Raquel Leviss is ready to “share my side of the story.” In her first sit-down interview since the Vanderpump Rules reunion was taped in March, Leviss talked Scandoval, took aim at Bravo and shaded Tom Sandoval and Ariana Madix’s relationship. She seemingly confirmed speculation she will not return to Bravo’s hit show after seeking treatment for mental health.
Leviss broke her silence on Bethenny Frankel’s ReWives podcast, which should come as no surprise. The 28-year-old has reportedly joined Frankel who is threatening to sue NBCUniversal, Bravo’s parent company, for alleged “mistreatment of reality stars and crew members” as the Real Housewives alum wants reality TV stars to unionize.
Here are the biggest bombshells from Leviss’s interview.
“The network is running to the bank… and I haven’t seen a single penny.”
Leviss, who is officially going by her birth name, Rachel, said compensation on the show is “not fair.”
“And I feel like a toddler saying, ‘It’s not fair!’ But it really isn’t. And I feel like I’ve been portrayed as the ultimate villain. My mistakes that I’ve made on-camera live on forever,” she explained.
Leviss said she “almost went back” to film Season 11 of VPR, agreeing with Frankel there is an addiction component to being on reality television as you want to control your own narrative, as producers always suggest.
“And one of the things that producers also told me is you get paid based off of your performance from the season prior, so that already set me up to want to perform well,” Leviss explained of her mindset last year. “‘If this could be my season, I could really stand out.'” She quipped: “I took direction well.”
Leviss couldn’t afford months-long mental health treatment she just received, suggesting her VPR compensation is so low, noting earlier in the podcast her parents paid the bill.
At one point Frankel added, “It’s my understanding that you get paid in a year less than my interns get paid.”
“Really?” Leviss asked
“Yeah,” Frankel replied.
“Ariana and I were not best friends”
Leviss insinuated the Scandoval “narrative” — that she slept with her best friend’s boyfriend — has been pumped up through the Bravo PR machine. “It’s more salacious that way,” she added.
For one, she claimed she and Madix were not that close and never hung out just the two of them off-camera.
“We were acquaintances who became friends through the show,” she explained, calling Madix “sweet.” “We never had a deep conversation that I would have with a best friend.”
Leviss still showed some remorse. “It’s painful to think that I hurt her in this way because that wasn’t my intention,” she said. “I wasn’t trying to be a malicious person, I just got wrapped up in this and wasn’t thinking clearly, but we were not best friends.”
Frankel asked Leviss how she felt about Madix being dubbed “America’s sweetheart” and receiving brand and endorsement deals post-Scandoval.
“Part of me says, good for you, because take advantage of these opportunities while they come your way,” Leviss said. “But it is hurtful to me just to think that — my nature is very kind and forgiving and understanding of other people, so the concept of me being the ultimate reality TV villain just blows my mind.”
Leviss added that the way Madix spoke to her during the reunion “was uncalled for.”
“[Tom and Ariana] haven’t been an authentic couple”
According to Leviss, she doesn’t believe Madix and Sandoval had an intimate, authentic relationship.
“I would not be involved in this affair, secrecy-type of situation if I thought there was longevity in this relationship between Tom and Ariana,” she claimed. “The people closest to them can see their relationship hasn’t been what they portray on camera. Tom always told me, like, they’re a brand, they’re an image, they work together to make brand deals and they’re business partners.”
Leviss added, “They’re a duo on the show and they utilize that for the success of their brand or image”
The former reality star talked about how Madix and Sandoval are still living together in the home they share in Valley Village, Calif. as they film the new season.
“I don’t know their situations, but I do know it isn’t really that surprising that they’re living together in my eyes because it’s been this way. They haven’t been an authentic couple, romantic, intimate [couple],” she said.
“I now look back on it and see that I was not in love with [Tom]”
Although Leviss truly “believed” that she was “in love” Sandoval during their seven-month affair, she now knows that’s not the case.
“I also don’t believe that he truly was in love with me either,” she explained. “We had this connection that I felt seen and heard by him. I haven’t really had that connection with other people in the cast, nor people in my real life.”
Leviss continued, “I was filming in a tumultuous environment. I was needing some validation and somebody to hear what I was going through. Here comes along Tom who really gave me that time of day to share my side of the story in a non-judgment zone. That’s exactly what I needed in that moment.”
“I finally have come to the place where [the affair] makes sense to me,” she added.
At the beginning of the episode, Leviss noted how she’s been working on herself.
“It’s been a whirlwind. It’s been chaos, but I’ve taken some time to myself to reflect and try and understand my actions and I finally have come to the place where it makes sense to me,” she added. Going away to a facility helped her quiet the noise and get clarity she needed.
“There was such vitriol online,” she recalled, noting she sought treatment “to understand” her behavior. “Why am I choosing men that are unavailable? Why do I keep finding myself in unhealthy relationships? What are things I need to change about my behavior?”
Frankel said Leviss was a perfect example of the “reality reckoning” she hopes happens, starting at Bravo. The Real Housewives of New York alum said VPR is “set in a bar, fueled by alcohol” and what’s happening is “exploitation without compensation.”
“It’s so nice to have you validate that experience because for a moment I thought it I was going crazy,” Leviss said. “It’s true — reality TV is edited, it’s contrived to create a certain storyline and so it’s not all factual. As a viewer tuning in, it’s easy to get wrapped up in that and then the concept of an affair hits home, hits really hard to a lot of people so I think there was a lot of projection happening… and unfortunately I was the punching bag for a lot of that.”
“I was drinking a lot” not in a “safe space”
Near the beginning of the episode, Leviss (somewhat) apologized for her actions.
“I do want to take a moment to just acknowledge the hurt I brought to a lot of people. I was not careful in my actions and I was not thinking long-term,” she shared. “I was completely wrapped up in heartbreak and wanting to get certain needs met.”
Leviss said “looking back,” she can see that she “was still healing” from breaking off her engagement to co-star James Kennedy.
“When I was filming I was drinking a lot to ease that anxiety, and in a reality TV environment, I was not getting that safe space for me to express my emotions in a healthy way,” she added. That verbiage sounds similar to the legal letter Frankel’s big shot attorneys sent NBCU. It sure sounds like Leviss is one of the rumored 80 reality stars who plans to join the fight.