The scene is all too familiar to fans of Bravo’s The Real Housewives of New York City: Kelly Bensimon is sitting across a restaurant table from a woman who is suggesting that she’s as nutty as a fruitcake, a stuck-up mean girl, and not the brightest bulb in the pack. But unlike past confrontational conversations (some legendary), this one doesn’t end with Kelly bursting into tears. “I love it,” she says. “I thought we’d talk about my diet and workout first, but let’s get to the juicy stuff right away and break it down. This will be fun!” Looking relaxed and amused, Kelly begins addressing the allegations one by one.
Real Housewives Rumor #1: Kelly Bensimon has a screw loose
There’s no denying that the second and third seasons of RHONYC featured Kelly, 43, at her erratic best. After the cast trip to St. John’s, where Kelly had her now-infamous meltdown, “people called me crazy,” she admits. “But what they saw was me reacting—in an honest way— to a situation that wasn’t honest. Then everyone ganged up on me. So of course I looked crazy!”
Because of the public’s response Kelly came thisclose to quitting last year. “I promised myself I’d never be in that position again,” she says. “I’d rather be home with my kids than out arguing with other people.” But it was actually her daughters, Teddy, 11, and Sea, 13, who persuaded her to return. “Teddy said, ‘You have to show them the real you.’ So this season I’m sort of the voice of reason. I’m listening to the others and giving advice and focusing on being a good mother and friend.”
Real Housewives Rumor #2: Kelly Bensimon is a snob
In the throes of a showdown with former Housewife Bethenny Frankel at New York City’s Brass Monkey more than two years ago, Kelly burst out, “I’m up here, and you’re down here.” With that one fateful sentence, her reputation for being pretentious was sealed. “People really thought I believed I was better than her, which is ridiculous,” Kelly says now. “It wasn’t about social hierarchy but about her behavior. She called me a bad name, which I thought was fourth grade–like—hence the ‘down here’ comment. Since then, I’ve also called people bad names on the show. I’m not proud of it, but it happens.”
After Bethenny left the series, Kelly says she offered to meet for coffee and a talk. “She wrote back saying she’d moved on from it all,” says Kelly. “That really upset me. She created all of this chaos, and then she moved on?”
Real Housewives Rumor #3: Kelly Bensimon is on drugs
Despite her unpredictable behavior, Kelly insists that drugs are not part of her lifestyle. “Everyone always asks me why I wasn’t on the cocaine and vodka diet when I was a model,” she says. “I was going to college and couldn’t be bombed out of my mind.” These days, her fitness philosophy hasn’t changed. “My body is like a Ferrari,” says Kelly. “I know what it needs to run well—and that doesn’t include drugs, alcohol, or cigarettes.”
To keep her engine in top form, she exercises regularly and sticks to a super-healthy food plan six days a week—saving splurges for Sunday, “or what I like to call ‘Funday,’ ”says Kelly. For breakfast, she likes almond milk on All-Bran cereal topped with seasonal fruit, and lunch is usually shrimp or chicken with brown rice and vegetables. Dinner is a group effort with her daughters. “By cooking together, they’re learning to make meals that are delicious and healthy,” says Kelly.
Real Housewives Rumor #4: Kelly Bensimon is less than brilliant
“I find it hilarious when someone says I’m not smart,” says Kelly, who has a degree in literature and creative writing from Columbia University. “I’ve written three books, including American Style, a review of U.S. fashion, which is a textbook in some schools.” Her fourth book, a fitness and lifestyle guide, will be published next year. “The premise is that you can be healthy, happy, and hot,” says Kelly. Looking at this beautiful, bubbly woman, it’s clear she knows what she’s talking about.
Look for more on Kelly Bensimon in the September issue of SHAPE, on newsstands now.