Just two more Friday’s before early bird registration closes, and another keynote abstract to post. This time from Diane Negra, who asks us to think about the commodification of the self in a feminized media culture.
Bethenny Frankel’s Reality Celebrity
Diane Negra, University College Dublin
This talk analyzes the reality celebrity of Bethenny Frankel, the one-time natural foods chef and The Apprentice: Martha Stewart contestant who has more lately morphed into a multi-platformed mega-brand. Her vast array of ventures is comprised of a constellation of products including cookbooks, diet, exercise and lifestyle advice, chick lit, workout accessories, online personal training, and most famously Skinnygirl, a brand moniker now attached to low calorie alcoholic drinks, a daily cleanse, non-alcoholic drink mixes, nutrition bars, lotions, and shapewear. Yet Frankel’s persona has been consistently grounded in reality television genres: in addition to Stewart’s program she has cycled through a range of other series appearing as an ensemble member on The Real Housewives of New York, as the star of Bethenny Getting Married? and Bethenny Ever After and most recently of a talk show called Bethenny. In a methodologically self-conscious fashion I analyze here how Frankel’s romantic identities and affective bonds are forever collapsed into her professional aspirations, noting how her stabilization as an icon notably coincides with a proliferation of reality television geared toward showcasing the monetization of so-called “personal lives.” This trend has particular ramifications for feminized media culture, dovetailing as it does with a cultural moment dominated by a worldwide economic recession, wherein the economies of self are routinely conceptualized as platforms on which to leverage monetary gain.