THR's 2011 Biggest Rule Breakers: Kim Kardashian, Netflix's Reed Hastings, Chuck Lorre and Ashton Kutcher
A year end celebration of the people who eschewed conventional wisdom and landed on top.
The Opportunists: Bethenny Frankel and Andy Cohen
Photographed by Timothy White on Dec. 15 at the Bravo Clubhouse in New York.
$120 million for a drink with your name on it? Take that, Snooki! Bethenny Frankel, 41 -- Apprentice finalist and original castmember on Bravo's The Real Housewives of New York City -- has turned her 15 minutes into an empire, licensing her Skinnygirl cocktails to Fortune Brands' Beam Global for nearly the budget of a Tom Cruise movie.
In doing so, she has proved you can become just about as big as Cruise himself, if you know how to spin celebrity right -- which she has done not only with Skinnygirl (a product line that includes everything from undergarments to personal-training tutorials) but also with a New York Times best-seller (A Place of Yes comes out in paperback Jan. 3) and the third season of her Bravo show, Bethenny Ever After, which bows in February. While a proposed talk show with Telepictures, a unit of Warner Bros., will not go forward in syndication this fall, she says she's considering numerous other opportunities.
"Life has changed a lot," says the married mother of a 20-month-old daughter, between bites of a spinach-and-onion omelet. "It's all incomprehensible to me."
But not to Cohen, 43, the guy whom -- at least in part -- Frankel has to thank for it. The exec's knack for spotting talent is evident in the stars he has developed for Bravo, including Emmy winners Kathy Griffin and Tom Colicchio. The result: Cohen has helped elevate a little-watched artsy network into a destination for must-see reality. Bravo will round out the year No. 3 among younger women and up 5 percent in total viewers, according to Nielsen. But that's what he's supposed to do. What he's not supposed to do? Make himself a star as well.
The former CBS morning show producer has developed his own entry, Watch What Happens Live, a late-night talk show born out of his popular Housewives reunion shows. Applauded for both its price tag -- WWHL costs about a quarter of what its rivals do -- and its social-media interactivity, the campy talker will expand from two nights to five in January. The move not only will raise Cohen's public profile but also thrust the host into competition with heavyweights David Letterman and Jimmy Fallon to land late-night guests.
"Bethenny and I have some things in common," observes Cohen. "We're multitaskers, we cut to the chase, and we're both really driven." -- Marisa Guthrie