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Overview for Marilyn Franks
Marilyn Franks

Marilyn Franks


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As the breakout star of Bravo's hit reality series, "The Real Housewives of New York City" (2008- ), which followed a group of brash, extroverted socialites who made Manhattan their playground, Bethenny Frankel's life was an open book, literally. When she joined the cast, Frankel was initially a single woman with a successful business as a health food chef. More impressive than her culinary skills, however, was Frankel's ability to lacerate anyone verbally if pushed. By the same token, her sharp wit and self-deprecating humor won over even the most jaded of viewers. In earlier seasons, storylines revolved around Frankel's love life and her extravagant outings with the other housewives. But by the 2010 season, it was her acrimonious feud with ex-best friend, Jill Zarin, which became the show's central story, causing division amongst the other housewives and a lot of verbal sparring. In the midst of all the tension, Frankel wrote best-selling diet books, created a guilt-free cocktail, and starred in her own spin-off series called "Bethenny Getting Married?" (Bravo, 2010- ) - all successful ventures that changed Frankel's image from a simple "housewife" to a smart and savvy entrepreneur and one of the few Bravo "housewives" you wanted to root for.

Bethenny Frankel was born on Nov. 4, 1970 in New York City. Her father, Robert Frankel, was a legendary thoroughbred racehorse trainer and a member of the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame. Frankel would later claim that all her self-worth problems and issues with men were a result of her sad childhood, in which her father abandoned the family, and her mother, Bernadette, was a violent alcoholic who blamed her daughter for all that had gone wrong in her own life. Frankel would later hint at the trauma by remarking on "Bethenny Getting Married?": "I was raised in a wolves." Frankel also battled eating disorders during this time, starving herself and purging at the age of 13. Her situation worsened when she began clubbing in her teens, drinking heavily and even doing cocaine. Seeking a way out of the pain, Frankel developed a massive chip on her shoulder and a guarded sense of humor to prevent anyone from getting too close. A self-professed "health foodie," she attended the National Gourmet Cooking Institute in New York and shortly thereafter, started a company called Bethenny Bakes, which provided gourmet, all-natural foods for a high-end clientele that included Michael J. Fox, Alicia Silverstone and Paris Hilton.

As her culinary star rose, Frankel became a sought-after health food columnist for publications like The New York Times, Health magazine, Hamptons magazine, and was a contributing lifestyle editor to OK! Magazine. She first gained national prominence as the first runner-up of NBC's "The Apprentice: Martha Stewart" (2005), a reality-based series where contestants vied for a job with the celebrated media mogul. Throughout the competition, Frankel displayed her unique sense of humor and quick wit, which made a huge impression not only on viewers of the show, but also on network executives who saw a personality that belonged center stage. That stage turned out to be the reality show "The Real Housewives of New York City," about a group of well-heeled Manhattan socialites as they try to balance their personal lives and careers, but mostly as they go about spending their fortune on designer clothes, private schools, tennis lessons, and condos on the Upper East Side.

Even though Frankel was the only "housewife" that wasn't actually a housewife when she joined the cast, she emerged as the biggest star - resulting in a huge fan base, endorsement deals for Pepperidge Farm's Baked Naturals and Deli Flats, and a spin-off series. She always stole the spotlight with her infamous quips like, "Holy inappropriateness!" in response to receiving a gift of lingerie from her father's business partner, or "I am going to call Cher and tell her you have her outfit," in reference to Zarin's suede outfit. Frankels' volatile relationships with the other housewives - particularly Zarin, the group's feisty ringleader, and Kelly Bensimon, the show's resident empty-headed bombshell - were some of the show's most talked about episodes. Frankel never saw eye-to-eye with Bensimon from the moment the former model joined the series during second season. One confrontation at a Manhattan bar went down as one of the most intense in the show's history.

But it was Frankel's 2010 falling-out with Zarin, her pseudo maternal figure, that made the most headlines and bitterly divided the housewives. The two women were inseparable during the first two seasons, but it all went up in flames in the third when Zarin refused to reconcile with Frankel who chided her to get "a hobby." Frankel insisted that a major point in their feud was Zarin's jealousy over the sudden fame and attention given to the natural food chef. After several attempts to patch things up, the ex-best friends appeared to have reconciled during the 2010 reunion episode that ended with Zarin giving Frankel a hug, but insiders said it was all an act and that the two never made up. After Season three ended, Frankel's future on "The Real Housewives" remained unclear, especially after the reality star told People magazine that she could not see herself going back to the show if the show's cast remained unchanged.

Frankel parlayed her "Housewives" notoriety into authoring books like Naturally Thin: Unleash Your Skinnygirl and Free Yourself from a Lifetime of Dieting (2009), which stayed on the New York Times bestseller list for 18 weeks, and The Skinnygirl Dish: Easy Recipes For Your Naturally Thin Life (2010), and fitness DVDs like "Body By Bethenny with Bethenny Frankel" (2010). She also created the "Skinnygirl Margarita," a 100-calorie version of the classic cocktail. Frankel also had a spin-off series called "Bethenny Getting Married?" which followed the reality TV star as she planned her wedding to real estate broker Jason Hoppy, whom she dated while filming the third season of "Real Housewives." The couple married on March 28, 2010, and had a daughter, Bryn, on May 8 that same year.

Three weeks after she gave birth, Frankel showed off her size-4 figure and talked about her 30-lb. weight loss in a magazine pictorial - which invited a storm of criticism from people who insisted that Frankel's weight loss might put undue pressure for new moms to lose too much weight too soon. The news also sparked a war of the words between Frankel and reality TV villain Omarosa Manigault-Stallworth from NBC's "The Apprentice" (2004- ). Manigault-Stallworth claimed that she was angered after Frankel's appearance on "The View" (ABC, 1997- ) during which Frankel dismissed comparisons between the two reality stars, implying that unlike Manigault-Stallworth, she had a "real career." Manigault-Stallworth lashed out with allegations that Frankel's husband was gay and that while Frankel pretended to lose her pregnancy weight the natural way, she had, in fact, underwent a tummy tuck. Frankel denied the allegations. She also officially bowed out of any future "Real Housewives" programming, saying she would not want to continue on the show if the cast remained the same.

Beginning with its second season, Frankel's highly-rated solo show was retitled "Bethenny Ever After," as it continued to follow her ongoing exploits as a newlywed and recent mother. Never one to pass up an opportunity to increase her exposure, she laced up for the short-lived celebrity competition spin-off, "Skating with the Stars" (ABC, 2010), on which she finished as a runner-up. Another self-help book, A Place of Yes: 10 Rules for Getting Everything You Want Out of Life, spent several weeks on the New York Times bestseller list the following year. In April 2011, the ├╝ber-entrepreneurial Frankel sold her Skinnygirl line of cocktails to Beam Global (distillers of Jim Beam bourbon) for an alleged $120 million (a total later disputed in an article on The Huffington Post site), putting her on Forbes magazine's list of entertainment's highest female earners. A minor dent in her business reputation came when Whole Foods grocery chain indicated otherwise pulled the line of cocktails from its stores after tests revealed they were not "all natural" and "preservative free" as advertised. Frankel later shifted her writing focus from self-help to fiction when she released her first novel, Skinnydipping in 2012. After a lengthy delay in development, Frankel's daytime talk show, "Bethenny" (syndicated, 2012- ) was at last slated to debut in June of that year. In the meantime, rumors continued to swirl about her increasingly rocky relationship with Hoppy - played out on camera for "Bethenny Ever After" - leading to widespread speculation of an impending divorce.

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