Warhol was right. With the rise of YouTube, Twitter, and reality television, everyone is famous for 15 minutes. What counts now is what you do with that celebrity. One New Yorker has turned her 15 minutes into a five-year run on television and a thriving business.
Bethenny Frankel has starred in five reality television shows—The Apprentice: Martha Stewart (2005), The Real Housewives of New York City (2008-2010), Bethenny Getting Married? (2010), Skating with the Stars (2010), and Bethenny Ever After (2011). But when asked if she considers herself a celebrity or a businesswoman, she doesn’t hesitate when responding, “businesswoman.”
Frankel was a struggling entrepreneur before she ever signed up for The Apprentice. The daughter of thoroughbred racehorse trainer Robert Frankel, she’s a trained natural food chef who had catering, importing, and event planning businesses. With little success, Frankel looked to her one-time idol Martha Stewart, and recognized the potential she had to really live her brand. Her participation in reality shows has proven to be the ultimate marketing strategy.
On the first season of The Real Housewives, Frankel was out at a bar with cast mates when she ordered a drink and coined the term the skinny girl margarita. After that episode aired, women all over the country began ordering the tequila, triple sec and lime juice combination as a lower calorie alternative to sugary margarita mixes. Frankel capitalized on the trend and leveraged her television fame to grow her brand—Skinnygirl.
|Photography by John Halpern|
Launched in 2009, Skinnygirl Margarita quickly became the fastest growing ready-todrink cocktail in the United States. In order to make this an international success story, Frankel sold the spirits franchise to Beam Global Spirits & Wine in March 2011. While she is still in charge of marketing and will collaborate on new products, the deal has enabled Frankel to dedicate more time to her line of shapewear and lingerie, workout DVDs, and Skinnygirl Daily Cleanse and Restore. Frankel authored two New York Times best sellers: Naturally Thin (2009) and The Skinnygirl Dish (2010). The new mom to daughter Bryn also has a new book, A Place of Yes: 10 Rules for Getting Everything You Want out of Life, that was released a few weeks ago.
So, has she been able to leverage celebrity into success? The numbers say yes. In addition to the multi-million dollar book deals, Frankel’s shapewear line, which will be available on QVC and skinnygirlshapers.com, is expected to do more than $3 million in sales this year, according to WWD.
In the no-holds barred style Frankel has become famous for, she spoke with NY Report executive editor Daria Meoli about why she became a Housewife, how she changed her fortune with a glass of tequila, and how she found a place of ‘yes.’
Daria Meoli: Why did you create a brand so closely tied to yourself?
Bethenny Frankel: I have a hard time believing I always wanted to be the brand, but everybody I know from way back in high school tells me, “You always wanted it.” I was on The Apprentice: Martha Stewart because I wanted to be her successor. In my mind, I believed Martha Stewart would be wise enough to recognize that I could democratize health the way she had democratized style and she would pass me the reins. That could sound crazy, because I was just a competitor on The Apprentice, but that’s the way you’re supposed to dream and plan—big.
I think I always knew I would be the brand, but I didn’t know it would end up to be the Skinnygirl brand.
Who is Skinnygirl?
DM: When did it become clear that Skinnygirl would be your brand?
BF: The minute I said the words “skinnygirl margarita” on The Real Housewives, I knew it was going to be a successful cocktail. I remember thinking that this is something women are going to want. If Sarah Jessica Parker were as wise as I am, she would have owned the cosmopolitan. She would have made an SJP and girls all over the country would have been drinking it.
Skinnygirl Margarita was just an idea I had but when I ordered it on the show, it became quite a phenomenon. So I acted on it, which wasn’t exactly an easy venture. Not one single liquor company wanted anything to do with it. They’re all run by men. It’s a completely male-driven industry, and Skinnygirl was a concept they all said no to.
Daria Meoli is the Executive Editor at The New York Enterprise Report. She can be reached at email@example.com