NEW YORK: Bethenny Frankel was on the verge of "financial ruin" before she catapulted to fame and built an empire on the back of the Real Housewives reality series.

The 42-year-old mogul soared to fame after being cast in Real Housewives of New York City in 2008.She turned her role in the reality show into an empire, releasing books, landing her own talk show and kickstarting the Skinnygirl drink company, which recently sold for $100 million.

Despite appearances an insider says Bethenny was in dire straights just a few years ago.

"Bethenny was so stressed out before she was on The Real Housewives of New York City," the source said.

"She had done that reality show [The Apprentice] with Martha Stewart and had her Bethenny Bakes but she had nothing else lined up and she was panicked." The Apprentice: Martha Stewart had aired back in 2005 and apparently Bethenny was wary about returning to reality. According to the source, the star had little choice and was "really counting on her career taking off after the Bravo show because she was struggling with money problems".

"Bethenny said she only had $8,000 to her name and she had to take the job on the show," the insider said. The move paid off.–BE

A year after making her Real Housewives debut she had released two books, Naturally Thin: Unleash Your SkinnyGirl and Free Yourself from a Lifetime of Dieting and The SkinnyGirl Dish: Easy Recipes for Your Naturally Thin Life.

It hasn't been all positive for the star.Bethenny is in the midst of a divorce from estranged husband Jason Hoppy. She filed legal documents in January, citing an "irretrievable breakdown" of their three-year marriage. Bethenny and Jason share one child, a three-year-old daughter named Bryn.