Bethenny Frankel Says Andy Cohen 'Despises' Her for Trying to Unionize Reality TV

The 'Real Housewives of New York' alum is pushing for the unionization of reality TV.

Bethenny Frankel opens up on a recent episode of Team Coco's Literally! With Rob Lowe about her efforts to push for the unionization of reality TV. In a candid conversation with host Rob Lowe, Frankel delves into the challenges she has faced and the enemies she has made along the way, including Bravo's Andy Cohen.

Frankel, a prominent figure in the reality TV scene after appearing on The Real Housewives of New York City, shared her insights into the world behind the camera, shedding light on the struggles faced by reality TV cast members who often take personal risks by sharing their unfiltered voices. She emphasized that the genre needs a union to protect the rights and well-being of its participants.

"I can tell you with great certainty that everyone at Bravo likely despises me, including Andy Cohen, because it's very personal and because they have to protect the realm," Frankel shared, acknowledging the controversial nature of her efforts.

During the interview, Frankel pointed out the need for a unified voice in the reality TV industry, citing the vulnerability of cast members who often operate without scripted lines and take on considerable personal risks. She expressed concern about the exploitation of participants and the prevalence of unrealistic nondisclosure agreements (NDAs) that hinder them from speaking about their experiences.

"What we need is, we need a union – not meaning me – I'm not even doing it anymore. Meaning, that genre needs a union because those people aren't even reading other people's words. They're taking such risks by being their own voice," Frankel explained. "And right now, during this strike, they're going to be the ones that everybody goes to for cheap labor."

Frankel's advocacy for unionization has caught the attention of SAG-AFTRA (Screen Actors Guild - American Federation of Television and Radio Artists), a major union representing actors, broadcasters, and other media professionals. Frankel tells Lowe that SAG-AFTRA representatives reached out to her to discuss potential unionization efforts within the reality TV industry.

"SAG-AFTRA reached out to me. And while we're talking about a union and what that would look like, they also want to know in the short term what they could do to help. And I was saying there should be some language, some contract language that goes into these contracts that everybody in reality knows to include," she said.

Frankel continued, "Like, they can't just exploit people with these unrealistic NDAs. So it's a very complicated thing I walked myself into whilst also burning bridges and seeming like I'm biting the hand that fed me, but I fed myself. There are a lot of people who didn't get fed."

Last month, Frankel took to Instagram to call for what she refers to as "the reality TV reckoning," and went on to explain how reality stars need to join together to fight for better pay, more control of their contracts and more oversight on how they are presented in the final edits of the show. 

Frankel's comments came days after she questioned why reality TV stars aren't on strike like the actors and writers.

"Hollywood is on strike. Entertainers are fighting for residuals, and no one will promote anything. Why isn't reality TV on strike?" she asked. "I got paid $7,250 for my first season of reality TV and people are still watching those episodes."

"We've always been the losers, the 'I’m up here, you’re down here’ to the actresses and actors," she continued. "During the last writers' strike we’re providing all the entertainment, and that’s when really the gold rush of reality TV started. So, I myself have generated millions and millions of dollars in advertising and online impressions being on reality TV and have never made a single residual. So, either I’m missing something or we’re getting screwed too."

She added, "It just occurred to me, everyone is talking about actors and we don’t get paid s**t."

Hollywood has nearly come to a screeching halt ever since the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA), which represent more than 160,000 film and television actors, officially went on strike on July 14 after they were unable to reach an agreement with major Hollywood studios and streamers by the July 12 deadline.

Because of this, nearly all productions in Hollywood have been forced to shut down, which has already had an immediate impact in the industry with canceled premieres, axed publicity tours, delayed projects and abandoned sets.

The Writers Guild of America (WGA) also went on strike in May after it failed to reach an agreement with major Hollywood studios over fair compensation.