Bethenny Frankel addresses criticism over 'Real Housewives' rewatch podcast: 'I'm integral to the success' of the franchise and 'qualified to talk on its history'

(Photo: Celeste Sloman)
Bethenny Frankel discusses her new Real Housewives rewatch podcast — which has some in the Bravo universe fired up. (Photo: Celeste Sloman)

Bethenny Frankel is busy doing her thing, despite the omnipresent noise in the back.

The Real Housewives of New York alum and businesswoman has two new big projects, her ReWives podcast and CNBC's Money Court, in addition to her usual repertoire, ranging from saving the world with disaster relief initiative BStrong to being a TikTok beauty influencer at 50-something.

"It's really annoying people, which means I'm doing something right," Frankel quips to Yahoo Entertainment of her new iHeart Radio podcast, which sees her rewatching episodes of the Bravo franchise with unexpected celebrity guests, ranging from Jerry Springer to Suze Orman.

Since it launched in early November, Frankel has faced criticism from some within the Bravo universe for starting a podcast about the franchise after calling her experience on the show, which she left for the second time in 2019, "toxic." On the day we spoke, her former RHONY co-star Luann de Lesseps had slammed her, again.

"I mean I don't really spend any time thinking about Luann," Frankel says in response to being asked for her reaction to de Lesseps's latest. "She spends a lot of time thinking about me. So we can thank her for that, because it's certainly helping [bring in listeners]. I mean, every little bit counts — even if it's just a little bit from her audience, it's helpful. I appreciate all the promotion. It's definitely working."

Frankel launched her new podcast ReWives with iHeart, which looks back at past Real Housewives shows. iHeart is also home to her Just B podcast. (Photo: iHeart)

Of the criticism in general, which also came from her friend producer/reunion show host, Andy Cohen, she says, "I'm completely integral to the success of the Housewives, so I'm absolutely qualified to talk on its history," having first joined the franchise in 2008. Plus, she says the show has "changed into something different" in recent years, so "a lot of what we're talking about is when it really was its absolute best."

She says ReWives is "different than anything anyone else is doing." Plus, "I'm not a disgruntled fired housewife, which most people who are doing shows have some sort of skewed perspective. I'm a person that left on my own" after Season 11. "So that definitely makes it a different perspective."

Frankel also indulged us by weighing in on Ramona Singer saying she won't be doing The Real Housewives of New York City Legacy spin-off. Rumors circulated the original housewife was fired, but Bravo has yet to announce the cast.

Asked if it was a loss for the franchise not to have Singer — or whether she believes she's part of that toxic Housewives culture, Frankel replies, "I don't think it needs to be that deep. I think that Ramona always brought the drama but didn't kill the party. And the thing is — I don't know who said it, but Ramona represents a certain woman in New York City. That's true. Meaning: We can take all cigarette smoking and drinking out of movies but that's not necessarily reflecting reality. So if we're telling a reality story, Ramona is a woman in New York City, and not every woman is politically correct. And not every woman looks the same. So I think that sometimes reality television and even scripted television makes the mistake of trying to manufacture what culture wants right now, when in reality there are all kinds of people. That show, when I was on it, reflected different types of people and their different opinions and their inappropriate comments and the mistakes that they made. So if you go too far away from that, then everything's just a scripted, shiny show where you're checking all the boxes you're supposed to check."

Frankel definitely isn't trying to check boxes when making career choices. In addition to her buzzy new podcast, she's brings her business acumen to the table for Money Court, which sees her and Shark Tank's Kevin O'Leary preside over high-stakes financial disputes and render legally binding decisions to the parties.

"I left there saying to everyone that I work with: This is the best thing I've ever done," she says of her first TV appearance since her 2021 HBO Max series The Big Shot with Bethenny, a competition reality show, that saw her search for Skinnygirl's VP of operations.

                               (Photo: Jeff Daly/CNBC)
Frankel discusses her new gigs, including flexing her entrepreneurial skills on CNBC's Money Court opposite Kevin O’Leary. (Photo: Jeff Daly/CNBC)

"I walked in thinking we were doing a television show, and I walked out having done the most intense TV I've ever done," she says, explaining that she and O'Leary, who she met on Shark Tank, were so invested in making the right decision. "We were both fried because the stakes were so high. It's real people, real businesses... We took serious time and effort and brainpower and really dug in."

She said her fans have enjoyed seeing her in the elevated TV role, saying, "I've gotten so many social media messages from people saying, 'I love the show. Finally something I don't feel guilty about watching.' It's not junk food," as Housewives drama can be.

When she's not making TV shows and podcasts, Frankel has been sharing her hot takes on beauty products and revealing celebrity plastic surgery secrets, rendering her a whole new following as a TikTok influencer.

"It was accidental, unintentional," the mom of one says of gaining fans for her blunt makeup and skin care reviews. "It's hilarious to go into CVS and have women say, 'I'm here buying your [recommended] products and you're doing God's work,' and me laughing because they're not talking about Bstrong" — her charity that gives emergency assistance to people in crisis. "They're talking about lip gloss! And younger girls stop me, in front of Starbucks, telling me that they're big fans, because of my TikTok. They only know me from TikTok; they've never even heard of the Housewives. Their moms might watch the Housewives, but they don't."

SANTA MONICA, CALIFORNIA: In this image released on June 5, Bethenny Frankel attends the 2022 MTV Movie & TV Awards: UNSCRIPTED at Barker Hangar in Santa Monica, California and broadcast on June 5, 2022. (Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for MTV)
Bethenny Frankel at the 2022 MTV Movie & TV Awards: UNSCRIPTED at Barker Hangar in Santa Monica, California and broadcast on June 5, 2022. (Photo: Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for MTV)

And Frankel won't stop calling out the Kardashians in that space either — whether it's for Kim's Met Gala weight loss, Kylie's cosmetic markups or the Photoshopping.

"The thing is, they have lost a lot of their shine because people have been waterboarded with the message," she says of the famous family. "When they first came on the scene, one at a time, it was ... a different type of body image and celebrating curves and things like that. It was also watching shiny objects and watching a display of wealth. But it's gotten vulgar. It's not healthy for young women. It's destructive. It's desperate. It's so: Look at me! Look at me!"

Frankel has put them on blast in videos and on her podcast. She's publicly called for an "intermission" from their constant presence in the media, and implored them to set better examples for young people than boasting about unhealthy weight loss and other negative messages.

"There's definitely been a shift," she says since her "very controversial video at the time. Back then, no one was really saying that. Now you see [that people have] just sort of had it. But they are so powerful and have such shock value and fashion power that it's hard to ignore."

That said, "Everyone knows it's not healthy for society. But they are taking every penny that they can take. If you see money on the floor, you're gonna pick it up. So they are in a smash and grab, take all the money. One day, the music may stop [but] they're billionaires so it's hard to fight with multiple billionaires. But I'm giving society credit for trying."

As for her own career choices, and what people have to say about them, she's just going to stick to trusting her gut and tuning out the noise.

"I just do things that I like, so if the tables go cold, I'll walk out," she says. "I'm cool with that. I didn't plan to be a beauty influencer. I didn't go looking for this amazing business show. When great opportunities present themselves, I decide to take them or deny them. Everyone's always trying to figure out, like, 'Ooh, what's she doing next?' 'She's trying to do this.' 'She's trying to do that.' I'm not really trying to do anything, I'm just doing what I like to do. That's pretty clear if you really think about it."