"I was pretty lucky when I walked in and saw him. He had a twinkle," Bethenny Frankel says of her first date with Paul Bernon

By Liz McNeil
April 28, 2021 08:30 AM
Advertisement

When Bethenny Frankel walked into the restaurant to meet Paul Bernon for the first time, she wasn't exactly sure what to expect.

"We met on a dating app," Frankel tells PEOPLE of the 43-year-old businessman, producer and father of two (from an earlier marriage) to whom she is newly engaged. "I was pretty lucky when I walked in and saw him. He had a twinkle. He came as advertised — better than advertised. He overshot the mark."

At 50, the reality star and entrepreneur opens up in this week's issue of PEOPLE about finding love again and making her new show, The Big Shot with Bethenny Frankel (launching April 29 on HBO Max), all her own.

For more from Bethenny Frankel, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday, or subscribe here.

bethenny frankel
Bethenny Frankel
| Credit: Charles Sykes/Getty

After becoming a breakout star on The Real Housewives of New York City over 10 years ago, and revealing many of the ups and downs of her personal life on camera, Frankel says she and Bernon have made it a point to keep their romance as private as possible.

"In the past I've been in a fishbowl, but that hasn't always worked out so great," admits Frankel, whose long, drawn-out divorce from second husband Jason Hoppy (from whom she split in 2012) was finalized in January — what she describes as "the hardest experience of my life."

bethenny frankel and paul bernon
Credit: Bethenny Frankel/Instagram

Along the way, she's learned to be more protective of her romantic life. She did not announce her engagement to Bernon, which occurred over a month before it became known in late March, and has kept many of the details private.

"It was intimate," says Frankel. "Just the two of us, on an island off of Florida. No makeup, no manicure, no ring photos. It was very simple and beautiful."

"It felt like a strange thing to announce," she says, "that just felt counter-intuitive."

Listen below to the episode of our daily podcast PEOPLE Every Day for more on Bethenny Frankel.

And while she's not focusing too much on wedding plans, she quips: "I'm not going to be the old lady about to hit menopause going to the newsstand to buy bridal magazines. I'm like, 'What are you doing?'"

bethenny frankel on The Big Shot
The Big Shot with Bethenny
| Credit: Krista Schlueter/HBO Max

These days, she's focused on life with her 10-year-old daughter Bryn, whom she describes as "a bohemian, free spirit," philanthropic work with her disaster relief initiative BStrong in partnership with Global Empowerment Mission, her podcast, Just B, and having a blast on her new eight-episode series, The Big Shot with Bethenny. On the show, contestants compete for a chance to join the executive team at her multi-million dollar Skinnygirl lifestyle company. "There's no fake projects," says Frankel. "It was born out of a need."

Still, it doesn't always exactly follow the script. "Sometimes I'm flying by the seat of my pants," she says. "I remember the network calling to say, 'We're watching, biting our nails, wondering ... what is she doing?'"

"I'm like a loose horse," she notes. "We're just gonna let it fly."

After all, that's how she does it: "For me, let's do real is always the best way to do it."

The Big Shot with Bethenny premieres Thursday on HBO Max.