The Beauty Business of Bethenny Frankel

The Beauty Business of Bethenny Frankel featured image
Photographer: Stephanie Diani; Hair: Linh Nguyen; Makeup: Taylor Fitzgerald; Styling: Jared Depriest Gilbert; Styling Assistant: Sasha Leon; Videographer: Maria Panina; Cardigan: Dorothee Schumacher; Jewelry: Celeste Starre; Denim: Mother Denim

It’s less than 30 minutes into our photo shoot in New York Chelsea’s neighborhood and Bethenny Frankel has made a solid case for why the city’s lunch of choice—a made-to-order bowl with a mix of greens, grains, and protein—is just not that good.

“This tastes like solid gazpacho,” the 52-year-old not-so-quietly says. “It’s not tasty. And everyone thinks it’s good! Who decided this was good?

Coming from anyone else, the remarks might border on shrill. Coming from Frankel, it somehow comes across as matter of fact.

Last week, the 52-year-old former Real Housewife and “de-influencer” celebrated 3 million Instagram followers—something she attributes to doing what she has always done: Being honest. “There’s so much garbage out there—especially when it comes to beauty,” she says. “I just want to find what works, get out the door and get on with life.”

Dress: Brunello Cucinelli; Belt: Dorothee Schumacher; Ring: The Vit; Earrings: Celeste Starre

You’re incredibly forthcoming with what you think about beauty products and lines—you sort of invented the line “at the level.” Are there any celebrity lines that you think are doing it right, right now?

If you mean from a marketing standpoint and a “get-excited-about-it” standpoint, it seems like Rihanna is doing a good job with Fenty. You can tell that Lady Gaga is spending money on social media to get Haus Labs through the channels. Gaga has some areas that are good; Rihanna does too—there’s just so much to all these lines that there are going to be some good things and some not good things. There’s so much product that you’re going to be able to find positives and negatives. I really like R.E.M. beauty by Ariana Grande. It doesn’t have a lot of hype, but the product is good. Also, Rare Beauty by Selena Gomez. I think she’s doing a great job. Hailey Bieber’s Rhode line also really got out there on social and it looks like it did well with the younger crowd. I don’t know if it’s sustaining, but it’s selling, and it seems to have a cult following. But look at Kim Kardashian’s SKKN. That popped for like a moment because it was a big announcement and that’s exciting, but it’s not sustaining. You have to be able to sustain in this industry.

When you’re posting about beauty—or anything—on social media, is it planned out? Or do you just go on a whim and post what you’re feeling?

When I first started, it was like, “Oh my God! I can’t believe that this powder from Chanel that costs $100 gives a similar effect as this Covergirl powder.” All of those “Oh my God” moments were in real time—all these moments where I was just discovering products. I never knew that you could go to the drugstore for literally everything. From masks to oils to face wash to exfoliators to vitamin C serums to literally…I have no idea what else! There is so much! I was shocked by that. I was shocked by the quality of what was out there.

I just want to find what works, get out the door and get on with life.

I look at it like I look at handbags: You can have a handbag you bought on the street, or you can have a handbag from France and it’s going to do the same thing. That’s a personal choice that you make. Realizing that about beauty was cool. The choices! Then, I sort of organized my thoughts to see what I wanted to talk about. I went through the cleansers I really like; I organized them by category, and then I kind of took it from there.

My big thing is, when I go to the store, what would I be excited about? What do I look at and what piques my interest? Then, I’m all about finding out whether a product is worth it or not. One thing that really took off with people was telling them what to—the “don’t buy this” or the “do buy this.” The woman that I’m speaking to doesn’t want to make it complicated. She wants to know how what’s good, what to do and get out the door.

Dress: Safiyaa; Earrings: Bowen NYC; Shoes: Jimmy Choo

And you’re that woman?

I did not know how to do my makeup until last year! I got to a point where I just wanted to know how to do it. I didn’t need it to be perfect; I didn’t need it to be snatched. I just wanted to be able to put my makeup on if I needed to go to a party or to feel like a person that day. Then, I went through so many different categories and so many different concepts. I slowed down a little because I felt like I had so much stuff. I’m the type of person who doesn’t like stuff. As a general note, I hate stuff. All this beauty stuff being in my house was freaking me out because I was like, “You only need one of these things! Now I have all this stuff, so what more is there to do? Keep buying stuff and what’s the point?”

I took a breath and regrouped. But, as much as I don’t want a lot of product, I do think you should have a different skin-care routine every day. Look at how you eat. You don’t eat the same thing every day of the year. That would be weird.

