Bethenny Frankel is my second celebrity interview of the day, and I am shaking-in-my-work-from-home-sweatpants kind of nervous. Minutes before, the 50-year-old businesswoman tweeted at Jason Feifer, editor-in-chief at Entrepreneur (she’s this month’s cover star) that he was a “great interviewer and writer,” and continued that it was a compliment she “rarely, if ever, gives.”
Needless to say, I am coming in less-than-confident as I pick up the phone.
“Happy Friday. Hold on just a sec, I’m washing off the cream cheese from my daughter’s plate,” Frankel answers.
And, just like that, with a simple sentence, we’re back to baseline. This is that open-book, no-holds-barred Bethenny that, even though she’s a successful businesswoman, philanthropist, millionaire many times over and, in her most recent foray, star of an HBO Max show, The Big Shot With Bethenny, streaming today, isn’t going to shoot me down when I ask her about her beauty routine and Botox.
But maybe that’s the secret to her success: “I’m always in the weeds, and I never expect anyone who deals with me, or works for me, to know what I’m thinking or how I want them to work,” she admits. “What I am good at is teaching people how to get out there and fish—I’m great at that. Business is hard, there’s not an easy, quick Instagram-way in, but if you’re willing to work hard, there’s a way to get there.”
How did this new project come about?
“A couple of years ago, I realized the need for a second in command—a true successor. I hadn’t hired at that level yet, like a real grown-up businessperson who, theoretically, could think like me and run the business, manage staff and make decisions that I might make, and, ultimately, take some of the weight off of me. It’s just me, and I’m always managing, always delegating, always having to be in the weeds.
My whole goal was to get out of the weeds, which is really hard as a businessperson and why this was such a good idea. I talked to Mark Burnett about it, and we talked about a bunch of different shows. This is the one that we all really loved and the one that had the biggest need immediately. I didn’t know what HBO Max was—I know what HBO is, but I didn’t know what HBO Max was, because they didn’t exist yet. But I did the show there because the woman who runs development is someone who I’ve worked with in the past. She knew me from The Apprentice. She’s the reason that I got onto The Housewives. She pushed me through when Andy Cohen and Bravo didn’t want me on. She’s the one who bought the show. I was instructing where she was, in her case, in what she could do it there. Low and behold, all these amazing shows, they’re coming out, and becomes the premier streamer. I became very excited when I realized I was on the right team, because I was not a proven concept yet.
HBO Max is on another level. It’s amazing. The show is incredible. They let me do it exactly the way that I wanted to do it. I created it, I produced it, I drove it, and, I know it was a little scary for all of them, because they didn’t know what’s going to happen at any point. It’s not formatted in any predictable way. There’s no tagline, if not manufactured businesses or projects based on integrators and advertisers. It’s just basically really this is all my business, my brand. It’s just totally based on reality. It’s the first reality show actually based on reality.”
What do you look for in someone you want to work with?
“Someone who isn’t waiting. Someone who isn’t counting when their three-week vacation will hit. Someone who isn’t clocking their 15-minute breaks. Someone who, might not have it all figured out, but wants to figure it out. It’s not about a resume, it’s not about pedigree, it’s about, ‘I’ve got it, I’ll figure it out. If I don’t know, I’ll figure it out.’ I’m good at teaching people how to fish, I don’t just expect people to know. I’m actually great at teaching people how to fish. It’s just a very intense job because, as one of the girls that works for me said the other day, I owe it to the people that work with me, no two days are the same. Every day is completely different from the day before.”
What is your number-one piece of advice to anyone who wants to be successful?
“There are no shortcuts. There just aren’t. It’s hard. It’s the one thing that hasn’t been ‘Instagram-ized’ and filtered. No one has found that shortcut. You can’t TikTok-dance your way into business. You can’t go on reality TV and fall into being famous and being successful. Business is hard, it’s intense. You have to be willing to sacrifice so much and be laser-focused and just figure it out and get it done.”
What do you wish you knew about running a business when you started?
“There’s nothing to know—it doesn’t matter. Every single business is different. Fashion is different than food, which is different than home design, which is different than accounting. Everything is different, but, yet, it’s all the same. For me, it’s all about figuring things out, expecting the unexpected, being organized, executing, being a problem-solver, crowd-sourcing but then ultimately making your own decision, knowing whether you’re an entrepreneur that should be in a forum with other people. You need a network and you need a support system, or whether you’re a maverick, like me, who likes to fly solo. Have different partners and different projects, but not be attached to anybody in something. Not be attached to something in everything.”
