“Now I realize that if you work hard, hold onto your dreams and plug away going forward, you will get to your destination. All roads lead to Rome. You may be diverted, distracted and feel defeated, but if you move forward, you will get there.”
– Bethenny Frankel
A little background on Bethenny (article is a year old): She is the most successful “Housewive” I think she branded herself brilliantly. She stuck to what she knew best, healthy living, food and low-calorie liquor. She wasn’t out there doing everything to get her name and face out. A lot of women related and connected with her because she wasn’t materialistic and catty like the other housewives, she was a single female making ends meet and people were rooting for her to get her happily ever after. She defiantly gives me hope that anything is possible and you just have to believe and never loose hope no matter what burdens you had to endure growing up there is light at the end of the tunnel. Most importantly she showed me something that she struggled with believing; that a woman CAN have it all. The successful career, supportive husband and a family of your own.
In the latest issue of PEOPLE, Frankel opens up about her difficult childhood, discussing her mother’s battles with an eating disorder and alcoholism, the abandonment she felt when her father left and her own struggles with food.
“I never had a true childhood,” Frankel tells the mag. “There was a lot of destruction: alcohol abuse, eating disorders and violent fights.”
At just 4 years old, Frankel’s father, Bobby, a legendary Belmont Stakes-winning horse trainer, left her mother Bernadette. Frankel temporarily relocated to Los Angeles with her father, but returned to New York to live with her mother just a year later because her father’s lifestyle did not afford him enough time to take care of her. Bobby would eventually cut Bethenny out of his life entirely. “He said, I’m washing my hands of this whole situation.”
This past November, just before Bobby passed away, Bethenny tired to reconnect with her father, but he refused to see her. “He was done,” she says. “I didn’t exist to him.”
Life with her mother was difficult, to say the least. According to Bethenny, Bernadette was severely bulimic and abused alcohol. Frankel often ended up caring for her mother, including cleaning up both the bathroom and her mom after she’d purge. “She was someone who needed taken care of,” Frankel recalls.
Bernadette allegedly became violent when she was drinking and would throw dishes, pictures and other household items. “The house would be in shambles,” Frankel remembers, adding that she would often hide in the closet when her mother became violent.
Bethenny also remembers having to call the police when Bernadette would fight with her second husband, John Parisella, who despite a difficult relationship, Frankel calls “the only father I’ve ever known.” Bernadette denies Bethenny’s allegations that she was violent, bulimic and abused alcohol; however, Parisella confirmed to PEOPLE that Bernadette showed “showed signs of bulimia” and drank heavily.
Frankel has had little contact with her mother over the past 10 years, and will not allow Bernadette to contact Bryn, her 2-month-old daughter with husband Jason Hoppy. “I don’t want her to contact us and make it toxic,” Bethenny says of Bernadette.
Now an entrepreneur, Frankel says her healthy-living empire, which includes two bestselling cookbooks, workout DVDs and her line of Skinnygirl Margaritas, was inspired by her own struggles with food. “I was owned by dieting,” she says. “I hated myself. I was completely obsessed and consumed.”
Years of dieting hurt her metabolism, and Frankel resolved to not allow food to rule her life. “I would never be extreme again, it doesn’t work,” she tells PEOPLE. Her desire to be in command of food (not the other way around) led the culinary school graduate to start a line of vegan cookies and a health food catering business. Her successes with both landed her a spot on the Martha Stewart version of ‘The Apprentice’ in 2005, where she came in second.
Frankel was smitten with the reality TV fame that came with ‘The Apprentice,’ so when ‘Real Housewives of New York City’ was heading to Bravo in 2008, she jumped at the chance to be on the show. Frankel’s difficult past has helped her deal with the drama that comes with ‘Housewives’: “I was able to have some perspective on all the drama,” she says.
Her rough childhood and hard work have made Frankel particularly thankful for what she has now. She and Hoppy, a sales executive, married in late March. She calls Hoppy her “anchor,” and says that he has “taught me that being taken care of was emotional and not financial.”
Sensing something special about Frankel and Hoppy’s whirlwind romance and engagement, Bravo asked the popular ‘Housewife’ if she’d be interested in capturing her wedding plans and pregnancy on film for her own spinoff show. She jumped at the chance and ‘Bethenny Getting Married’ was born. The show recently scored Bravo its highest-rated series premiere ever.
While Frankel is proud of her reality TV successes, right now her focus is on baby Bryn. “Everything that’s happened is exciting, but it’s nothing like having her in your arms,” she says. “I just want to give her the life I didn’t have.”