Bethenny Frankel calls for a reality-star strike aimed at ending further exploitation

Bethenny Frankel wears a black long sleeve top as she poses for photos at a red carpet event
Bethenny Frankel wants reality TV stars to strike in an effort to avoid increased exploitation without protections amid the actors’ and writers’ strikes.
(Charles Sykes / Invision / Associated Press)

Looks like Bethenny Frankel wants to go from reality TV star to — union boss?

The “Real Housewives of New York” veteran recently floated the idea that reality TV stars should go on strike to prevent increased exploitation during the ongoing actors’ and writers’ strikes.

Frankel took to social media to discuss “the reality TV reckoning” and to propose a new “Bethenny clause” to help protect those who appear on unscripted shows.

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“Reality stars are the stepchildren, the losers, the mules, the pack horses, the ones that the entertainment industry is going to rely on right now to carry the water and do the heavy lifting when real stars, real A-list Hollywood is on strike,” Frankel said in a video on various platforms Thursday. “The issues are different than the ones for actors. We are not actors, we are not playing other people. We are not saying the words that are written for us.”


The 52-year-old entrepreneur pointed out that reality personalities and their families can be subjected to intense scrutiny, with producers choosing to highlight their most difficult and vulnerable moments.

“Look at [the] Raquel Leviss ... affair, her life is pretty much ruined and at what price?,” Frankel said. “Reality television exploits affairs, bankruptcy, falling off the wagon, not really having what you say you have, saying something inappropriate. ... You lose a family member and the networks are pumping out the content of that family member when they were alive — look at NeNe Leakes. My divorce was all over the media. Let’s pump all the Bethenny and Jason [Hoppy] footage we can to the end of time.”

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She also highlighted the notion that producers weaponize people’s desire to become famous to create network-friendly contracts.

“I recognize that a young, doe-eyed reality star to-be, wanting fame at any costs, doesn’t know what they’re signing, and they can’t afford a good lawyer,” Frankel added. “But they’ll sign away their entire life just for a chance of fame. So just because Hollywood and the entertainment industry can exploit the screen talent, does that mean they should? Contracts are designed to protect, not for a gotcha moment, not for a network to then do a side deal with a streamer.”

The former talk show host revealed Wednesday on Instagram she was paid $7,250 for her first season of reality TV and that she has “never made a single residual.” She said networks shouldn’t continue to profit from the work reality stars provide without acknowledging the talent’s impact.

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“[P]eople’s names and likenesses are used and exploited forever,” she continued in Thursday’s video. “Clips of shows shown on YouTube that cost nothing to post that networks make money on. Merchandise, ancillary income, that streamers and networks make money on — talent never sees it. We build the intellectual property.”


Frankel ended her message with a warning: She may not have the slightest clue of how to start a union, but she intends to “learn quickly.”