Before the debut of HBO Max’s The Big Shot, which offered contestants a chance to be Vice President of Operations for the lucrative Skinnygirl brand and more, Bethenny Frankel exclaimed to Us Weekly: “This is the biggest show with the biggest budget, with the biggest partners and the greatest streamer, so stakes are very high, but it’s too good a show. It’s too big to fail.”
Now that it’s over, looking on at the wreckage in front of us, of course The Big Shot was going to fail. It was propelled along by a puzzling series of dramatic and downright abusive outbursts from Frankel, and her own rampant ego, towards her contestants. Throughout the competition, she manipulated her employees and the contestants, and at times, weaponized women of color’s inclusion in the competition to whitewash her history of terrible behavior on television and on social media.
The premise of this girlboss-ified reboot of The Apprentice was supposed to be simple: Bethenny Frankel would put contestants through a series of business and design challenges to find a good fit as her Vice President of Operations for the nebulous web of branded ventures she owns, like charity organization BStrong or food conglomerate Skinnygirl. But rather than follow in the footsteps of her predecessor Donald Trump, Frankel ditched any traditional competition show format. “Challenges” were suggestions, at best, during which Frankel would repeatedly change the rules or bring back already dismissed candidates. She would tell staff and producers that this was her “real life,” and that she was looking for someone “authentic” to fill the role.
As was obvious after the premiere, Frankel wanted someone who wouldn’t question her tyrannical approach to business or many, many, many emotional outbursts.
From the outset, this show was doomed to collapse on itself. During one challenge, Frankel dismissed four contestants at once, disliking them for a variety of equally confusing reasons. One reminded her too much of herself, she said, in that she was a successful and driven businesswoman. Another worked in human resources to make workplaces more equitable and safe for employees, which she haughtily dismissed, saying she wanted someone not “afraid to ruffle feathers.” The other two weren’t given concrete reasons why—maybe they dressed badly that day, or wore the wrong cologne? Her motivations remained as inexplicable as her decisions. In the biggest challenge of the season, when contestants had to shoot a line of Skinnygirl branded shapewear, Frankel dropped into the shoot unannounced, demanded everyone’s attention, and proceeded to throw a series of larger and larger wrenches into the production schedule, culminating in a changing room meltdown during which she reduced a contestant to tears.
However, I’ll never forget this iconic declaration of pure delusion, which she said during that photoshoot meltdown: “I’ve been on shoots for literally the cover of People magazine, the cover of Forbes magazine, and they don’t make me wait.”
As the photoshoot challenge ate up two whole episodes, later episodes felt rushed by comparison. In one, she surprised the remaining contestants with a forced appearance on live television to hawk her products on QVC. They also designed her a website, filmed recipe videos, and most confusingly, threw her a 50th birthday party.
For the last challenge, Frankel announced she was turning 50 and asked them to create a mission statement for her new line of non-Skinnygirl alcohol, specifically a rosé. It would be tied into a televised 50th birthday party with her “closest friends,” who would also help her decide which contestant would be hired as the future Vice President of Operations. One contestant created a tower of rosé-filled glasses and made a companion video for Instagram of Bethenny’s friends drinking the rosé and dancing with no music on. (Probably for copyright reasons.) Another confusingly gave partygoers silk blindfolds and chocolate-dipped strawberries in an attempt to make the rosé, and party, sexy. She later won the competition, so the gambit worked.
And just like that, Frankel found her Vice President: Milokssy Resto, a mom and corporate executive from Harlem. She wrote on Instagram after the finale:
To all the moms that were told no. To all the women of color that were told no. To ALL women told no—This victory is for YOU! [...] In a room with so many other talented and accomplished people, Bethenny saw me! She saw my drive, my potential, my dedication, my worth—the value of me. As a mother, she fully understands my world and the sacrifices I happily made for my children because she would do the same. We both love our children more than anything and would do anything for them. We hustle. We inspire other women. I thank you @bethennyfrankel for this beautiful opportunity.🙏🏼 You have given us all a voice. A platform to say “I belong here too”. If it weren’t for you, I’d still be hiding. You see me. And I see you too. Thank you. I will forever be grateful. Moms, Women, POC... this victory is ours. ♥️
From what little I could glean from Instagram, Resto seems genuinely happy to have won, and will probably be very successful at the still-undefined role, Frankel’s emotional outbursts and manipulative management style aside. Here’s to hoping her salary is a hefty one.
But now that it’s over, Frankel’s “too big to fail” declaration has revealed itself to be not a prophecy, but an omen. As a competition show, it was mildly successful: A contestant won and a job was filled. As a product in Frankel’s business portfolio, however, it’s spoiled just about everything it’s come into contact with: The critical and commercial reception to The Big Shot has been overwhelmingly negative. Social media users have dogged it since the premiere, and many critics have derided it as overly-produced “girlboss” nonsense. Funny, because Frankel sells her “diet” food and shapewear and clothing and TV shows with “authenticity,” a word she tossed around over and over and over again during the competition. When she was on The Real Housewives of New York, she could blame the bad behavior which tarnished that “authenticity” on her castmates, producer machinations, or the stress of being the world’s most successful businesswoman. But The Big Shot was entirely her design. There’s no perfume strong enough to mask the smell of this steaming load of shit she sold everyone on as part of a multi-year deal to produce this and more shows like it.
There’s one upside to shit: It makes great fertilizer, especially in Hollywood. The Big Shot With Bethenny wasn’t good television, but it was captivating. In the end, that’s really all that matters in a town like this.