One divorce, one talk show, and many millions later, Bethenny Frankel is returning to the series that made her famous, The Real Housewives of New York City, which she first left in 2010. Back then, Frankel was one of the franchise’s stars, but said she could no longer stand the “dirty and nasty” drama. When she returns for season 7, it’ll be to a different show — only two of her then-castmates remain — as a different woman, and in front of a nation that has half-forgotten this ever happened.
Here, a refresher on Frankel’s RHONY arc and what she’s been up to the last four years:
As a Real Housewife, Frankel was a Carrie and a Miranda. In a 2011 Forbes cover story, Meghan Casserly wrote, “Frankel has become the most well-known entrepreneur on television by making her business everyone’s business.” Frankel worked as a natural foods chef and businesswoman who first broke out as a finalist on The Apprentice: Martha Stewart (on RHONY, viewers watched the early stages of her Skinnygirl empire). She was deft enough to land on the right side of two high-profile feuds — opposite Kelly Bensimon and Jill Zarin. But all that fighting took its toll, and Frankel styled her Housewives departure as a reboot, beginning life as a new wife and mom.
She used to be on a show called Bethenny Ever After. A mark of her fame, Frankel starred solo in a 2010 summer-long series called Bethenny Getting Married?, about her courtship with Jason Hoppy. Its premiere broke viewership records for Bravo, and it ran for three seasons as Bethenny Ever After, following its star through some of the rubber band burdens of maintaining a beloved brand.
She’s rich. Frankel sold Skinnygirl to beverage company Beam Global in 2010 for… some money. One analysis said at least $64 million; another, $120 million. The speculation led to backlash, and then backlash of the backlash, and finally, to some predictably astute Gawker comments. The Huffington Post, finally, cleared its throat, and argued that the price tag was actually only $8.1 million. To which Frankel responded, “Come on… I’m going to be paying a hell of a lot more than $8.1 million in taxes.”
She came in second on ABC’s Skating with the Stars. By the time Frankel appeared on this Dancing With the Stars-on-ice show, in the fall of 2010, she was already a successful chef, author, and entrepreneur. That didn’t make her a good ice skater, but it made her an excellent competitor — she was the runner-up, behind Rebecca Budig.
She used to host a show called Bethenny. When Frankel announced an eponymous syndicated daytime talk show, with a test run in the summer of 2012 and a debut the following fall, she had already successfully appeared on four other TV shows. But Bethenny was a failure and ended this February after drawing a fraction of Judge Judy’s numbers. Still: We can always rewatch the moment where Omarosa worries — to Bethenny’s face — that she isn’t “walking in [her] own truth.”
She is divorcing her husband. Frankel and Jason Hoppy split up just before Christmas of 2012, and divorce papers soon followed. “This was an extremely difficult decision that as a woman and a mother, I have to accept as the best choice for our family,” Frankel said at the time. But a custody battle between the pair dragged on until this summer and Frankel alleged that living with Hoppy during their separation was “brutal, horrendous, excruciating.”
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