Tragic Details About Bethenny Frankel

The following article references eating disorders, domestic abuse, and addiction.

Bethenny Frankel is no stranger to putting her life out there. The star shot to fame thanks to her frank-el, no-nonsense personality and epic one-liners on "The Real Housewives of New York City." The star quickly won herself plenty of fans and turned her newfound reality TV notoriety into a multi-million-dollar empire through her hugely successful Skinnygirl brand, which now includes everything from food and drink to clothing to cookware.

"I hit a lot of roadblocks, but I was a dog on a bone. You'll never get that same drive and spirit than the beginning when you have nothing and you know you have a good idea," Bethenny explained to CNBC in 2015 of how she became one of the most successful and richest Housewives in the franchise's long history.

But just because she seems to have everything she's ever dreamed of, the star has certainly weathered her fair share of storms along the way to the privileged lifestyle she leads today. From experiencing heartbreaking deaths, to allegations of abuse against those closest to her, and once being several thousand dollars in debt, let's take a deep dive into some of the most tragic things this bold star has overcome.

Dennis Shields' death left Bethenny Frankel 'heartbroken'

Bethenny Frankel's love life has been anything but a secret, and that was no more apparent than her relationship with former fiancé Dennis Shields. The twosome's rollercoaster on/off relationship was a big part of Bethenny's storyline on "The Real Housewives of New York City" until Dennis' shocking sudden death, with the star also dealing with the aftermath as the cameras rolled.

Dennis was found dead in his apartment in August 2018, with a source telling E! News Bethenny was "heartbroken" over the tragedy. "This is really bad. It's dreadful. She's known him for over 20 years," they said. It was reported that Dennis died of a suspected overdose, though an autopsy wasn't performed due to his religious beliefs (via People). A month later, Bethenny made her first public appearance and told People it had "been very, very hard" for her. "I love him very much... it's a storm and you must go through it. It's not one of these things you can avoid... you have to go through it and deal with it and hopefully, you come out stronger on the other side."

In April 2019, she spoke about the impact Dennis' death had on her to Us Weekly, noting she still had "sad days." "Grief is, like, it's a crisis in and of itself, and we're trying to survive and trying to feel, and you just wanna make yourself feel better in any way that you can," she added.

A difficult childhood left Bethenny Frankel estranged from her mom

Bethenny Frankel has been candid about her negative memories of her parents, telling People in July 2010 that she felt she "never had a true childhood" with her mom, Bernadette Birk, and stepdad, horse trainer John Parisella. "There was a lot of destruction: alcohol abuse, eating disorders and violent fights," she claimed, revealing she'd been estranged from her mom. She also said Bernadette was "never a mother to [her]." 

Sadly, there seems to be little love lost. Bernadette called her daughter "a liar and a shark" and even a "moron" while speaking to Life & Style in 2017. Regarding the abuse accusations, she told the outlet, "John and I had a volatile relationship, and he did hit me. But I never saw John raise his voice, let alone his hand, against Bethenny." 

Bethenny also became estranged from her stepdad. In a 2015 episode of "The Real Housewives of New York City" (via Radar Online), the two met up for the first time in over 25 years. Speaking to John about different elements of her upbringing, she asked, "What mother would ever do that to their child?" While there seemed to be some level of reconciliation in the episode, it evidently didn't stick: Two years later, Life & Style reported Bethenny allegedly told John via text message to "Leave me alone, now and forever." 

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.

If you are struggling with an eating disorder, or know someone who is, help is available. Visit the National Eating Disorders Association website or contact NEDA's Live Helpline at 1-800-931-2237. You can also receive 24/7 Crisis Support via text (send NEDA to 741-741).

Bobby Frankel had a strained relationship with his daughter

It wasn't just Bethenny Frankel's mother, Bernadette Birk, and her stepdad, John Parisella, that the reality star turned businesswoman didn't exactly have the greatest relationship with. Bethenny's biological father, famous horse trainer Bobby Frankel, divorced Bernadette when Bethenny was 4 years old, and she claimed her dad made no attempts to see her or forge a relationship for several years after that.

Bobby died in November 2009 due to lymphoma (via ESPN), and he and Bethenny had a brief reconciliation before his passing. Their complicated relationship was highlighted in "The Real Housewives of New York City" episode "Housewives Overboard" (per Glamour), when the star flew to Los Angeles to see him. Bobby initially refused to meet with her, but eventually asked her to come to him while on his deathbed.

On a 2015 episode of "Larry King Now," Bethenny opened up about her strained relationship with her father. She told the host that Bobby "wasn't a really emotional person" and they "never really connected" when he was still alive. While they eventually did try to mend what they could and find closure near the end of his life, she said it was "a very difficult journey." In 2019, she wished her dad, "Hall of Fame thoroughbred horse trainer whose namesake is Frankel, the champion horse," a happy birthday on Twitter.

