The Real Housewife star and celebprenuer talks authenticity on social media and why Megyn Kelly shouldn’t fat shame herself
Bethenny Frankel wants you to take Skinnygirl seriously, not literally.
The 47-year-old from Queens is arguably one of the most successful reality TV personalities ever. Relatively unknown when she joined “Real Housewives of New York,” Frankel’s potent combination of brashness and vulnerability made her a star for the social media age. But she wasn’t just content with being a celebrity. In 2011, she launched Skinnygirl Cocktails, a best-selling line of low-calorie drinks bearing her illustrated likeness: an hourglass-figured, busty woman. Marketed as the first alcoholic beverage for women, it subsequently sold for a reported $100 million.
Frankel kept the rights to the moniker she coined and continues to expand the franchise. Most recently, she partnered with One Jeanswear Group to create Skinnygirl Jeans, which will also include knit tops. Naming a clothing line, albeit one that also caters for plus sizes, after svelteness in an age of body positivity isn’t without controversy, with some wags already taking Frankel to task for tone deafness. But the entrepreneur shrugs it off as a debate created by the media. “People want to focus on the skinny as the negative, but every woman feels flawed in some way,” she tells Moneyish. “The brand is about embracing the positive and having fun. It’s a female empowerment conversation.”
OJG, the Nine West-owned department store staple has a record of celeb tie-ups, having collaborated with the likes of Jessica Simpson and Justin Timberlake. “From the beginning, I thought of jeans as an amazing place where the name could be,” Frankel tells Moneyish. “Jeans have an emotional purpose. Day jeans, lounge jeans…they mean something different for each occasion.”
Skinnygirl Jeans will launch this fall and pieces will retail at around $100, though select items, including a limited edition pair of autographed jeans could sell for several times that. Still, OJG CEO Jack Gross says that he wasn’t in the market for a celebrity brand when he met Frankel. “I was basically doing the meeting as a favor when I realized it was something I wanted to get involved with,” he says. “She was talking about making women feel good, which is very important in today’s world. She said ‘if you can’t handle the truth, you can’t handle me,’” and I like somebody who has an opinion.”
That said, Frankel has 1.6 million followers on Instagram and Twitter respectively, which can only help her jeans line. Indeed, the celebpreneur’s reach has been compared to that of Donald Trump’s. “I’ve always used it in an irreverent way to express my life and it with people,” she says.
But have celebs become too cautious about social media faux pas that they’re essentially sterile on it? “Everyone has gotten very sensitive and there’s a lot of diluted messages,” she says. “Part of being an entertainer is being honest. I know many are so terrified of posting anything, that they’re a bit bland.”
Still, Frankel frowns on the fat shaming advocated (and subsequently withdrawn) by “Today” host Megyn Kelly, who recently said that she got her stepfather to call her a “fat ass” when she had gained weight in law school as motivation to shed the pounds.
“I don’t believe in fear-based exercise or diets or extremes,” she says, adding that that’s especially important when you have impressionable kids around. “I sometimes hear moms talk about how ‘I was good today or bad today.’ There’s no conversation about anything like that in my house. I think parents underestimate that kids hear everything.”
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