Bethenny Frankel accuses reality TV of ‘exploiting’ its stars amid SAG-AFTRA strike

Bethenny Frankel has accused Hollywood of exploiting reality TV stars, claiming they will “do the heavy lifting” while actors and writers are on strike.

The Screen Actors Guild (SAG-AFTRA) and Writers Guild of America (WGA) are currently striking over issues involving pay, streaming residuals and AI. The TV and film industry has been greatly impacted by the strikes, with most productions being shut down until the industrial action is over.

On Thursday (20 July), Real Housewives of New York City star Frankel, 52, took to Instagram to rage against the treatment of reality TV stars.

“Reality stars are the step-children, 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,” the former Bravo personality said.

She went on to say that TV personalities face different issues to actors: “We are not actors, we are not playing other people, we are not saying the words that are written for us.

“We are exposing ourselves, our families, our lives, our children,” she continued. “And at what price? Reality television exploits affairs, bankruptcy, falling off the wagon, not really having what you say you have, saying something inappropriate, risking cancellation every single time the camera goes on.”

Frankel claimed that a young “reality star to be” isn’t always aware of what’s in their contract, and that they sign their life away “just for a chance at fame”.

“So just because Hollywood and the entertainment industry can exploit this green talent” doesn’t mean they should, she argued. “Contracts are designed to protect talent, not for a gotcha moment.”

Using her years-long divorce from Jason Hoppy as an example, Frankel criticised the media for “pump[ing] all the of the Bethenny and Jason footage until the end of time”.

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The two got married in 2010 before announcing their split in 2012. They filed for divorce in 2013, but it wasn’t finalised until after a years-long financial and custody battle, which were finally resolved in 2016 and 2021, respectively.

After acknowledging that “nurses, teachers and minimum wage employees” are also not treated fairly, she clarified: “This is a separate, very particular matter where peoples’ names and likeness are used and exploited forever.”

Frankel went on to claim that “we build the intellectual property” that networks and streamers make money on – “talent doesn’t see it”.

Her tirade comes amid a period of rockiness for the entertainment industry, which has been effectively shut down since last week when actors joined writers in the fight against streamers and studios for a fairer deal.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday (19 July), the theatres’ union, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), which represents over 168,000 theatrical crewmembers, called for a vote to authorise a strike.

Should a strike approval be voted through, with a contract agreement failing, IATSE has said its employees under the pink contract could begin striking as early as Friday morning.

The pink contract covers about 1,500 of IATSE’s stage crew, hair and makeup artists, and wardrobe personnel, who work across 45 theatrical performances, including 28 Broadway and 17 touring productions.

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