Bethenny Frankel almost died following a scary allergic reaction

In December 2018, Bethenny Frankel posted about a terrifying ordeal that saw her rushed to the ICU after suffering a serious allergic reaction. The businesswoman is allergic to fish, but was accidentally served soup containing fish flakes by her then boyfriend, Paul Bernon (who went on to become Bethenny's fiancé three years later).

Bethenny opened up about the scary incident during "The Real Housewives of New York City" Season 11 finale (via Yahoo), sharing that Paul returned with Benadryl only to find her unconscious. She was in such a bad state that Paul checked she was still breathing and immediately called for help. "I was in the ambulance and they jammed this, like, rocket pen in my leg and I got to the ER, and then I heard this guy say if it had been five more minutes that I would have passed away," Bethenny said through tears. "If no one was with me I would have been dead. That's what's freaking me out, if I was alone... I don't want to be alone now." 

The star also shared she had a spiritual experience involving her late boyfriend, Dennis Shields, in the ER. She said she felt Dennis, who'd passed away a few months earlier, "pulling" at her, but she didn't want to go with him. "I'll always love Dennis," she admitted, but said what she felt "was some sort of closure."

Skinnygirl heads to court

Bethenny Frankel may be one of the most successful stars to come out of the "Real Housewives" franchise after raking in millions from her business ventures, but hitting the big time also often comes with big lawsuits — and that's something she found out the hard way. Bethenny was slapped with an eye-watering lawsuit from her former manager over her Skinnygirl line back in May 2011. 

The Hollywood Reporter reported that Doug Wald, co-president of Raw Talent, alleged he'd made a deal with Bethenny to be her manager as she sought to launch her cocktail brand. Wald and Bethenny then apparently teamed up with liquor connoisseur David Kanbar, who allegedly "put together a business plan" for the project.

This is when things appeared to get messy. Wald claimed he was fired by Bethenny just a few days before she signed a contract with a different company and believed Raw Talent was entitled a total of $112 million. Yikes. We're guessing this one probably caused quite a few sleepless nights for the TV personality, but by June 2021, it seemed the issue had been resolved. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Bethenny settled the lawsuit, though the details (including how much money was exchanged) weren't revealed.

The bitter divorce battle that followed Bethenny Frankel for years

Buckle up, because Bethenny Frankel and Jason Hoppy's divorce was anything but amicable. Fans saw the twosome's relationship play out on "The Real Housewives of New York City" and Bethenny's spin-off, "Bethenny Getting Married?," but the honeymoon period didn't exactly last long. Bethenny and Hoppy wed in March 2010 but announced they were going their separate ways two years later in December 2012, after which things turned very nasty, as a People source claimed Bethenny was left "devastated."

Their very public divorce (and Bethenny's second marriage to come to an end) took eight years to finalize — yes, eight — as they went back and forth in court, slinging mud and disagreeing over custody of their daughter, Bryn. Bethenny broke down in court as she accused her estranged husband of turning Bryn against her and alleged he turned her life into what she called a "torture chamber" (via Daily Mail). She also claimed she had "thousands" of messages, emails, and phone calls from Hoppy which she purported were "abusive" towards her.

"I was helpless, I had no way out. I knew what he was doing was illegal. I knew I was being abused," Bethenny claimed as she recounted several alleged incidents that happened during their marriage. "I pleaded, begged, emailed, to please stop harassing and abusing me." Plenty of other shocking details about their rocky relationship also came out in court before Bethenny and Jason's divorce was eventually finalized in January 2021.

If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.

Bethenny Frankel's talk show dreams fizzled out quickly

The talk show world just wasn't meant for Bethenny Frankel. Venture back to 2013, and you may remember that "The Real Housewives of New York City" star was trying her hand as a talk show host. The aptly titled "Bethenny" debuted nationwide after Ellen DeGeneres threw her support behind the reality personality. "Bethenny" brought us some infamously dramatic moments (who could forget when she banished a sugar baby from the stage or that time she got into it with Omarosa Manigault Newman?), but it didn't exactly set the TV world on fire.

"Bethenny" ended up being cancelled after just one season and the star's talk show dreams came crashing down just as quickly as they began. According to E! News, Telepictures and Fox both would have renewed the series for a second season, but the show "lost its affiliate clearances," which spelled the end.

"Bethenny" was hardly without controversy during its single season run, though. The program was plagued by rumors of behind the scenes drama, with Radar Online claiming in 2013 that Bethenny was livid when she accused staffers of leaking stories to the press about what went on backstage. "These are very respected professionals that have worked in the business a very long time, unlike Bethenny. She has vowed to find out who the leak is, and has even threatened legal action if she can prove one of her people betrayed her and went public," the insider claimed. Eesh.

