Kelly Bensimon Addresses Criticism for Returning to Reality TV for Ultimate Girls Trip: RHONY Legacy (Exclusive)

Luann de Lesseps and Kelly Bensimon open up about life post-RHONY, their time on Ultimate Girls Trip, if they'd be down to reunite with Bethenny and whether or not they ever felt like they "needed" reality TV to support their lifestyles.

It’s been 12 years since Kelly Bensimon and Luann de Lesseps were last full-time cast members of The Real Housewives of New York at the same time — but it wasn’t for a lack of trying.

Their reunion on Peacock’s Ultimate Girls Trip: RHONY Legacy was a long time coming, something Bensimon recently said didn’t happen sooner because one of RHONY’s stars — who she didn’t name — “kind of put a block on me” and she “was never allowed back” after she departed the show in 2011.

While Bensimon didn’t name names, it’s no secret she and Bethenny Frankel had some issues while filming the show’s third season, especially during a trip to the Caribbean since dubbed “Scary Island.” The trip went off the rails, fast, as the women in the cast criticized Bensimon’s behavior in particular, before Kelly left early.

With both of them returning to the Caribbean for another getaway filled with ever-flowing cocktails, fights, and, yes, even pirates, TooFab caught up with the pair as they revisited Scary Island and spilled on life after RHONY.

Kelly, I wanted to start with you, because it’s been a bit since we’ve seen you on our TVs. I know you mentioned you knew a fellow housewife had put a block on you returning, but were there ever moments where you were close to coming back?

Kelly: Well, Luann has been trying to get me back since 2011. Finally, you know, it’s the right time, the right place. And we had the best time ever.

And Lu, how is it having her back, knowing you have been a cheerleader for her return?

Luann: Now I know that I can manifest anything, you know. It’s great having her back. I really wanted to give her another opportunity to show fans who she really is and not who they perceive her to be. People soon forget, we had that trip to Morocco after Scary Island, which was a great trip for us. Anyway, so it’s nice to see her back, with the ladies and holding her own and see her go toe to toe with Kristen Taekman.

I know Kelly’s not naming names, but Luann, were you aware there was someone that maybe had been standing in the way of her return? And were there ever conversations about that?

Not per se. Somehow, it just never happened. As much as I suggested it, it just never happened. But like we said earlier, you know, timing is everything. In the meantime, she’s got engaged. So she’s been busy falling in love and not being on the Housewives has worked out for her and her real estate career. It’s all good. Time means is everything and it’s the right time.

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We’re a couple years removed from Bravo’s decision to take New York in a new direction. You’ve been still very busy with Crappy Lake with this. Just, how different is your situation now, how do you think that pivot impacted you?

I just feel like it was such a great run. We’ve been at it for 13 years. I felt very lucky to have gotten Crappie Lake and that olive branch with Sonja. Loved that show. I think that show was really needed, lighthearted, filled with heart, and filled with doing good for others. And so it was really a dream job for me. I was just on the Masked Singer and I have a cabaret career that’s doing great. I have a new tour coming up in February at the Wiltern in Los Angeles, February 16th, Valentine’s Day, Mary F Kill. So I’m excited for that. I’m just busy with other projects and I’m just living my best life right now. I’ve got children, I’m gonna be with them for the holidays, and then I’m back in rehearsals to go back on tour and there’s talk of another season of Crappie Lake. So we’ll see what happens.

And I hope the OGs get the yacht and we go sailing, island hopping!

On Girls Trip, there’s some discussion about how some of the women need the show and how some of you don’t. I think Sonja is very open about wanting to be on the show, needing to be on the show, she’s couch surfing. Just for both of you, have you ever felt like you needed the show? Were there moments when that was the case? And, and how do you feel about it now?

Luann: It was definitely my source of income before I started cabaret. The Housewives was my job. So there was definitely a point where, you know, I like to live a certain lifestyle and I needed the show to support my lifestyle.

So listen, I have other ways of supporting myself, but it certainly helped a lot. And then, to have those eyeballs watching you every week on television and it supports everything that you do, the cabaret and all the other brand alignments and things that we do, television helps a lot. There’s a big difference when you have a restaurant — let’s call it Vanderpump — it’s not gonna be that popular if you’re not on television, right? So I think it makes a huge difference. So, yeah, it was a large part of my life and and my lifestyle. So, now, thank God for cabaret, Crappie Lake and the other things I get involved with now, it’s all due to the Housewives.

