Kelly Bensimon and Bethenny Frankel had one of the most epic feuds in Real Housewives of New York City history, clashing time and time again over misinterpreted jokes (“Who is she, Madonna?”), Frankel’s profession (“She’s not a chef, she’s a cook”) and their positions in Manhattan’s social circle (“I’m up here, and you’re down here”).
But seven years after last appearing together on the hit Bravo reality show, the two former rivals appear to have put their past behind them – with Bensimon even donating to Frankel’s B Strong charity to help the victims of Hurricane Harvey.
“She is very sweet to me,” Frankel tweeted Aug. 31. “I wish her the very best & I cannot wait for her donation #housewivesworkingfortexas.”
So how did they smooth things over? Turns out Bensimon felt inspired by Frankel’s good will.
“Her philanthropic efforts with B Strong made such an impact on me,” the 49-year-old model and author told PEOPLE Now. “That is the kind of girl that I like. I like someone that’s philanthropic, a girl’s girl. The future is female, and I have spent the lexicon of my life raising girls and supporting and celebrating women. …Whatever she wants with philanthropy, I am behind her.”
Looking back on their feud, Bensimon explained that she struggled being around the negativity she experienced on the popular reality program.
“To be in an environment that is not celebrating women or to be around people that are not celebrating each other, that is not who I am,” the mother of two said. “That is not the game that I play. I don’t want to be around women like that.”
One of their most-heated battles happened during season 3, when the ladies vacationed in St. John. Bensimon left the trip early after an evening of fierce battles with Frankel and her RHONY costars.
“I don’t wish that I’d handled things differently, but those scenes would never have happened today,” Bensimon said. “If those episodes aired, Michelle Obama would have been like, ‘Bethenny Frankel, leave Kelly alone.’ Basically. It was a totally different time. …. I retired in 2011 — it’s 2017. It’s just a totally different time.”
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“Luann is an unbelievable woman, and she will find the love of her life, and I believe that. She’s just a great woman and an amazing mom and incredible friend,” Bensimon said. “We just hang out together. We chat, we laugh, we have fun. I’ve seen her when she was really down and those down moments are so up. She’s incredibly positive, she has an amazing family. She’s just such a nurturer, and she’s such a caretaker.”
Though Bensimon — who was at de Lesseps and D’Agostino’s wedding — admits to being surprised by the split, she was quick to point out that “you never know what happens behind closed doors.”
Mostly, though, she’s proud of de Lesseps for remaining strong after going through such a public ordeal.
“I was there before the split, so I’ve seen all of it,” she said. “I was just really impressed how she always keeps everything together. If that were me, I would have broken down — I would have hid in a corner. After I was on Housewives, I was so insecure, I wouldn’t leave my house. I was like, ‘Oh my God, I have to get medicated because my whole reputation’s been completely defamed, I’m not going to be able to take care of my kids.’ ”
“She’s the total opposite,” Bensimon continued. “She’s like, ‘You know what, I’m going to show everybody how amazing I am and strong I am. I’m going to go swimming off my boat and hang out with my kids and all my girlfriends.’ She’s been spending a lot of time with her girlfriends, which is amazing.”
De Lesseps may not be jumping back in the dating game just yet, but Bensimon is — appearing on Million Dollar Matchmaker. And when her friend is ready, Bensimon is hoping the two go on double dates together.
“That would be really fun. I love the idea of a double date with Lu,” Bensimon said. “She’s an amazing wing-man.”
Million Dollar Matchmaker airs Friday (9 p.m. ET) on WEtv.