B Strong Indeed: Looking Back at Bethenny Frankel’s Most Challenging Year Ever

The reality star turns 47 after a year filled with highs and lows, including the tragic death of her on and off again boyfriend, Dennis Shields

By Tierney Bricker Nov 04, 2018 12:00 PMTags
Watch: Bethenny Frankel Can't Believe Skinnygirl Jeans Are Selling Out!

What a difference a year makes. 

One year ago, Bethenny Frankel celebrated her 47th birthday with a trip. No, not one of The Real Housewives of New York City's infamous cast trips, but a visit to Puerto Rico to help the residents impacted by Hurricane Maria.

"I'm going this weekend for my birthday to Puerto Rico. I don't usually love my birthday," the business mogul told E! News at the time. "I think it's an interesting way to give back on your birthday and a good way to reflect on my age and where I am."

Through her B Strong Charity, Bethenny had raised millions of dollars and amassed supplies, with the reality star making several trips to Puerto Rico, which were eventually aired on Bravo during RHONY's season. 

Bethenny Frankel's Healthy Eating Tips

The trip to Puerto Rico during her birthday came on the heels of heartbreak for Bethenny: Just one week earlier, her beloved dog Cookie, who was 16, died. 

"My @cookiedabooboo is gone. Bless her furry heart..." she wrote on Twitter after documenting Cookie's terrifying seizures a day earlier on her Instagram Stories. She also tweeted, "My furry first baby, May ur next life be as beautiful as this one was. Thank u for the love u gave to me &my peanut. See u on the other side."

Following her relief trip to Puerto Rico, Bethenny took a much needed break to celebrate her birthday, hitting the beach in Miami just as her first episode on ABC's Shark Tank as a guest shark was about to air. 

With her charity work and young daughter Brynn to focus on and her latest legal battle with ex-husband Jason Hoppy seemingly over, things seemed to be looking up for the Skinnygirl founder. But really, it was just the start of a year filled with loss and even more legal fights, some of which was documented by Bravo's cameras-- especially her shocking falling out with Carole Radziwill, her RHONY co-star and best friend.

The pair met when Bethenny returned to RHONY for its seventh season following a three-year break, during which Carole had joined the show. Slowly, Bethenny and Carole formed a solid bond, one that continued to grow off-camera as well. 

By 2016, they were taking couples trips together. By 2017, the other women accused them of being "mean girls" and alienating themselves from the rest of the cast. 

Carole defended their friendship, saying, "The fact is in any group of friends, there are always going to be women amongst the group who are closer. And I think it was very obvious last season that I was much closer with Bethenny."

She continued, "Bethenny and I are good friends. I don't have to defend that… There's a naturalness in my relationship, in my friendship with Bethenny, and it's nice."


But by the end of the year, things had shifted. Sure, their fractured friendship was teased in the season 10 trailer, but what ended up playing out on-screen and off-screen was downright shocking, and came to an explosive head on a group trip to Caratagena, Colombia. Bethenny eventually had a breakdown due to the stress of her situation with Carole and, more surprisingly, her ongoing legal battle with her ex.

'I'm so stressed out. My restraining order is up in a month. And I'm dealing with this custody battle. There is so much going on. I'm going to explode," Bethenny cried. 'I'm under so much stress. I'm like having a panic attack. I don't want to go back to the life I had. I don't want to be tortured."

Known for her thick skin and tell-it-like-it-is attitude, it was shocking for viewers to see Bethenny in this state. 

"It's a little bit difficult. The whole season was a little bit challenging for me, truthfully. Working so much, I've filmed [other] television shows and I'm a mom, which is very important to me, obviously—and I just cracked at the end of the season," Bethenny admitted to People of this season. "I'm not used to that either, so it's a very different, unsettling season for me."

By the season 10 reunion taping, s--t had gotten so bad between Bethenny and Carole that it turned into an all-out war...one that ended with a casualty as Carole announced soon after that she would be leaving the franchise. 

Patrick Ecclesine/Bravo

 "My original curiosity about reality television has waned over the years and I am focusing on TV and writing projects that better suit my more steady temperament," Carole said in a statement. "I have worked with amazing producers, made great friends, and I'm thrilled to leave frenemies behind. I will remember this entire experience with delight, humor, and a veracious accuracy. Next."

Though she had lost her closest confidant on the show, Bethenny did reconcile with Jill Zarin, her former co-star and frenemy, following the death of Bobby Zarin, Jill's husband, in January 2018. 