Is there any part of business that you’d like to conquer next?
“Right now, I’m really into podcasting. I slipped into a really mom-and-pop shop, lemonade stand kind of way. All of a sudden, I woke up one day, and it was a huge success, and we’re booking guests like Hillary Clinton, Sheryl Sandberg, Dave Portnoy and all these crazy people, and now it’s real. I’ve got a multi-year, major deal with iHeart and producing other content and other shows. I’m taking that really seriously. It’s not that I’m trying to get into completely new industries. It’s that someplace like that, I could really make a mark. I just have a lot to offer a space like that.”
Who would be your dream guest?
“Mark Zuckerberg. Anna Wintour, too. Anna Wintour would definitely be a massive get. She’s the HBIC [head bitch in charge].”
Besides the podcast, you started a supplement line centered on self-care this year. What is self-care to you?
“Self-care, for me, is sleep, and attempting to drink water. It’s not so much exercise—I can’t deal with that. It’s trying to get good sleep and stress less, and just trying to maintain some chill vibe overall. That’s not going to really happen, but I’m doing the best I can. I’m trying to not get worked up all the time about everything. That’s what self-care is for me. Roll with it instead of trying to control it, because the world has shown us that it’s going to do what it’s going to do.
Besides that, I like baths with Epsom salts, lavender oil, or frankincense, or something that’s relaxing. During the day too, I like my warm neck pillow that I put in the microwave. I like my weighted blanket, snuggling with my daughter, and just making sleep a priority, but not stressing about it. I used to be like, ‘Last night, I didn’t fall asleep until 1 a.m. in the morning!’ I used to get so freaked out about it. Yes, I slept six hours last night and, yes, there is no good reason for it. There’s no reason. It just happened. You cannot be all freaked out about it. You’re going to sleep. You’ll sleep again. I used to be more worried about stuff like that.”
You have access to great skin care; you’ve developed your own line even. What are some beauty products that you love?
“I like Biologique Recherche. I like the vinegary toner and the tingle of it. I like the rich cream. I like that brand, in general. I like Tata Harper a lot. I like that it’s natural, that it smells so floral. It’s like you’re getting the smell and that fragrance that we’re used to in more chemical products, but they’re natural. I like that. Big fan of a lot of Kate Somerville’s stuff. I like her ExfoliKate ($88) and her serums. Who does the good strong vitamin C that people like? The SkinCeuticals ($166). I have to get that again. That seems to be something that always works. I like when I can see that iodine color. It makes me feel like it’s real. I have to tell you though, my current favorite product is from La Prairie. I have to buy more! It’s the most expensive and rich line. They have a good night mask, but they have this little eye and lip cream thing and it is so moisturizing and easy. You just carry it around, and use it during the day. It’s a little balm, and I love that. That product makes me feel very fancy.”
Those are some good things. Is there anything treatment-wise that you’d be willing to share that you do?
“I’ve got to give Howard Sobel the credit for being the one who really was the first person to do the Botox Cosmetic in the jaw to relieve my grinding. Everybody copied him, but he’s the first one. I had such pronounced jaw muscles that it was like I had been doing bicep curls for years. It depressurizes. It helps with headaches. It’s just amazing. Ingrid Tsung gives great, very thorough cleansing facials. There’s a guy in the Hamptons, and I think he has a place in the city, Thuyen, and he is the first person to do facial exercise, and he really will massage your face forever. It works and it’s called FaceXercise. I like that that’s unique. I think a lot of the rest of the stuff is sort of BS…a lot of it is a gimmick. I’m more into consistency in skin care and the process.”
That’s fair. You turned 50 last year. Is entering a new decade something that fazes you?
“Not at all. I’m the least vain person in the world. At some point, maybe I’ll need to do something. People always say that I’ve had a nose job, which I haven’t, so everyone can stop speculating on that. I had a lift 1,000 years ago. I’m sure I’m supposed to do something about it. Yes, I had a lift 15 years ago, but that’s all.”
Is there anything that someone might be surprised to hear that you hold close just for you…something that you don’t share on social media?
“I don’t really show my daughter. I don’t share our dynamic, our relationship, things like that. I will share her art, because she’s becoming a real artist. She likes that and she wants people to follow her on TikTok. Other than that, it’s all out there.”