This is a preview of our pop culture newsletter The Daily Beast’s Obsessed, written by senior entertainment reporter Kevin Fallon. To receive the full newsletter in your inbox each week, sign up for it here.
It is almost too on-the-nose that, in the year 2020, a former star of the Real Housewives franchise is arguably doing more to fight the coronavirus pandemic than the actual president of the United States. But here we are, once again repeating what has become our daily mantra since she first entered our lives 15 years ago under the watchful eye of Martha Stewart: Thank God for Bethenny Frankel.
Along with her disaster relief initiative BStrong, Frankel has managed to raise $4.5 million in funds and distribute nearly $18 million worth of supplies to front-line workers. It’s a continuation of the work Frankel has been doing since 2017, providing millions in aid to hurricane, earthquake, and wildfire victims around the world while drumming up a groundswell of support for her efforts with the hashtag #thisisacrisis.
The massive success she’s had in large-scale humanitarian organizing has made “Bethenny 2020” trend as a sort of joking admiration for her pivot from boozing on Bravo to saving the world. But also, if we’re choosing former reality TV stars who we’d rather be in charge…
A “Bethenny for President?” profile ran in New York magazine in 2017, and the sentiment has hurled into overdrive on Twitter in recent weeks as the specifics of what she’s contributed have stood in such stark contrast to politicians’ Abbott and Costello routine about whose fault it is there isn’t enough aid.
Then there’s this video from earlier in the month in which Frankel appears on MSNBC and breathlessly details all the work she’s done so far, a viral State of the Union for all the ways she’s kicking ass. The scale of the numbers she rattles off hit you like a gale-force wind, which is just as fitting: Frankel will undoubtedly be by your side to help you to recover from it momentarily.
Her reality-TV bonafides haven’t just been a boon for raising awareness for her organization. She’s also been able to speak publicly about the gravity of the situation, slicing through any politically correct doublespeak with real-talk about the crisis as well as the red tape and shysters who make saving lives more difficult. Case in point, this recent appearance on AM to DM discussing the scam artists trying to sell fake equipment to charities trying to help.
But the chef’s kiss to all of this is that, even while legitimately saving the world—and not in the hyperbolic pop-culture headline way all of us, myself, can’t stop using—she’s still involved in the petty drama and tabloid trash of her reality TV roots. It’s glorious. My two favorite Bethennies all at once: One, a marvel of business acumen and tireless philanthropy; the other, not here for your shit, Ramona.
The tabloids are running amok with reports that Frankel threw a fit after a Real Housewives of New York City producer said the series didn’t need her after she quit the show last year. These reports come after a premiere week for the new season of the series that saw the remaining cast members claim that the show is better off without her. Frankel responded with an epic burn, telling Extra that the show is “not maybe the content that is inspiring people to do what they need to do right now.”
She is giving us juicy Page Six drama and she’s giving us N95 respirators and surgical masks. We stan.
While, as they confirmed to us, most of those associated with the Real Housewives franchise are dutifully quarantining and doing what they can to send positivity to fans, there are others who seem to be losing their minds—or, at least, revealing how those minds really work.
There’s Orange County Housewife Kelly Dodd, who responded to followers angry that she recently flew in an airplane by arguing that the pandemic is “Gods [sic] way of thinning the herd!!” Or Dodd’s former co-star, Vicki Gunvalson, who tweeted at California Gov. Gavin Newsom that it is time to get healthy hairdressers, nail technicians, and restaurant employees back to work: “Please?”
It shouldn’t be a surprise that it is Frankel herself who sums up all of this the best: At times like these, “you see the best in people and you see the worst in people.”