewife certainly used the show to her advantage, taking her fame and public personality and using it to create and launch her successful business endeavors.

Growing Up Bethenny

Born on November 3, 1970 to a horse trainer by the name of Robert J. Frankel and Bernadette Birk, she was raised by her mother and her stepfather, John Parisella – also a horse trainer, after her father left her family and stopped supporting her when she was only five. Frankel has made no secret of the fact that her childhood was not one that was particularly appropriate or even normal for a child. She grew up at the horse tracks around adults who didn’t bother trying to behave appropriately around a small child, and her mother drank too much and wasn’t a great example of a mother to Frankel. She grew up witnessing her drunk mother engage in violet and often physical altercations with her stepfather.

The reality star eventually opted to get out of the house. She was drinking and engaging in other inappropriate behavior by the time she was a teen, and she decided it would be better for her to go to school somewhere she could live on campus and not have to be around her parents. She attended the Pine Crest School in Fort Lauderdale, where she graduated in 1988. Despite her bad habits and her tumultuous upbringing, Frankel went to college. She attended both the National Gourmet Institute for Healthy and Culinary Arts and New York University.

Bethenny’s Career

By the time she finished with school, she was ready for Hollywood. She thought she might become an actress, and she had no idea how her career would pan out. She began working in Hollywood as a production assistant for Saved by the Bell, and she appeared in a few short films and movies in the early 90s – none of which were successful enough to even remember.

In 2005, the reality star decided to make an attempt at becoming Martha Stewart’s apprentice, a reality television show on which she placed second. It was just the moment she needed to launch her career. Frankel impressed viewers and Stewart and made a lasting impression on the producers. When it came time for television producers to choose the cast of the new franchise of Housewives in New York City in 2008, Frankel tried out and was chosen for the show, despite not being a housewife. She was married a decade before, but she was currently an unmarried woman working in New York City.

From that point, it didn’t take long at all for her star to rise. She was an instant hit on the show with her upfront personality and her inability to keep her feelings in. Her funny comments and her honesty won over fans. It was then that Frankel decided to take her career a step further and write a cookbook. She’d attended culinary school and was a great cook, so she decided to publish, “Naturally Thin: Unleash Your SkinnyGirl and Free Yourself from a Lifetime of Dieting,” in March 2009. By December, she was publishing “The SkinnyGirl Dish: Easy Recipes for Your Naturally Thin Life,” both of which were hugely successful. Her many different endeavors in the publishing world made the star a lot of money, but that wasn’t even close to what her business venture into the cocktail industry would do for her career and her bank account.

A few months later, Frankel released her exercise DVD and only a year after that, she published yet another book, “A Place of Yes: 10 Rules for Getting Everything You Want Out of Life,” and a year later she published her first novel, “Skinnydipping,” but she wasn’t done just yet.

Bethenny and SkinnyGirl

Throughout her time as a novelist, she was also working on several other endeavors in the business world. While her books were successful, it was something else that Frankel was working on that really made her successful. The reality star was tired of going to dinner and choosing from cocktails that were filled with calories, so she created something she called the SkinnyGirl cocktail. She ordered it, telling bartenders over and over again, several times when she was out to eat being filmed for the Real Housewives, and she decided to bottle it.

In April 2011, Frankel began to sell SkinnyGirl cocktails, a bottled mix of alcoholic beverages that began as a margarita and eventually turned into cosmos and other forms of alcoholic cocktails that are low in calories in high in taste. The brand took off and she became very successful. She sold the company a short time later to the company that owns Jim Beam, Beam Global, for $100 million.

During that time, she was also contacted by Ellen DeGeneres, the famous talk show host, to host a talk show. Ellen loved Bethenny’s honest opinions, her forthright nature and her funny personality. Bethenny began airing in 2012, but was cancelled in early 2014.

Bethenny Behind the Scenes

While the reality star was busy filming the housewives for three seasons, creating her famous cocktails, writing books and becoming one of the most successful business women in the country, she was also living her own life behind the scenes. She’d all but cut off her relationship with her parents, and she was living the solo life doing whatever it took to keep herself afloat.

In 1996, Frankel wed a man by the name of Peter Sussman and divorced him less than a year later. She said she and the entertainment executive just didn’t work out. She then admitted that she had some serious commitment issues, never really being able to commit herself to a man. She blamed her upbringing and her strong personality for her failed relationships. She was engaged to be married several times, always leaving her soon-to-be husband before the wedding could actually take place.

It wasn’t until she had a chance encounter with a businessman by the name of Jason Hoppy at a club in 2009 that she decided to get married again. After becoming pregnant, the reality star began planning her wedding to Hoppy, whom she married on March 28, 2010. Bravo filmed the planning process and Bethenny was given her own spin off of the Real Housewives called, “Bethenny Getting Married,” which then turned into “Bethenny Ever After,” following the wedding.

In her two reality shows, fans got to see Bethenny plan her fabulous wedding at the Four Seasons restaurant, go on her St. Barths honeymoon and make her life work with Hoppy. We got to see the birth of their daughter, Bryn, and her struggle to have an extended family – Jason’s parents. Unfortunately, things did not work out for Bethenny and she decided to file for divorce just shy of her third wedding anniversary. The couple’s divorce was finalized the summer of 2014 after a long and difficult custody battle over the couple’s now 4-year-old daughter, Bryn.

It was reported for a time that Hoppy was hoping a divorce would not happen. He was spotted nearly 9 months after Frankel filed for divorce still wearing his wedding ring, and he was still living in the large apartment they renovated together – while she was living there. Because the situation was so uncomfortable for Frankel, she rented a nearby apartment so she and her daughter could have some privacy and space on the weekends when Hoppy’s parents would come to town and stay in the apartment with the family.

Today the reality star is sharing custody of her daughter with her ex-husband. It’s been reported that she was afraid not to share custody with him after he began spilling secrets about her that she was afraid would ruin her reputation. The couple signed a tight prenuptial agreement, but it’s estimated that the star’s ex might try to go after half of her estimated $100 million fortune, and even write a tell-all book about Frankel.

With the recent cancellation of her talk show, the reality star is pursuing other business interests at the moment. She’s currently spending time with her daughter and working on her brand, which is set to expand in the near future. She’s been spotted out and about over the summer spending a great deal of time in the Hamptons with her daughter and her current boyfriend, Michael Cerussi. Cerussi is not a Hollywood guy, but Frankel doesn’t usually go for those. The two have been dating since at least New Year’s 2014, where they were spotted vacationing in Miami where his family owns a vacation house. Cerussi is in the financial services industry in New York City, and there is no word on how the two met.

(Photo by Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images)


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