Jill Zarin was often portrayed as a villainess on “The Real Housewives of New York” after sharp disagreements with various cast members over four seasons, most famously former BFF Bethenny Frankel.
Now Zarin’s free of the Bravo show, let go in September, and focused on her other businesses, including a new line of shapewear called Skweez Couture. She’ll spend two hours at North Point Mall’s new Von Maur store this Saturday starting at noon if you’d like to talk to her and get a photo taken.
“I would have liked to earn the money to stay on the show,” she said in a phone interview Thursday while her closet was getting reorganized in her 2,000-square-foot New York City apartment. “On the other hand, now that I’m off the show, I can see my reputation getting better. Things improved season four after it was damaged season three. People are starting to realize, watching other reality shows, that maybe they were too harsh on me.”
She cited an example from season three of her getting heat for placing Bethenny’s call on speakerphone without telling her LuAnn De Lesseps was in the room, closing the door on her friendship with Bethenny and then snickering about it with LuAnn. (You can refresh your memory from this recap.) Zarin said she didn’t do that to be catty and uncaring but to accommodate the producers of the show since she didn’t realize Bethenny had a camera crew with her. (Often on shows when the other side is not being taped, a speakerphone is a way to ensure listeners can hear what’s going on.) A similar incident happened another time when she put Ramona on speakerphone and Ramona said something bad about LuAnn, unaware LuAnn could hear her.
“I think people are going to miss me,” Zarin said, once season five starts without her.
She said her contract on Bravo limited her ability to make appearances on shows on rival networks, but Frankel, who she dubbed “The Golden Child,” was able to get on ABC’s “Skating With the Stars,” no problem. Now, Zarin said, she is able to go elsewhere and is in talks to do another show on another network. She just won’t detail who or what since nothing has been signed.
Zarin was hurt by comments fellow ousted castmate Alex McCord and her husband Simon van Kampen said on “Good Morning America” about her a few days after Bravo cut them loose. McCord said Zarin had been trying to get her off the show for years. Van Kampen said Zarin was still stuck in junior high 30 years later.
“I was disappointed by what they said,” Zarin said. “After we were let go that Saturday night, I reached out to all the girls, including Alex and Simon. I said if you need me for anything, I get booked for appearances and if they need other people, I can suggest you. Now I don’t want to work with them.”
“It hurt my feelings,” she added. “I was trying to be nice. For good or bad, we made great television. We had fun together. Season four, I didn’t have one fight with Alex. We got along in Morocco. Don’t go after me. Go after another housewife that did something to you, not me.”
When it comes to the show itself, Zarin said she enjoyed her experience with Bravo. “Four years was much longer than I ever thought the show would last,” she said. “I’m grateful And the show lives on. Plus, repeats are now being rolled out in other countries so I get emails all over the world asking me if I’m still best friends with Bethenny.”
Zarin, who has been in the hosiery business for 25 years, said she wanted her Skweez Couture shapewear to address issues she has had over the years. She wanted more color choices than nude or black. She’s added lace and improved the waistband so it won’t roll down. “Mine is developed to make you look more feminine,” she said. She said the line, which ranges in cost from $20 to $75, is cheaper than comparable products from Atlanta-based Spanx and she believes Skweez is more comfortable to boot.
She premiered the line at Lord & Taylors, with Macy’s adding Skweez by February. She will also be hawking her product line on HSN Feb. 10, 2012.
And given her background, Zarin said this is a natural brand extension for her. “It’s not like I’m a celebrity who woke up and said, ‘Oh, let me do a line of this or that.’ What I’m doing makes sense based on what I already know. I feel like I’m filling a void.”
She invited NeNe Leakes and Kandi Burruss to her appearance Saturday so you might get bonus “Real Housewives” if you stop by.
Jill Zarin, to promote her shapewear line Skweez Couture
Von Maur (grand opening), North Point Mall, Alpharetta
Noon to 2 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 5
By Rodney Ho, Radio & TV Talk