Bethenny Frankel Still Going Strong with Boyfriend Dennis Shields — but Makes It Clear Men 'Don't Define Us'

Frankel told PEOPLE if men are intimidated by women, "they're not the right men"

If Bethenny Frankel could be given just a single label, it would have to be that of one very independent woman.

PEOPLE caught up with the Real Housewives of New York City star Wednesday at the N.Y.C. launch of B Strong, a new initiative that provides assistance to women in crisis in partnership with nonprofit Dress for Success.

“The inspiration to create B Strong was that I wasn’t feeling so strong,” Frankel, 46, told PEOPLE. “I think that everybody thinks that I’m a powerhouse and how could I be in some sort of crisis situation if I have money and it occurred to me — what if someone doesn’t have the financial resources to get themselves out of a bad situation? Be it emotional abuse, an illness, divorce ….”

The program, which will begin in 2017, will provide financial assistance, crisis intervention and education to members of the Dress for Success Professional Women’s Group.

“I’m excited,” said Frankel. “We want women to be on their own two feet and not be dependent on men to feel like they need to be saved. We can save ourselves.”

Celebrity Sightings in New York City - June 20, 2016
Taylor Hill/GC

And despite claiming she was in “dating purgatory” earlier this week, Frankel was joined at the Wednesday event by her boyfriend, New York banker Dennis Shields. The reality star, who finalized her contentious divorce battle with ex-husband Jason Hoppy in July, began dating Shields earlier this year.

“He’s very cute,” said Frankel of Shields, who looked on adoringly as the Bravo star worked the event. “I love him, I care about him and he’s amazing. He’s supporting me — he’s here, which speaks for itself.”

That being said, Frankel’s message is loud and clear: “It’s about women’s independence versus being defined by relationships, which is exactly the opposite of the message of B Strong,” she said. “Men can be wonderful partners, but they don’t define us. For the first time, I realized that I have to save myself and then help save others. That is my priority.”

Celebrity Sightings in New York City - June 14, 2016
Alessio Botticelli/GC

According to Frankel, if a woman’s success intimidates her partner, “then they’re not the right men.”

“What this is about is not dumbing yourself down for a man — not being weaker and meeker for a man,” she said. “It’s time for women to rise up.”

As for Shields? Well, he thinks being with a woman as strong and independent as Frankel is “unbelievable.”

“It’s great,” he told PEOPLE, adding that the two will “probably” be spending the holidays together.

And his favorite thing about her? “Everything,” he said. “She’s funnier in real life than what you see. Everything is an adventure, no matter what you do.”

Updated by Aurelie Corinthios
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