Reality television star, entrepreneur, chef, author and all-around Renaissance woman Bethenny Frankel is a true-blue New Yorker. She was born in the city on Nov. 4, 1970 to parents Bernadette Birk and Brooklyn boy Robert Frankel – himself one of the most respected thoroughbred race horse trainers in the history of the sport.
Bethenny’s parents divorced when she was young. Her mother quickly remarried and Bethenny’s home life was chaotic – with her mother drinking heavily and often fighting with her stepfather, John Parisella. The household moved frequently, and Bethenny attended several schools. Her father, Robert, stopped supporting his daughter and the two were estranged until shortly before his death in 2009.
She finally found some structure as a boarding student at the Pine Crest School in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. After graduation, she returned to her home city and enrolled in classes, first at the Natural Gourmet Institute and later at New York University.
She was attracted to the entertainment industry from an early age, and tried a move to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career. While she tried to break into an acting career, she worked as a personal assistant to Kathy Hilton, where one of her daily tasks was taking the famous socialite’s daughters Paris and Nicky to school. She worked briefly as a production assistant for the hit teen show Saved by the Bell.
But despite her persistence and drive, acting never did take off for Bethenny. In her one and only big role, Bethenny played homicidal high school transfer student Laura Drake in the 1994 direct-to-video thriller Hollywood Hills 90028.
Eventually Bethenny realized that acting was not going to be her big break. Ironically, it was as herself that Bethenny would ultimately capture the country’s attention. In fact, it wasn’t until she appeared as a contestant on The Apprentice: Martha Stewart, where she made it to the finals, that Bethenny’s career started to really take off.
She’s famously called attention to her bold personality and no holds barred approach to her very public life. Believing in the word ‘yes’, it is Bethenny’s fiery personality to say ‘no’ that has attributed to much of her success. As the only single woman on the popular Real Housewives of New York City series on Bravo, she captured viewers’ attention and their sympathies even as she diligently worked to create her SkinnyGirl empire. Her hard work and persistence has made her millions of dollars, and even though she hasn’t had much luck in love, she’s had tremendous success in her work.
In addition to SkinnyGirl cocktails, Bethenny has authored four self-help books. She’s also been a guest on The Wendy Williams Show, Chelsea Lately and the Ellen DeGeneres Show. She’s competed on Skating with the Stars and has inspired a number of spinoffs, including Bethenny Ever After, and Bethenny – her very own talk show which aired for two years.
Now, she’s back on Real Housewives of New York after refusing their many offers, where she’s negotiated a $1 million per season contract. It just goes to show how valuable viewers find the real Bethenny – who has survived all of the public feuds, wars of words and drama, both expected and unexpected – that life in the spotlight can bring.
And that’s what makes this star of The Real Housewives of New York City as real a New York City housewife as they come. Strong!