This has not been a winning year for Bethenny Frankel. She recently lost her daytime talk show, her marriage and her battle to get full custody of her 4-year-old daughter, Bryn. Say what you want at Bethenny’s failed attempt at being a talk-show host, but nothing about the dissolution of a family is fun or funny, and even if you get what you want in the end, everyone still loses.
Frankel shouldn’t feel too bad, though. In a relatively short period of time she managed to build a multi-million dollar pad in her bank account, thanks to her Skinnygirl brand, and if that’s not enough, by at least one estimate, she is the queen of the entire Real Housewives franchise.
But despite all of her high highs and low lows, she’s not calling it quits; instead, she’s out to prove that she’s a woman for whom there’s no such thing as “enough.” She most recently showed that on Sunday when she posted a photo on her Instagram account of her posing in her daughter’s pajamas. Did we mention her daughter is 4? And Bethenny is shown wearing her daughter’s Hello Kitty pajamas? Which are probably a size 4? A toddler size 4?
“This is my daughter’s nightgown and PJ shorts. Think we’re ready to start sharing clothes yet?” she wrote in the photo’s caption.
If I were her and did the same thing, it might be mildly amusing (except if it were me, I wouldn’t fit into my daughter’s pajamas, nor would I try to, frankly). But it would only be cute if I did it just for my daughter, didn’t pose for a photo and then post it on social media. Actually, on second thought, it still wouldn’t be cute. Just kind of weird.
A friend of mine came over for dinner a couple of weeks ago and while we were sitting outside on the deck, she got chilly so I told her to take a jacket from the coat closet. She came back in my 5-year-old’s fleece jacket. Except for the sleeves being too short, it fit her. She wasn’t trying to be provocative or sexy or even silly. It literally fit her the best — she’s naturally tiny. It was pretty funny (although my 5-year-old was alarmed the jacket would not be returned, which, for the record, it was). More importantly, it was functional, as the jacket did, indeed, keep her warm.
There was nothing functional about Bethenny posing in her daughter’s pajamas, unless you consider it was probably a function of furthering her brand. Bethenny has made a career out of being skinny (and brash and unlucky in love). She could do nothing else until the end of days and still be considered a success, but we’re talking about a woman who’s been on multiple reality shows (remember when she was on the Martha Stewart version of The Apprentice? Or the Real Housewives of New York? Or Bethenny Getting Married? How about Bethenny Ever After?) not to mention a few “movies” (like this one). If she were just in it for the money, she would have stopped by now. I’m not one to count what’s in someone else’s wallet, but I’m guessing hers is filled and then some.
She keeps going, it seems, because of a burning desire to be on camera. That’s part of what makes her Hello Kitty pajama party a real downer. While maybe (probably) it was strategic and she knew it would generate a buzz — negative or otherwise — there really is such thing as bad publicity in some cases. The photo makes me feel bad for her, although not enough to go out and buy her Skinnygirl Sangria Shower Gel.
This photo actually hints to me that Bethenny might be getting to the point where I feel like I shouldn’t buy magazines, but not because I don’t think she doesn’t mean well — so much of the motivational speaking, healthy recipes, and exercise tips that are intrinsically tied to her brand are intended to empower women to making better choices in their lives, and that’s commendable. In that regard, she deserves the successful career she’s carved out for herself. But if it were me — a mom who also has a career — and the furthering of my brand had the potential to negatively affect my children, and I could afford to hit the pause button to reevaluate how and why I’m doing what I’m doing, I would seize the opportunity.
Which brings me to the saddest part about the photo: Bryn. Bethenny might have been just having fun with her, but it’s not so fun to look at. It reeks of desperation. At a time when J. Crew has invented a size 000 (for those with a 23-inch waist), which most people can probably agree is just as unhealthy as a size 20. At a time when models are having fat Photoshopped on them because they think they need to be too thin to survive in an increasingly anorexic industry. Bethenny knew exactly what she was doing.
You don’t get to star in enough TV shows to fill a six pack without being somewhat calculating. She’s savvy, shrewd, and knows her brand, which is her. At some point, though, she’s going to need to take a long, hard look in the mirror and realize that while she is, indeed, a brand, she’s also a mom. It wouldn’t be fair to take a single snapshot in a day of Bethenny’s life to extrapolate that she’s putting career above family (which plenty of men and women do). But it seems to me that when you’re businesswoman in the spotlight and a mom, you should maybe choose more carefully the images of you that you want to put out there for public consumption — on behalf of your customers as well as your children. Infantalizing yourself in your child’s pajamas — because you’re skinny enough to wear them — seems to me as if it’s sending out more than one message, the majority of which are not eminently positive.
If she wants to set a good example for her daughter and the thousands of women who helped put her where she is today, do it by eating for health reasons (not not eating to stay skinny), and to respect herself and her daughter enough by keeping some things in the family, or better yet, not doing them at all.
For her part, Bethenny thinks people like me are making much ado about nothing, responding to the has responded to the criticism by tweeting, “When ur 4 year old peanut says “mommy please put my dress on” & giggles uncontrollably, u do what ur told.”
For another perspective on this issue: What Message Are We Sending Our Daughters When We Criticize Bethenny Frankel?
What’s your take on Bethenny’s photo? Let us know in the comments below.
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