Bethenny attended Bobby's funeral (which cameras rolled on) and reconnected with Jill, something that Bravo viewers never would've believed possible after their epic feud years earlier.

"It's nice. She'll text me and we have a nice sort of interaction and it's clean, which is what I wanted it to be," Bethenny said on Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen.

But at the reunion, Ramona Singer called Bethenny attended the funeral "opportunistic," going on to say, "What I thought was really bizarre…is that you told the production crew you wanted to film it. We all went without really to film it, we didn't even know you were filming." 

Host Andy Cohen clarified Jill invited Bravo to come and film and they wanted to pay tribute to Bobby on the show. 

But as the reunion was about to air, the shocking news that Dennis Shields, Bethenny's on-again, off-again boyfriend who had appeared on the show several times, was found dead of an apparent drug overdose on August 10. He was 51 years old. 

At the time a source told us Bethenny was "heartbroken," adding, "This is really bad. It's dreadful. She's known him for over 20 years. She's heartbroken."

Two weeks after Dennis' passing, Bethenny broke her silence on Twitter. 


"It's hard to breathe & I appreciate you giving me the space & support to try to do so," she wrote. "It's excruciating-sudden death is no closure & constant ?s & memories. Our relationship is current so it's painfully raw. Trying to stay healthy & move through it w tears & close friends. Xo"

She also posted a tribute on her Instagram account, sharing a photo of Dennis and her late dog, Cookie. 

Bethenny's method of coping with her sadness? "Doing anything in or by the water is life saving," she shared on Twitter. "Beach walks. Ocean swims, wakeboarding, clamming, infrared sauna, jacuzzi & my swim really help."

She added, "When you feel sad, you cry then you just have to force yourself to shift. It's so hard but it works."

Due to the stress, Bethenny, already the subject of social media attention for her slim figure, was called out for looking "extra thin" on Instagram. 

"Death will do that to a person #griefdiet," the reality star replied. "I don't recommend it."

But mourning the loss of Dennis wasn't the only thing weighing on the reality star's mind, as she was back in court facing off against her ex-husband in their ongoing custody battle. 

During a court appearance in August, Jason's attorney used an episode of RHONY in which Bethenny "appeared to be intoxicated, running around with no clothes on and saying she mixed Ambien and alcohol" as a piece of evidence to request drug and alcohol testing. The attorney stated, "Our concern is whether Ms. Frankel might have some kind of substance abuse problem." 

Bethenny's lawyer called the request and drug and alcohol claims "harassment," and said of her drinking that "nothing in front of the child or with the child. She's on television, she's entertaining." 

Jason's lawyer went on to use Dennis' death against Bethenny in front of the judge.

"It was reported that he died of an oxycodone overdose. Our concern is, while the death is very sad, it raises concerns about Ms. Frankel's parental judgment," the lawyer claimed.  "What does it say about Ms. Frankel's parenting that she would allow this person to care for her daughter? It's downright dangerous parenting."

The judge quickly denied the request, telling Jason's lawyer, "There was a tragedy which I think you're trying to exploit." 

Fortunately, Bethenny had her business to keep her busy, launching a new line of Skinnygirl jeans. And in September, she looked back on her "difficult summer" while talking to E! News at the collection's New York launch. 

"This has been a very, very difficult summer, and I think it's amazing how strong we actually are and the things that we can actually handle," she told us. "I mean, time does heal most wounds. I'm still in it, but Dennis was such a lover of me as a businesswoman and he got so excited to hear about the numbers, and the sales and the details." 

And, of course, the show must go on, as Bethenny has been filming the upcoming season of The Real Housewives of New York City, continuing her B Strong Charity work (helping those impacted by Hurricane Michael), and clapping back at haters on social media. 

After receiving critical comments on her Halloween posts, which featured her rocking a Victoria's Secret Angel costume (a la the Kardashians), Bethenny fired back in the comments section.

"For those haters, I suppose that monetizing reality TV is not the only good idea that the Kardashians and I have shared simultaneously," she wrote. "For those who bash theirs or my body, go hate somewhere else. We are mothers and daughters and I chose those very polarizing ruffle boy shorts thus opting to not show my vagina this Halloween. I'm in my late 40s. This is my God given body with no receipts attached (a breast lift 12 years ago notwithstanding) to it. Perhaps next year I will go pantyless & await more constructive comments."

She then concluded, "To the rest of you, I had the best Halloween ever, trick or treating with my peanut then dancing w my ladies. XO."

After the year she's had, it's going to take a lot more than an Internet troll to take this B down.

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