Last night marked the season premiere of Bethenny Frankel’s fourth reality series—if you count The Apprentice, The Real Housewives of New York and Bethenny Getting Married—called Bethenny Ever After in which the nutrition and fitness guru adjusts to motherhood and married life all while building upon her lucrative brand. In typical Frankel fashion, the episode was hilarious, bitchy and at times, uncomfortably real, and posed the question: Is she the realest reality star?
Last night’s episode found Bethenny visiting her husband Jason’s hometown in Pennsylvania, and navigating her relationship with her sweet but overbearing in-laws. In the past, Frankel has been very candid about having no contact with her family. She’s cried to her shrink about it on national television, spoken to the tabloids, and it has almost become her thing—she’s the new Martha Stewart who comes from a broken home. Jason, however, has an intense bond with his family, especially since his older brother passed away some years ago. His parents are doting on their grandchild and want to spend every weekend with them, much to Bethenny’s chagrin. Perhaps the most notable aspect of Frankel’s personality is her inability to censor herself. She’s like a raw nerve who’s not afraid to verbal vomit her feelings all over you. The result can oftentimes be uncomfortable, especially when put in contrast to the surplus of scripted reality shows. By comparison, Frankel comes off as jarringly authentic—someone who has a shitload of issues and is not afraid to express them on camera, which some people might find to be actually annoying. Therein lies the duality to Bethenny. On one hand, she’s a breath of fresh air, a hilarious strong woman with a caustic edge. On the other, she’s viewed as an aggressive brander, someone who shamelessly self-promotes, has an unhealthy relationship with diet and exercise, and can come off as, quite frankly, a mean-spirited control freak.
In reality (heh), she’s all of these things. Yes, Bethenny is a totally flawed person. Her defense mechanisms are always up because she was essentially abandoned as a child, which was made readily apparent on last night’s episode when Jason and Bethenny visited the local dive bar. Bethenny is grossed out by the less than chic atmosphere and puts Jason down by saying, “How did you even get me?” My initial reaction to this was, “That was way harsh, Tai!” Five minutes later though, she’s reduced to tears when Jason’s friends tell her she always has a family to go home to in Pennsylvania. Bethenny has been open about growing up too fast and going to hip NYC clubs when she was a teenager. On a certain level, she revels in it, but at the end of the day, it’s clear that she would gladly trade it for Jason’s simple upbringing. Not to be too simplistic, but she criticized Jason so harshly because she was simply jealous. She has no roots to bring Jason to. Imagine how this made her feel and what painful memories it brought up.
Bethenny might be a neurotic nightmare crazy person sometimes, but she’s a welcome reprieve from the manufactured reality stars of late. She’s as money-hungry as the Kardashian sisters, but at least she doesn’t need to read a script to find her way to the top. In this celebrity climate, there’s something to be said for that.