Bethenny Frankel Dishes on Her Return to the Housewives, Cocktails, and More

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Bethenny Frankel is not your average reality TV star. Arguably the most successful woman to come out of the Real Housewives franchise (just ask her Forbes cover), she started the show as the runner-up from The Apprentice: Martha Stewart who struggled to pay her rent. But it wasn't long before she became a New York Times bestselling author, the lead of two spin-offs and the founder of Skinnygirl Cocktails. We caught up with Bethenny to talk about her new cocktail book, her return to the Housewives, what went wrong with her short-lived talk show, her Saved by the Bell past and so much more.

KQED Pop: I love that, unlike most weight watching books, Skinnygirl Cocktails comes from a place of yes, as it would with you, and it's not about withholding anything, it's about allowing...

Bethenny Frankel: Look at you!

I know, right? I did some research!

You drank the Kool-Aid. You drank the Skinnygirl. Wow. I love it.


Can you tell us a little bit about what made you finally put this book together?

Well, I couldn't believe that I didn't have a cocktail book, given that that's my whole business. People want to be able to make cocktails at home and I really think that this is the most affordable and impressive way to entertain, to have signature cocktails at your house that are low-calorie. People don't feel guilty and that they're gonna feel overly hungover the next day from all the sugar.

A signature cocktail is 9 times out of 10 what people will drink at a party because you've done the thinking and the creativity for them and it really ends up being very impressive and cost-effective.

You mentioned hangovers. Everyone has a drink that burned them early on that they can't drink anymore. What drink do you stay away from?

Brown tequila. Any dark tequila. That's college; that's getting sick. Back in the day, I got pretty wasted on Long Island Iced Teas, but I definitely still love them. I would definitely make one and, if a restaurant had one, I would have to do it.

Your cocktail book has a huge variety of drinks appropriate for basically anyone so I'm gonna give you a celebrity name and you tell me what drink you would serve them. Let's start with the Queen of all beings, Beyonce.

The Pink Lemon Drop. Or I might give her my White Cranberry Cosmo.

How about your friend Ellen Degeneres?

I would do Barenaked Vodka with three olives.

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Ginsburg?? She needs to maintain her faculties. Probably the Skinnygirl Sauvignon Blanc.

I read somewhere that you've written all your books on your phone. What else do you get up to on your phone? Do you use Tinder?

I don't have any apps.

No apps?!

No apps. Just texting, emailing, looking up things online, taking pictures, and writing books. And writing down restaurants I pass that I want to go to.

You've worked with pretty high profile mentors in the past. I mentioned Ellen, who was a huge supporter with your talk show, and, on the flip side, you've worked with Martha Stewart, who, every time I see you two interact, either on The Apprentice or on your show recently, gives off kind of a competitive vibe. What's been your experience in dealing with other women in the industry?

Honestly, pretty positive. I've really grown to love women. I think women have been supportive and respectful and I don't have anything negative to say about women or men. If you can hold your own and you can walk the walk and talk the talk and it's not all fluff, people respect you and treat you well.

You're a huge inspiration for a lot of women to start their own businesses. Who was that person for you growing up?

I don't have one. I think there are successful women like Hillary Clinton, Barbara Walters, Arianna Huffington and Oprah, but I just always had my own idea and my own path.

I saw you on The View recently when you were promoting the book and you talked to them about how you value what they do because it was so hard for you on your own talk show. Can you talk more about what having your own show was like and how it was different than what you expected?

It's very appropriate. It's like directing traffic. It's very orchestrated and I just like to be more rogue and more free and more edgy and inappropriate. And I felt a little confined.

I could definitely sense that. When we fell in love with you on the Housewives, you were the voice of reason, saying what no one else would say, and, on daytime TV, it doesn't seem like that is valued.

No, and there are really very few formats, even on cable, that you would really be able to be who you are. I would say maybe Chelsea Handler had a situation where she could really be who she is, but she still had to drive traffic and worry about advertisers. I found that challenging.

So you're leaving the talk show world and coming back to the Housewives, which so many people are excited about. In the interim between when you left and now, [Housewives have taken to] throwing prosthetic legs and wine glasses at people's faces, and the brand seems to be more centered on women fighting other women. You've built your career on the opposite, women empowering women, so why go back now?

I think it's a lack of personal creativity, or people feel like they don't know what else  to do or say so they just want to do something outlandish. I'm doing the show because I miss the connection with women. For me personally, I think I have enough going on in my life that I don't need to do something ridiculous or outlandish just to make it interesting.

I'm excited to be back, which is so crazy to me because I didn't want to do it for a while. The first season was interesting because it was new, but I didn't really love it thereafter, and even doing my own show was so much pressure. I'm really looking forward to it. I want the show to be good and successful, but the only way for that to be the case is if I'm real and honest and to be who I am. If that is interesting to people, then there you go. I don't need to do the show, I want to do it. I feel like I needed it before.

Andy Cohen mentioned that you two were throwing around a couple of ideas for your return to TV before deciding that you would come back to the Housewives. Are you allowed to share any of those ideas that didn't make it?

I can't. We have another thing in the works together though, but I can't talk about it.

That's all I need to know, that there's gonna be more Bethenny in the world.

I think so. But this is a lot for right now and it's good. My whole business is very full and time-consuming and I have a daughter who is the most important.

Speaking of your daughter, there was that whole crazy thing about you in her PJs. How do you handle even the most innocuous part of your life being scrutinized?

I just don't care. You can't care. You can't invest in every moronic thing that goes on in the world. You can't get engaged.

Time for some random questions! If you were on stage at a karaoke bar, what would you be singing?

Maybe "Girl On Fire" [although] she's hard to cover.

If you could live inside one movie, what would it be?

Wall Street or Love Actually.

If you could invite three people (dead, alive or fictional) to dinner, who would they be?

Pink, JFK, and George Clooney.

2012-06-26-BethennyfrankelsavedbythebellI read that you were a PA on Saved by the Bell. Do you have any behind the scenes intel?

Yes, I was. It was so long ago. I was so envious of what seemed to be their fabulous lives.

Elizabeth Berkley and I had kind of deep conversations. She was extremely, extremely focused, a very serious actress, like taking dance classes and acting classes. Mario Lopez, who I still know now and see the most, was always fun and kind of charming and had that sparkle. And Tiffani Thiessen was  the most popular girl on the show and in real life. She just seemed like that girl you wanted to be in high school.  Lark Voorhies, she was really sweet and she was kind of a little more serious. They were babies. They were nice kids.

And a lot of people came through that show. I remember Denise Richards came through, Tori Spelling, Leah Remini. I remember Leah Remini telling me that she basically could only afford a taco, living out of the back of her car. Yeah, it was an interesting experience.

I've heard that you have a new book coming out soon

I call it the big book. Naturally Thin was a big book. Place of Yes was a big book. This is a big book. And it's kind of about mistakes that I've made.

I'm sure a lot of women will relate.

I think so. We'll see.

Well, I can't wait to read it and see you on the Housewives. Thanks for taking the time to talk to me today.


Thank you!