Legendary horse trainer Bobby Frankel and his wife Bernadette welcome their only child, Bethenny. "I never had a true childhood," Frankel later recalls in a 2010 PEOPLE cover story. "There was a lot of destruction: alcohol abuse, eating disorders and violent fights." When she is four, Frankel's father walks out, and she resides with her mother, who marries another horse trainer, John Parisella, whom Frankel calls "the only father I've ever known."
After moving seven times in 10 years, Frankel's unstable home life with her mother and stepfather leads to Frankel's own issues, particularly with food. "I was owned by dieting," she tells PEOPLE. "I hated myself. I was completely obsessed and consumed."
Frankel graduates from New York University with a degree in communications and psychology, and heads to L.A. to pursue acting. When her movie career doesn't take off, Frankel tries her hand at events planning and, later, a pashmina company. "I didn't know what I was doing; I was broke," Frankel tells Forbes. "I was eating cartons of takeout rice two meals a day."
Frankel returns to New York City, where she graduates from the Natural Gourmet Institute, which specializes in healthy-food choices and recipes. She soon establishes BethennyBakes, a cookie company catering to the health-conscious New York City elite. "I would be the next Mrs. Fields, the next Famous Amos, but the healthy version," she writes of her goal in her book, A Place of Yes.
Frankel gains enough clout through BethennyBakes to establish a reputation as a natural foods chef and lands a spot on The Apprentice: Martha Stewart. She makes it all the way to the finale and leverages her 15 minutes in the spotlight for an endorsement deal with Pepperidge Farm and a monthly column for Health magazine.
With TV exposure from The Apprentice, Frankel next lands on Bravo's new reality show The Real Housewives of New York City. The self-described "token single girl" endears audiences with her brash sensibilities, witty one-liners and heated arguments with cast mates. Her personality helps RHONYC skyrocket to record-setting numbers for its second and third seasons. "While the other Housewives were worrying about wardrobe, makeup, hair and shopping, I was building my business foundation," she writes in A Place of Yes. "I was on a mission."
After launching her company Skinnygirl, a food and lifestyle brand catered to healthy living, Frankel releases Naturally Thin: Unleash Your Skinnygirl and Free Yourself from a Lifetime of Dieting, a tome of more than 30 simple and health-conscious recipes. The book skyrockets onto the New York Times best-sellers list and draws attention for Frankel's signature recipe, the Skinnygirl Margarita. She follows up the success with The Skinnygirl Dish the same year; an audiobook, The Skinnygirl Rules, in 2010; and A Place of Yes in 2011.
After eight months of dating, Frankel finally goes public about her relationship with New York businessman Jason Hoppy. He also becomes a fixture in RHONYC's third season, which chronicles their relationship and the deterioration of her close friendship with cast mate Jill Zarin. In October, the former single girl announces she's engaged and having a baby with her new beau. "It feels great, because I'm with the right person," she gushes of Hoppy, who gives her a 6 ½-carat pear-shaped diamond sparkler.
While juggling her business and new TV spin-off, a seven-months pregnant Frankel marries Hoppy in a whirlwind wedding at the Four Seasons in New York City. "I'm a real housewife!" she Tweets after the ceremony.
Five weeks early and with cameras rolling, Frankel gives birth to a baby girl, Bryn Casey Hoppy, named after Hoppy's late brother Bryan. "I live for this baby," Frankel tells PEOPLE. "Everything that's happened is exciting, but it's nothing like having her in your arms. I just want to give her the life I didn't have."
BIOGRAPHY (top to bottom): Courtesy Bethenny Frankel; Courtesy Bethenny Frankel; Dimitrios Kambouris/WireImage; Stephen Chernin/AP; Jay Sullivan/Bravo; amazon.com; Dimitrios Kambouris/WireImage; Andrei Jackamets/Bravo