EXCLUSIVE: Bethenny Frankel is 'Distancing' Herself from 'Real Housewives of New York': 'I Left it Behind'

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In 2014, after three seasons away from The Real
Housewives of New York,
Bethenny Frankel returned. Since then, the Bravo
staple has seen ratings rise, but will Bethenny be back with her signature
snark for season nine? When I sat down with her on Aug. 12, Frankel said she’s been “distancing
herself from the show.” 

“It was a long
year,” she said. “It's definitely work. …  This is just a summer of freedom. … I'm glad that the audience is enjoying [the show], but I left it behind.”

Frankel says she's spent time with close pal and co-star Carole Radziwill this summer, but hasn't seen much of the other women. Her demeanor
when discussing RHONY seemed much more somber than it was just weeks before, when I spoke with her at
her New York City apartment in late June. In that interview, the Skinnygirl creator said she didn’t know for
sure if she’d return, but made it seem likely. “I think so,” she said at the time. “I'm really glad I came back. I'm really proud of the show
this season and I really do care about and respect most of the women that are
on this show.”

WATCH: Bethenny Frankel Explains Why Her Daughter is No Longer
Seen on Reality TV

Her hesitance now seems to be stemming largely from the
volatile RHONY reunion taping in July. Frankel told me it was the
most difficult reunion she’s ever filmed. “It was very, very negative and I
didn’t enjoy it at all,” she said. “Something very dramatic
happened …  that questioned my integrity. If someone questions my business
or my integrity I take it really seriously.” 

“I live my life honestly,” she said. “You
have 50 percent of the cast that has a whole taboo, police line, ‘do not cross’
section of their life that is not discussed on camera and never has been. For legal issues and liability issues, Bravo doesn't need to bring it up and it’s a difficult line to ride, and that may be why I don't come back.”

Frankel
said she’s plenty busy with her production company, radio show and, of course,
Skinnygirl brands. “I'm doing what I want to do and
definitely making some changes in my personal and professional life, and deciding kind of how to line up all the pieces on
the board in the fall,” she said. “I have a lot of different businesses and
business decisions to make.” 

Her
latest Skinnygirl product is the Watermelon Lime Margarita. “It’s great for
parties,” she said. “I wanted to just come up with the next fun drink
and I think that watermelon is amazing.” 

Additional good news came her way in mid-July, when Frankel
settled her nearly 4-year-long divorce battle with ex Jason Hoppy. “I am really
happy that I am on the other side of it, for sure,” she said. “But there are
still some obstacles.” Frankel still needs to sell the
apartment the pair once shared. “My summer of freedom is lighting me up,” she
said “I am in a really happy place.”

WATCH: Bethenny Frankel Reveals Whether She’ll Get Married
Again

But the drama is still playing out on TV. Wednesday night's episode of RHONY will show Bethenny as she considers dropping a bomb on Luann de Lesseps: an alleged photo of Luann’s fiancé, Tom, kissing another woman. The RHONY finale
airs August 24th, and the reunion will follow. 

To hear Bethenny open about the health issues she struggled with this season, watch the video below.