Kelly: I work in high-end real estate and I’ve had a lot of people criticize me for wanting to go back to the show and they’re like, ‘Why would you wanna go back to the show? It’s not your fan base.’ I’m like, well, you’re actually incorrect. Four of my top listings that are over $15 million came from fans from Housewives. Just my optics in general, when I put a house on the market, my impressions exceed 1.6 billion in one day. It’s a layer cake for me, it’s a gift that keeps on giving. It’s a part of my layer cake. And outside of all the business, which is great news, I just really enjoyed spending time with all the ladies. Even back in 2009, 10, 11, I really loved the camaraderie and I missed it so much. And so I’m just so glad to be back in the in the mix. And it’s the devil that I know so well, and I love that Devil!

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There’s so much talk about Scary Island. It does seem like some of the women are fully expecting/ maybe even wanting some kind of repeat or breakdown from you. Do you feel like you’ve ever been able to really break free of that image from those particular episodes? It’s just so wild how two hours of television could have such a long lasting impact.

Kelly: I mean, what great scenes. Listen, Scary Island was an unbelievable time. Scary Island would never exist today. We would never be able to air something like that just because of our awareness of mental wellness and bullying. I’m just glad that I tied a bow on it and tried to make it into something bigger so that people would have more fun with it and not live in fear. I mean, there was a situation I didn’t wanna be a part of and so I wasn’t. Like me or hate me for it, at least you know that I’m a hundred percent honest, as I have always been. And if I don’t like something, I don’t like it. Something smells rotten. I just missed Luann.

Luann: Had I been on that trip. Somebody would’ve gone overboard and Scary Island would not exist. I think it would have gone very differently.

This would never, ever happen in a million years. But Kelly, would you even want to hash things out with Bethenny if given the chance? I know you said she even reached out to be on her podcast.

Kelly: I’m so happy to work with the ladies and to be on this trip. We just had so much fun together. I cannot express how important the camaraderie means to me, not only as a human, but in my personal life right now, I really, really needed that. I’m just really happy that we got together and that we had this great trip and I learned a lot from it. And women supporting women has always been my mantra. I’ve been doing that all of my life. And so now it’s in vogue to be supporting other women. I’m so happy

Luann: So there was no room on this trip for an extra guest.

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How was it filming this show, as it’s so different from Real Housewives. You’re actually able to talk about being on a reality show, you can acknowledge the cameras, acknowledge producers. Was that more fun and did you feel a sense of freedom?

Luann: There’s certain freedom in that, where you get to break down that fourth wall and talk about things that happened in the past or talk about the camera being over there. It feels totally different and freeing. So it’s a good point that you bring up because it feels like a real vacation with your girlfriends and I think that’s what makes a great show and that’s why RHONY’s been around for so long, is that, our friendships are old and authentic and we’ve known each other a long time and I feel like that really shines through and that’s why people like the cast of New York because it is authentic and they are true friendships. Listen, we get into it. We all have our ups and downs and we all have our bad days and our good days. But I think that’s what makes it interesting because I think we all have those relationships if we’re lucky, right?

Kelly: And we’re all like female founders in our own right. We all are doing very, very well and that’s very exciting. And we’re aspirational.

Luann: No, I feel like we’re living our best life right now. We’re in the driver’s seat and feels really good. We paid our dues.

Kelly: And we look good!

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We saw you both at BravoCon and we’re curious what your experience was like there because we keep hearing stories from other Bravolebrities that some people were rude. Did you have any awkward or uncomfortable moments, or on the flip side, great experiences from BravoCon to share?

Kelly: Luann is the Queen of BravoCon. I mean, literally every single person at Bravocon goes up and talks to Luann. I just get the chum. But I just had the best time. We were on stage and Luanne looked over at me and I literally almost started crying. I was just so moved by the fans. I was so moved by and their enthusiasm and their love for me, they like knew what I was saying, they were asking about my kids. I just was very, very moved by them and it was really, really fun to meet all the Bravo liberties as well.

Luann: For me it was, you know, it’s just great connecting with all the Bravo talent and so, you know, hanging out with Andy and, and getting to see the casts of all these various shows and this Bravo universe. I mean, it’s a whole universe that exists, which is incredible. So connecting with all of them and then the fans, they just love the shows and Bravo TV. It was great to, to have so much from everybody around us.

Last question: Will you two be going to a New York Rangers game together this winter?

Kelly: She already went without me!

Luann: I couldn’t wait for her anymore. But we will go to a Rangers game. We’ve got time. We are going to a Rangers game.

The first three episodes of Ultimate Girls Trip: RHONY Legacy premiere December 14, with new episodes dropping Thursdays weekly.

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