Then, I thought about how else I could connect. Another way to connect is to make it all idiot-proof. That’s what we need—that’s what I need at least! I’m starting to post more “makeup for morons” one step at a time, because a lot of people are asking me, “How do I do this, or how do I do that?” I thought to myself, “Oh, why don’t I just start doing like this is concealed for morons.” How I think of it. This is eyeshadow for morons, just like my process.” It’s organized and I just sit down when I’m inspired. It’s not my job. It’s fun, but it’s become a little bit of a thing. So, long story short, I take it more seriously than when I started.

I love how you hop on social media and you’re not made up. You have a solid message on Photoshop and filters. Why is that so important to you?

Anything else would be lying. I can’t believe that this is a conversation. I can’t believe that we look at people who are beauty influencers and we discuss whether or not they have a filter on. What in the hell? All the filters! I don’t understand. I really don’t. How do you market something with a filter on? How do we—as consumers—know if the product is doing anything when we view something like that? I’m definitely not going to believe anyone who has a filter on. That being said, I guess I don’t believe most people. You can tell they’re just saying the same thing about every single thing. Personally, I’m bored of hearing the same thing.

Jumpsuit: Safiyaa; Earrings: Nicole Rose

Your daughter, Bryn, seems to not be bored with the products.

She likes hair a lot. She’s into tying her hair up and doing heatless curls and the octo curl. I’m trying to teach her good habits, too. I’m always telling her, “Don’t put heat on your hair if you don’t have to, because you don’t want to have damaged hair and learn how to clean your skin.”

I don’t have a spoiled child, which is great. When something comes into the house, it doesn’t automatically go into her room. She gets to have special things—but my rule is that she has to get rid of something if something new comes in. The same rule applies to me. If I bring something in, something goes out.

I think everyone is wondering: Is all of this leading to the introduction of your own beauty line?

That is everyone’s big theory! At least in the beginning. It was THE big secret…like I was lying to everyone, which is hysterical because it is the most crowded space. There’s nothing new to say, there’s nothing new to do. The beauty industry is so saturated with promises. Everything does everything. I don’t really have anything new to say right now. If I had some new solution or if I discovered some new ingredient, I would say it. I would share it! But I’m not there yet…and I have to really think about what that would be.

Anything else would be lying.

If I launched a brand, I would only do it because I would truly believe it could help the industry. It wouldn’t be like, “Let me do another line.” There’s way too much out there. And nothing is different. I have no plans to enter into the beauty space right now, but if I come up with something that I think could help people or be different, I would.

Right now, everything I post is based on what my followers ask in the comments. I couldn’t have known how many people wanted to know about the best cleansing balm or the best concealer—concealer is a big one. I do know that, at the beginning, I didn’t know how to contour my face bronze. What goes where? How do you pick a color? I didn’t understand any of that in the beginning and I think my followers appreciate that.

You even share your “plastic surgery tours”—what treatments do you love right now?

I’ll get a peel every once in a while—not a big, crazy peel. I don’t like those. I like something light. I think anything too extreme is not good, but I do like all the incremental things that add up. I like Clear + Brilliant. It gives “baby skin,” but it’s not crazy. I don’t believe in anything drastic in any area of life.

Dress: Christian Siriano; Earrings: Mindi Mond; Ring: Nicole Rose; Shoes: Jimmy Choo

You’re an open book. Is there anything that people would be surprised to hear about you?

I’m a sales shopper. I like to get things for sale; I’m all about a good sale. I also have a spa cabinet. I have a lavender pillow and neck thing in there because it helps calm me down and gets me to sleep at night. If I wrap one of those when it’s warm around my neck…it helps me get to sleep. I also use the Calm app. I find that if I just take time to breathe in and out, I’ll be asleep in five minutes. It is an amazing tool.

People always seem to be surprised to hear that I don’t take anything to sleep. If I did, it would be a sleep edible, but I don’t really believe in taking anything. I also don’t work out. I don’t like to say that, but it’s true. I try to hide it because then people think I’m like, “Oh, my God, I eat everything.” I don’t say it in a bragging way; I just choose sleep over working out. I do think that food is more important, and I eat whatever I want, but I’ve never, ever been overindulged.

What are you excited about as we enter 2023?

I’m excited about continuing to streamline what I choose to work on. I find a better quality of life when I do that…while not being bored and laying home doing nothing. I have to balance that; I’m actually inclined to always be in pajamas, so I have to fight that. I just want to not work so much. I have a good balance, but I want to do less. But I don’t want to do less and sit at home and stare at the ceiling.

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