Bravolebrity Bethenny Frankel had a very toxic, emotionally abusive childhood and instead of private therapy, she’s letting it all out on television and to the press. During the last season of Real Housewives of New York Bethenny’s father Bobby Frankel died, and she candidly expressed that she didn’t feel loved by him and felt very damaged by their relationship. Her new show Bethenny’s Getting Married? features sessions with therapist Xavier Amador (who isn’t a stranger to showbiz) where she delves deeper into her childhood troubles on national television. Her father Bobby (a very successful horse trainer) abandoned Bethenny and her mom Bernadette (Bonnie) Frankel when Bethenny was four. B. spent her childhood with her mother, which, according to B., turned out to be a highly toxic environment. Bethenny tells People (via Hollywoodlife.com) that her mother was extremely violent toward her stepfather John Parisella (also a horse trainer), and would drink heavily and smash everything in the house to start a fight. Her mother also suffered from eating disorders, which Bethenny picked up around age 13. This was also the age Bethenny started partying hard in NYC. Bethenny tells People that she “didn’t have a childhood.”
During the first part of this clip below from Bethenny’s Getting Married? Bethenny breaks down while meeting with the wedding officiate because no family members will be attending the wedding on her side. They ask the officiate to give them a moment and Jason asks if she wants to call her mother, and Bethenny says no, because she will be crazy.
Later in the clip Bethenny meets with Xavier and outlines out a few of the ways her mother has terrorized her life. Her mother was dependent on men for money and told Bethenny that she “married men I didn’t want to marry. I did everything for you.”
Even though Bethenny is airing all of her painful laundry, she is also celebrating the happiness she says she’s found with her new husband Jason Hoppy and daughter Bryn. She tells People.com “All of the clichés are true: Parenthood is magical, it is a gift, a miracle, and yes, I am over the moon. I can be the toughest, most abrupt, and often harshest person in the world, and somehow this tiny little being has softened me. She makes everything so simple. She quiets it all down, and she makes all the drama inconsequential.”
She also encourages everyone to hold on to our dreams and plug forward, “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 has said before that she became a natural foods chef and learned how foods can be healing because she grew up in such an unhealthy environment that encouraged eating disorders and excessive drinking. She definitely hasn’t put down the bottle though, in fact she now hawks booze along with diet books and workout videos.
Everyone’s a lesson in contradictions, but Bethenny’s are unique in that they are on display in such a strange way. She refuses to speak to her mother or invite her to her wedding, but she invites the entire world to her wedding via television. She doesn’t like connecting with people personally, but invites the entire world to see her go through pretty genuine therapy sessions, see her pee on a pregnancy in her bathroom, and even pee in a bucket at her wedding. In a way all this intimate exposure is just another way to hold the world at arms length through her control of the theatrics of the situation.
But she doesn’t always have control, and she lets us see that too, if we’re still watching after all the loud, neurotic, brassy bravado. There is still a fragile little girl underneath all of that, and when that comes out, like during the crying session in the video above, Bethenny doesn’t stop the cameras. She continues on as before and The Bethenny Show is compelling again.
UPDATE: Bethenny also went in depth about the trauma of her non-relationship with her father and the toxic nature of her roller-coaster relationship with her mother in her auto-biographical self-help book A Place of Yes. Bethenny’s honest is compelling, and although people may judge her about being so open about how the people in her family have hurt her, hopefully it’s allowed her to move on, create a better life for herself and her daughter, and even help other people who have varying degrees of family problems.
Bernadette has responded to Bethenny’s book, telling Hollywood Life “My comment is the same as it was — I consider her to be demented and beyond help. Reconciliation is not up to her at all. She would never want to repair anything because then all of her lies would come out.”
In the book, and in interviews, Bethenny has admitted that her childhood wasn’t all bad. In the book she says, “I didn’t feel like a victim as a child, and I don’t feel like one now,” Bethenny, 40, writes. But “I never felt very safe, and I never felt like I could trust that someone else was in control of the situation.”