Bethenny Frankel certainly understands the pain of having gone through a tough season or two on reality TV, having been one of the founding cast members on The Real Housewives of New York City. So when she sees other O.G. Housewives like NeNe Leakes and Lisa Vanderpump struggling, she understands what they’re going through.
“I really feel for them,” the Skinnygirl founder, 48, told PEOPLE earlier this month at the grand opening of the new Godiva Café in New York City.
Both Leakes, 51, and Vanderpump, 58, have been in the hot seat with their castmates on the Real Housewives of Atlanta and Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, respectively, this season — Leakes calling out costars like Porsha Williams and Cynthia Bailey for not being supportive friends, and Vanderpump essentially doing the same with longtime friends Kyle Richards and Dorit Kemsley.
They’ve also both had some tragedies in their personal lives to work through. Vanderpump’s brother and only sibling Mark died by suicide last April, while Leakes’ husband Gregg has been battling stage 3 colon cancer — a disease that has left him “grumpy” and “mean” behind the scenes.
Watching it all play out, Frankel felt sympathetic.
“I think it was beautiful that NeNe revealed herself a lot,” she told PEOPLE. “Going through a cancer, as a spouse of someone with cancer, we don’t really know what’s going on in their relationship and people are so quick to judge. I think it was really human and I related to her when she just cracked. She’s been on camera so long that she could have hidden that.”
“I understand why she was upset with people invading her private space, so I’m on her side there,” Frankel added, referencing Leakes’ closet freakout. “I think she was shut off during the reunion because I think she’s got an emotional wall up. I feel for her.”
As for Vanderpump, Frankel still sent the SUR restauranteur her support despite being close friends with Richards and Lisa Rinna, Vanderpump’s foes.
“She’s been on since the beginning and she’s a very successful businesswoman,” Frankel said. “The show’s doing incredibly well and for everyone, sometimes it just gets to be too much. I get that she needed to take a step back.”
“I back Lisa and Kyle — they’re good friends of mine — but that doesn’t mean I’m against Vanderpump,” Frankel added. “Lisa Rinna, she’s so open and speaks her mind, she sometimes takes backlash, but that’s why people want her as a Housewife. You can’t be someone who is afraid to express your feelings. And Kyle went over to Lisa’s house to talk to her friend, which I don’t think Lisa got.”
Frankel added: “I back my girls, but I love all those women. And I would love to bring [my 8-year-old daughter] Bryn to Vanderpump’s house sometime. I want to bring Bryn to see the ponies!”
The Real Housewives of New York City airs Wednesdays (9 p.m. ET) on Bravo.
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