Even in the curious world of reality television, Bethenny Frankel is a curiosity -- or, at the very least, a living, breathing oxymoron. The breakout star of Bravo's "The Real Housewives of New York," she's the only "housewife" who isn't actually a housewife.
That didn't stop her from costarring in the series' most talked-about episode of last season, when frenemy -- make that enemy -- Kelly Bensimon announced to Frankel that they'd never be friends because (raising her hand) Kelly was "up here" (hen lowering it) and Bethenny was "down there."
These days, the divorced Frankel is on the verge of becoming a housewife again -- with a fiancé, Jason Hoppy, and a baby on the way. Yet as the third season premieres Thursday, she's planning to leave, for another reality show: "Bethenny Gets Married?" Frankel was in town to promote her book, "The Skinnygirl Dish: Easy Recipes for Your Naturally Thin Life."
So let's talk about "Housewives."
This season might be the best we've ever done. It's insane. It's like it was a full moon every day we shot, and everyone was the most heightened they've ever been. It was brutal. So it will make for great television, but it was really difficult for my life. I believe in leaving the party when it's at its best, and I don't know that it could be any better than this season.
I have to say your drink with Kelly last season was some of the best TV of 2009.
People couldn't believe it was really hap-
pening. It was sociologically psychotic.
When she said, "I'm up here and you're down there," was that real?
Yes. Every person says that to me -- because people can't grasp that that actually happened, and it actually happened. She would like to believe that it didn't happen.
Did you expect it?
No. I didn't really know her. I always thought she was missing a significant portion of her brain. I grew up in a dysfunctional household, and I'm really attuned to crazy people. I think she just triggered me and I went, "Wow, this is what crazy looks like really upfront."
How real is it? Are people playing toward the camera?
Do I think on other shows I've seen that people do things for dramatic effect that they wouldn't normally do? I've seen it. I can say that, for my show in New York, the girls would rather be a little more subdued. They'd rather seem a little more classy. And what happens is it's like gravity. You just somehow get there. People are who they are, and it rears its ugly head.
Are there scenes you regret?
I regretted Season 1 when I said to my ex-boyfriend, "Do you want to live together?" And he said, "We'll talk about it later." And I asked him three times after, and he said "We'll talk about it later." America saw that, and I felt like a desperado. And the country ended up embracing me. They ended up writing letters: "You're our Charlotte from 'Sex and the City.' We love you."
So that boyfriend wasn't into the cameras. Was your fiancé attracted to you because of the cameras?
No. I met him in a nightclub. He didn't know who I was. He thought I was a well-known chef.
Why do you think there's an insatiable appetite for books about how to get skinny?
There's an insatiable appetite because nobody is actually getting skinny. That's the crazy part. The definition of insanity is repeating the same behavior and expecting differ-
ent results. It's the most lucrative business -- it's billions of dollars, no matter what the
economy is -- and it's just not working. I say that " diet" is a four-letter word. Diets are all cookie cutter, and people's lives are not cookie cutter.
I have a different approach: This is what your life is. If you're in the mood for pizza one morning, have it. But then it's what you do
next. It's like shopping. If you buy a pair of leopard pants, it doesn't mean the next thing you buy is a sequined boa. Maybe you buy nothing.
What's the biggest mistake non-skinny people make?
It's all emotional. If I eat a cookie, it's OK. If I have a piece of pizza, it's OK. If I beat myself up and eat the pizza because I had the cookie and eat the popcorn because I had the pizza and I've already ruined myself and become emotional about it and have a bad relationship with food and vow tomorrow to fast and ultimately could end up with a binge, that's why most people are overweight.