Bethenny Frankel doesn't back down from a tough subject.
It's been a tumultuous few weeks for Frankel, the founder and CEO of Skinnygirl and reality TV star of Bravo's Real Housewives of New York City (currently airing its eighth season). Earlier this month, after she spoke at an event for women entrepreneurs, some attendees reported online that she had dispensed some questionable and offensive advice, including telling black women to hire white men to be the "face" of their companies, especially when seeking venture capital funding.
The exchange at the conference was a little more complicated than that, Frankel said when I asked her about her comments last week, during a lengthy video interview with Inc.com. Frankel recalled being asked a question by a female conference attendee who "said that people told her that she needed a white male in order to raise money. And I said, 'I find that very difficult to believe,'" Frankel said.
"I said to this woman, 'Look, I don't know your business, and I don't know if what you're saying is true. My mantra, for me, is be better than the men,'" she added. Then she went on the offensive against her critics: "Why doesn't that woman go do some work and succeed and stop making up stories about other people? That's how you succeed, by doing the work and not complaining about what you don't get."
It's a fraught topic, as the numbers suggest black women entrepreneurs face an enormous challenge when fundraising. Only 2.7 percent of VC funding goes to companies with women CEOs, according to Babson College, and the data is even worse for women of color. A recent survey from digitalundivided's Project Diane found that out of more than 10,000 venture deals funded from 2012 to 2014, just 24 went to startups led by black women. That's 0.2 percent.
But Frankel mostly dismissed the statistics. "Maybe you're saying that it is harder? So be better--be better than the white male," she told me. "You know your business, you go get the money."