Jenice Armstrong: Donkey dough: 'Real Housewives' ca$h in when they can

"New York" Housewife Bethenny Frankel created the Skinnygirl brand.
"New York" Housewife Bethenny Frankel created the Skinnygirl brand.
Posted: December 20, 2012

THERE MAY BE SOMETHING unseemly about somebody trying to make money for something that may have more to do with genetics than anything else, but I'm not going to knock a "Housewife" on a hustle.

Besides, having a side gig - whether it's selling jewelry, wigs or whatever - is part of what makes acting the fool on Bravo's over-the-top "Real Housewives" series worth the sky-high heels and risk of breaking a nail in a catfight.

"Real Housewives of Atlanta" co-star Phaedra Parks last week released a new exercise video called "Phine Body," which purports to teach women how to get a backside like her trademark donkey booty.

What exactly is a donk? Here's Parks' definition:

"When I talk about a donkey booty, that is a firm, peachy booty," Parks says in a promotional video on phinebody.com. "It's not shaking. It's not jiggling. It stands at attention."

Kind of the way hers did when the entertainment attorney strutted on-screen in a recent episode of the "Real Housewives of Atlanta" wearing a black thong bikini and a see-through coverup. Her cast mates may have thought she was trying to show up co-star Kenya Moore, who had flirted with Parks' hunky hubby Apollo Nida, but Parks could just as easily have been trying to promote her new video.

TV personality/entrepreneur Bethenny Frankel famously created an entire cottage industry of Skinnygirl products after she was one of the original cast members on the "Real Housewives of New York." Earlier this year, Forbes magazine estimated her net worth at $12 million.

Her former castmate Ramona Singer came up with both jewelry and skin care lines; she also sells wine. "Real Housewives of New Jersey" co-star Teresa Giudice's face graces Fabellini wine, one of several of her entrepreneurial endeavors.

"Atlanta" co-star Kandi Burruss has a line of sex toys called Bedroom Kandi and also a new card game app available on iTunes called "Kandi Koated Spades."

"Housewives and reality stars are all too aware that their fame is fleeting, and the minute they start getting a notable number of Twitter fans, they work hard to leverage that fame into cash," said April Masini, a former entertainment industry exec who now writes an online advice column at askapril.com.

"The Kardashian family is the best role model for getting rich off being ordinary. Not one living Kardashian is famous for having done anything but show up and look groomed to the nines. And that, sadly, is the new model for fame."

True. But don't think that keeps the Housewives from trying to dream up novel ways to establish their own entrepreneurial empires.

"When you have a situation in which networks are producing tens of millions in advertising revenue, I think all the parties are looking at each other and wondering, 'How do I get mine?' " said Jason Carbone, whose Los Angeles-based company, Good Clean Fun, produces the "Tia & Tamera" reality TV series.

That's where Parks' head was when I interviewed her last month about the new DVD. She may be featured on the video but her husband, a certified personal trainer, is the actual exercise expert.

"Even before he was certified, he always thought he was the boss," Parks said, laughing.

She credits Nida with helping her snap back in shape following the birth of her son, Ayden, 2. Even though she's promoting an exercise video, her own workout style is more free-flowing, she admitted.

"I do a variety of things. I think variety keeps you fresh," she said. "We do free weights. I like to do a lot of Pilates. I like to do the machines. We like to jog as well . . . We never do the same thing back to back. If we do lower body [today], tomorrow we are going to do upper body."

Speaking of variety, on "Atlanta," Parks frequently talks about starting her own funeral business, although it's unclear exactly how far along in the process she is. In one episode, she's seen getting briefed on the business at a local funeral home.

Since it's Parks, she'll no doubt specialize in over-the-top affairs complete with white horses, bejeweled programs, doves and undertakers in tails and top hats.

But back to that donk thing. Parks said learning to embrace her curves, booty and all, has been a process.

"As an adult, I've accepted what God gave me. I had to get to a place of acceptance," she said. "A lot of times, I felt uncomfortable with curves. Especially when you're in a program like law school and you're surrounded by men."

Besides more drama, what's next for Parks? "Donkey Booty Vol. 2," of course.

A Housewife's gotta work it while she can, doesn't she?


On Twitter: @JeniceAmstrong

Blog: philly.com/HeyJen.

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