Bethenny Frankel is one of the most iconic figures from Bravo’s Real Housewives franchise, and fans were stunned when she decided to quit the series for a second time. Season 12 of RHONY airs on Thursdays at 10 p.m.
Frankel was an original member of the RHONY squad when the show first debuted in 2008. Fans watched as Frankel built up her Skinnygirl franchise, had a daughter and tied the knot. She left after three seasons and starred in her own spinoffs before rejoining the group in season 7.
After season 11, Frankel decided the time was right to once again move on and focus on other projects. But it was not simply a career choice. Frankel admitted in an interview with Variety that the show was “exhausting and emotional,” and she decided it was best for her mental health to take a step back.
Here’s what you need to know.
Bethenny Frankel Said RHONY Was No Longer Beneficial For Promoting Her Business & Described the Show as ‘Exhausting’
In the last couple seasons of RHONY, fans watched Frankel struggle with the stress of managing a hectic work schedule while also raising her daughter. During an episode that aired in May 2019, Frankel was shown leaving court after a divorce proceeding. She got on the phone and was visibly upset as she vented about how she was “taking on too much” and needed to “let some air out of the tires.”
Frankel was talking in part about the day-to-day operations of her Skinnygirl business, which she launched in 2009 and built into a $100 million brand, Business Insider reported. During season 11, Frankel decided it was best that she sell half of the company while remaining as the face of the brand. Bravo reported Frankel also wanted to maintain creative control.
Frankel was able to promote the brand on RHONY for several years. But she explained to Variety in February 2020 that she felt the show had shifted away from showcasing the women’s careers and instead solely focused on their social lives. Frankel said that shift influenced her decision to leave.
“It’s really hard when we’re not covering that what I’m really doing is my career, because I then have to do the show and my real career. So if we’re just showing me having lunches and on vacations, then I’ve got three jobs — because I’ve got to be a mother too,” Frankel said. “Everyone thinks I left because of money. I wasn’t leaving because of money, I was staying because of money. It no longer became this platform to promote my business.”
Frankel shared a heartfelt note to fans on Instagram in August 2019 to thank them for supporting her over the years. She wrote in part, “You started this journey with me in my tiny apartment in my late 30s, wondering what would happen to me. I was broke, single, had no family and no idea what the future held. I had big dreams and I never stopped, but I honestly didn’t know if I would ever get here. You helped me to get here. I would read your letters and messages and grow from your struggles. You would give me your honest opinion about my products and projects and helpful advice about divorce, relationships, motherhood, miscarriages, health, and surviving the death of a loved one and almost my own. You have shared your ideas with me and I have been inspired by and learned from you.”
Frankel Has Developed a New Reality Competition Show For HBO Max That She Will Also Host
Frankel announced she was quitting RHONY in August 2019 in order to explore her “next chapter” and focus on new projects. She said in a statement to Vanity Fair at the time:
It’s time to move on and focus on my daughter, my philanthropy, and my production partnership with Mark Burnett, producing and starring in shows which represent a shift in the conversation for women. With the changes in modern culture, I want to highlight the strength, confidence, and unstoppable power that women have. My experience at Bravo has been an incredibly magical ride. I am so grateful to them for highlighting my entrepreneurialism and allowing me to pave the way for many women to achieve their goals. I am excited for my future. The best is yet to come.
In the months since that announcement, fans have gotten a glimpse of how Frankel’s new projects are taking shape. One of those is a reality competition that was picked up by HBO Max. The show is called The Big Shot With Bethenny. According to the Hollywood Reporter, “aspiring business moguls compete for a job on Frankel’s executive team.” The show is a collaboration between Frankel’s company B Real Productions, producer Mark Burnett and MGM TV.
Frankel said in a statement to E! News about the new project, “Aside from motherhood, what truly defines me as a person is being a driven, passionate and hard-working woman determined to make the impossible possible. My mantra is to come from a place of ‘yes’ and to find and create the solution … I couldn’t be more thrilled to continue my longstanding relationship with Mark Burnett on this series and pay this American Dream story forward.”
Frankel explained to Yahoo Finance in October 2019 that her production company was pitching various shows to multiple networks. “Most of the shows are around women, business — some are around food. But mostly entrepreneurs and women. But not in a touchy feeling way but in sort of a hardcore way, if that makes any sense,” she said.
Frankel’s Former Castmates Expressed ‘Relief’ After Frankel Decided to Exit the Show
Frankel has been a dominating presence on the Real Housewives of New York City for several seasons, and her departure was also expected to have a presence of its own. But at least two of her former castmates have said they felt perfectly fine with Frankel’s decision and were not bothered by it.
During an interview for Jenny McCarthy’s SiriusXM show in October 2019, Luann de Lesseps said she was initially surprised to learn of Frankel’s decision. But at the same time, she also said it made sense because Frankel did not wish to showcase her new romantic relationship on the show.
De Lesseps described Frankel as someone who can be “nasty” but also “funny” and someone who challenges people. She added, “I think the whole cast is relieved in a way, and it also leaves breathing room for other women to shine and show their personalities. Because a lot was Bethenny coming in and kind of stealing the show.”
De Lesseps said Frankel did not share her decision to leave the show with the other Housewives before announcing it publicly. De Lesseps also claimed Frankel didn’t tell Bravo before posting about it on Instagram either.
Ramona Singer told E! News she did not miss Frankel during filming. “I think it was just a lighter, happier show, didn’t get dark. And everyone could just truly be themselves more without feeling … I mean, Bethenny was great for the show. She’s a great person. I only wish her the best. But sometimes her personality was so strong, she’d override us. And we’d all walk on eggshells because of her.”
But Tinsley Mortimer sang a different tune than de Lesseps and Singer. She said she missed having Frankel around. “I think she was a good strong balance in our group that I personally missed having around this year.”