Her beloved dog Cookie suffered a tragic death

There's no doubting Bethenny Frankel has suffered a lot of loss, but probably none more publicly in real time than the passing of her 17-year-old dog Cookie. In 2017, Bethenny made Cookie's death very public when she posted several Instagram Stories telling fans her pet was having a seizure and needed assistance. "Help me, what do we do? Help us! I don't know what to do. I don't know where to go. There's no vet-911. Somebody help us, I don't know what to do," she said as she and her daughter Bryn, who was 7 years old at the time, watched on in horror (via People). 

Bethenny explained she didn't want to move her because she was scared it could cause more damage, adding it was too far to take Cookie to the hospital. "I don't think she's going to make it," she tearfully added. Fortunately, Cookie eventually made it to the hospital where Bethenny posted a photo of the poor pooch on her side as she urged her fans to say their goodbyes.

Bethenny took to Twitter to open up about the devastating ordeal, writing, "My peanut & I experienced a 45 min dog seizure & have obvious decisions to make & 'in case' goodbyes to say. @cookiedabooboo is still alive." Bethenny continued to deliver heartbreaking updates, including confirming Cookie had suffered two more seizures, before eventually tweeting, "My @cookiedabooboo is gone. Bless her furry heart..."

After experiencing a miscarriage, Bethenny Frankel blamed herself

If there's one thing we can say about Bethenny Frankel it's that she's not afraid to be open and honest — both in the good and the bad times. That includes some very personal moment, such as when Bethenny got candid about experiencing a miscarriage after falling pregnant for the second time with her now former husband, Jason Hoppy.

In July 2012, Bethenny opened up about the ordeal with Glamour as she recalled the first moment she found out she was pregnant to the aftermath of learning she'd lost their baby. She recalled visiting the doctor after experiencing bleeding while pregnant. After finding out she'd experienced a miscarriage, she wondered, "Is it because I'm busy? My lifestyle? Is this my fault?" In addition to feeling like she should blame herself for the loss, she "went through a range of emotions." She told the outlet, "There was something so sad about it — that there had been a life there, and then suddenly it was not there. There was also, I have to admit, a bit of relief that I wouldn't be starting my new TV job seven months pregnant. And then there was immense guilt at the relief."

Bethenny Frankel was in a serious amount of debt before making it big

Though Bethenny Frankel has a net worth of a whopping $70 million in 2021, according to Celebrity Net Worth, there was a time when she was in serious debt. Bethenny recalled her rocky road to fortune during a Money cover story in 2018, where the entrepreneur shared there was once a time she had $20,000 of credit card debt to her name and was having to bounce checks because she had so little money in her account.

"Until my late thirties, everything was just an anxiety and a struggle," the star explained, noting there were times she would "be on the phone begging to get the [fees] reduced." Things got so bad financially that she'd feel guilty anytime she bought anything, wouldn't ever want to split the bill on dates, and would walk everywhere to avoid having to pay for a cab or the subway. She was also struggling to keep on living in New York City as she could barely pay her rent (which isn't exactly a problem for Bethenny now). "I used to think the credit card didn't count," she confessed. 

As for how Bethenny got out of that deep money hole? Before finding huge success with Skinnygirl and landing her gig on "The Real Housewives of New York City," she shared she "consolidated all [her] credit cards and got a strategic plan to pay more than the minimum each month," which "was a concerted effort."

An obsession with diets left Bethenny Frankel's metabolism 'wrecked'

Bethenny Frankel has been pretty candid over the years about her relationship with food. The star got particularly honest during a 2011 cover story with Us Weekly, in which she said she'd spent her "entire life being obsessed with dieting" and experienced eating disorders. Bethenny would binge and purge, often "forbidding everything" to the point she'd actually starve herself. "That's how I used to be: up and down five pounds every single day, to the extremes. My metabolism was totally wrecked," she said, noting she also had an addiction to exercise.

Bethenny told the outlet that she was around 8 years old when her mom sent her to an obesity clinic, and when she was still a kid, she started taking laxatives (via Reality Tea). "I would go buy magazines just to see what the new diet was and rip it out... I've been on 5,000 diets," the reality star added, describing food as being her "best friend or enemy" (via New York Post). Fortunately, Bethenny has since learned how to have a healthier relationship with food. "It's more about balance. Eating real when you can," she said in Us Weekly of her new approach. 

Bethenny has certainly had a lot to overcome on her climb to the top, but it's hard not to be inspired by her constant resilience.

If you are struggling with an eating disorder, or know someone who is, help is available. Visit the National Eating Disorders Association website or contact NEDA's Live Helpline at 1-800-931-2237. You can also receive 24/7 Crisis Support via text (send NEDA to 741-741).