Real Housewives of New York (RHONY) star Bethenny Frankel is mourning the death of her on-off boyfriend of Dennis Shields after he was found unresponsive following an apparent drug overdose of addictive opioid oxycodone.
Her 51-year-old partner, who is said to have collapsed in his apartment on the 42nd floor of Trump Tower on 9 August, made multiples appearance on the Bravo series that made his girlfriend a household name.
While Frankel, a successful businesswoman and self-professed “hustler”, is best known for her lead role on RHONY, it is not her only claim to fame.
Natural born hustler
Born to horse trainer Robert J Frankel, Frankel moved to Los Angeles soon after graduating from New York University.
The TV personality previously revealed she was desperate to leave behind a dysfunctional childhood full of drugs and physical abuse and find success as an actress.
She tried multiple business ventures and claims her company, Princess Pashmina, was one of the largest initial importers of pashmina in the US.
“I was always hustling,” she told Business Insider. “I was always figuring out some way to just get by.”
After working as a production assistant on ‘90s sitcom Saved By The Bell, Frankel got her big break in 2005 when she appeared on NBC’s The Apprentice: Martha Stewart.
Although she only signed up for a bet, she ended up being one of the two finalists on the TV competition, and most importantly, was introduced to the world of reality TV.
Real Housewives of New York
She was approached by RHONY bosses who convinced her to join the cast of the inaugural season of the show in 2008.
“I didn’t want to be on the show,” she told the Business Insider podcast in July. “Success! How I Did It.”
Despite her initial reservations, she proved a valuable asset to the cast and her popularity led to her earning a place on Forbes’ “Highest Paid Women in Entertainment” list.
In 2012 she quit the show after landing her own chat show in LA. She later made a comeback in season seven and has been there ever since.
Frankel’s romance with Mr Shields was a topic of contention on Season 10 of RHONY because was still legally married to Jill Schwartzberg when they started dating.
She opened up about her complicated relationship with the banker without naming him during a recent interview on the Steve Harvey Show.
Before she started dating Mr Shields, Frankel had been married and divorced twice. She tied the knot with entertainment executive Peter Sussman in 1996, but it didn’t last, and the couple divorced the following year.
She later found love with pharmaceutical sales executive Jason Hoppy, the father of her eight-year-old daughter Bryn, and the pair married in 2010.
In 2013 she filed for divorce and the pair become embroiled in a bitter custody battle.
She tweeted at the time: “To those of you who are being supportive: thank you. To those of you who are judging: I totally get it.”
The mother of one has also amassed a strong social media following and regularly shares glimpses of her personal life with fans on her Twitter and Instagram pages.
According to the TheRichest.com, Frankel is worth around £25m.
She earned much of her fortune from drinks business Skinnygirl Cocktails, which she sold to Beam Global in 2011 for a reported $100m (£78m).
“l didn’t feel financially independent until the Skinnygirl deal in 2011. Even if people are saving all the time, it’s hard to acquire wealth unless you make a pile,” she told InStyle Magazine. “It’s easy to have money, spend, and save. But you have to save a lot more money than you think to make a real dent and have security.”
Frankel runs B Strong, a crisis intervention initiative that provides disaster relief for Puerto Ricans affected by Hurricane Maria in 2017.
The group helped raise $1.25m and filled a plane with “$25k in Costco gift cards, $25k in cash gift cards and approximately 15k lbs of food, water and medical supplies”.
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