Bethenny Frankel is sharing more details on her efforts to push for the unionization of reality TV as well as some of the challenges she has faced along the way.
In a recent episode of the Literally! With Rob Lowe podcast, the former Real Housewives of New York star admitted that while she was surprised some Hollywood executives have praised her for speaking out, others are not too thrilled.
“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 said.
But the reality star turned entrepreneur also emphasized how important it is for the genre to unionize so cast and crew members are protected and have fair working conditions. She also expressed concern over reality stars being exploited as well as “unrealistic” nondisclosure agreements.
“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.”
After Frankel first took to social media last month to question why reality TV hasn’t unionized, she has since been working with lawyers on a plan of action. Frankel said the actors’ union SAG-AFTRA also reached out to her for support.
“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,” she said. “And I was saying there should be some language, some contract language that goes into these contracts that everybody in reality knows to include.”
“Like, they can’t just exploit people with these unrealistic NDAs,” she continued. “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.”
In July, just a week into the double strike, Frankel shared a video on Instagram of her bringing up the idea of a reality TV union. “Hollywood is on strike, entertainers are fighting for residuals and no one will promote anything. Why isn’t reality TV on strike?” she asked in the video at the time. “During the last writers strike, we were providing all the entertainment, and that’s really when the gold rush of reality TV started.”
Frankel added that networks and streamers shouldn’t be able to continue profiting from stars without recognizing the impact of reality shows on Hollywood. “I have never made a single residual,” she claimed. “So either I’m missing something, or we’re getting screwed too.”
Bravo also recently clarified the network’s nondisclosure agreements after NBCUniversal received letters from lawyers representing cast and crew on Bravo, E! and CNBC series regarding alleged “grotesque” mistreatment and “draconian” nondisclosure agreements.
A spokesperson for the network previously shared in a statement with The Hollywood Reporter, “Confidentiality clauses are standard practice in reality programming to prevent disclosure of storylines prior to air. They are not intended to prevent disclosure by cast and crew of unlawful acts in the workplace, and they have not been enforced in that manner.”
“To be clear: any current or former cast or crew is free to discuss and disclose any allegedly unlawful acts in the workplace, such as harassment or discrimination, or any other conduct they have reason to believe is inappropriate,” the statement continued. “We are also working with our third party production companies to remind all cast and crew that they are encouraged to report any such concerns through the channels made available by the production company so concerns can be promptly addressed.”
The Hollywood Reporter reached out to Cohen’s rep but he couldn’t be reached for comment.