In March 2023, Vanderpump Rules star Rachel Leviss found herself in the middle of some major reality TV star drama when it was revealed she’d been having an affair with her co-star Tom Sandoval. To make matters worse, Sandoval was cheating on his girlfriend of nine years, Ariana Madix, with Leviss. While TMZ broke the news of Madix and Sandoval’s breakup, People shared further reporting suggesting that Leviss and Sandoval’s affair had been going on for as long as six months. Unsurprisingly, a media circus ensued.
The Vanderpump Rules team almost immediately resumed filming to capture the implications of Sandoval and Leviss’s affair, with the footage rounding out the show’s tenth season. A dramatic three-part reunion saw Leviss finally break away from Sandoval’s clutches to reveal in a solo confessional that he’d asked her to lie about the affair, amongst other things.
While Leviss decided to leave Vanderpump Rules ahead of its eagerly-awaited eleventh season, she has decided to speak out about what really went down during the whole #Scandoval debacle. Here’s everything she’s said about her affair with Tom Sandoval, leaving Vanderpump Rules, her former friendship with Ariana Madix, and what she plans to do next.
She didn’t “make a single penny” from #Scandoval.
During an appearance on Bethenny Frankel’s “ReWives” podcast in August 2023, Rachel Leviss got candid about her involvement in Vanderpump Rules’ Scandoval storyline (via Variety). Disputing any claims that she might have profited from the affair, Leviss told the host, “I haven’t seen a single penny.” Explaining that she found her lack of compensation unfair, Leviss elaborated, “And I feel like I’ve been portrayed as the ultimate villain. My mistakes that I’ve made on camera live on forever.” Conversely, Tom Sandoval’s ex, Ariana Madix, reportedly made as much as $1 million from endorsements following Scandoval, and also booked a high-profile spot on Dancing with the Stars and made her Broadway debut starring as Roxie Hart in Chicago.
While speaking with Frankel, Leviss also shared her decision to leave Vanderpump Rules and not return for the show’s eleventh season. “[Y]ou mentioned something about the addiction of doing reality TV and the way that they always dangle that carrot in front of you, like, ‘Well, you need to tell your side of the story otherwise it’s gonna be written for you,’” she explained. “And that’s terrifying. So I almost went back.”
Tom Sandoval “fooled” her early on.
Instead of returning to Vanderpump Rules, Rachel Leviss decided to start a podcast, in which she tells her own story in her own words. During the fourth episode of “Rachel Goes Rogue,” Leviss alleged that producers were responsible for orchestrating her connection with Sandoval, particularly after encouraging her to crash his night out, which was shown in episode 7 of season 10. While Leviss believed that Sandoval would be genuinely surprised to see her, she later discovered that producers had warned him of her arrival.
Discussing Sandoval’s reaction when she arrived at “guys’ night,” Leviss said he was seemingly “thrilled that [she] just walked in,” making her feel special from start, according to People. Later, Leviss learned that his reaction was far from genuine, revealing on her podcast, “And it’s such B.S., too, because I heard somebody say, like, ‘Oh yeah, Tom definitely knew. Producers definitely told Tom that Charli [Burnett] and Raquel [Leviss] were about the walk in.’”
Understandably, Leviss was shocked to find out that Sandoval had time to prepare for her arrival. “He fooled me,” she explained. “Like, I thought he was actually genuinely happy to see me. I was like, ‘Oh my God, this is what it feels like to actually be appreciated.’”
She believes Tom Sandoval orchestrated their affair.
During the fourth episode of her “Rachel Goes Rogue” podcast, Rachel Leviss also suggested that Tom Sandoval may have orchestrated their affair, so as to produce a storyline for future seasons of Vanderpump Rules. Sharing her theory, Leviss claimed, “He is known to self-produce, and all he has is this show,” according to People. She continued, “When we did have conversations like, ‘How is this going to play out?’ He said, ‘We can be together next season.’”
As time went on, Leviss suspected that some of Sandoval’s behavior was predicated on the possibility of future seasons of Vanderpump Rules. “I think he had his motivation behind it that really escalated the situation,” she said. “Whereas if it wasn’t a reality TV show and we weren’t all filming, I wonder if it would be like this.”
She regrets returning for Vanderpump Rules season 10.
Now that Rachel Leviss has had time to reflect on her time on Vanderpump Rules, she has some serious regrets. In a clip from her podcast “Rachel Goes Rogue,” the former reality star suggested that she shouldn’t have appeared on the tenth season of Vanderpump Rules following her breakup from James Kennedy. “Looking back at that season, I was at my lowest of lows,” she said on her podcast, People reports. “Filming Vanderpump Rules after breaking off an engagement with James, that was my first mistake because I should have taken the time to heal and find a therapist.”
Leviss also explained that it was incredibly difficult to watch her ex-fiancé move on so quickly with new girlfriend Ally Lewber. As she explained on the podcast, “[H]e’s flaunting his new girlfriend that he met three weeks after I ended the engagement, that hurt, and there were so many questions running through my mind like: Did he ever really love me? How is it possible to love someone and then get over them so quickly?”
From there, Leviss’s time filming season 10 of Vanderpump Rules devolved further, with the reality star consuming too much alcohol. “I was drinking a ton [during] season 10 and this is not an excuse,” she said. “I’m just point blank, like I was not in a good mental space.”
Tom Sandoval wanted her to “stick to the story.”
Tom Sandoval’s best friend, Tom Schwartz, seemingly slipped up during the season 10 reunion of Vanderpump Rules when he revealed he’d learned of the Rachel Leviss affair as far back as August 2022. According to Leviss, Sandoval pulled her aside at the reunion to ensure that she maintained their agreed upon timeline, instead of telling the truth.
“I think he was reinforcing that I would stick to the story to keep me in his grasp, so I wouldn’t go rogue and expose it all,” she explained during the second episode of her “Rachel Goes Rogue” podcast, according to Us Weekly. “So it was definitely a control tactic and it seemed to have worked for the time being.”
Rachel Leviss says she experienced “love addiction” in the Tom Sandoval relationship.
Leviss has faced a lot of criticism following her affair with Tom Sandoval, but the former beauty queen did some serious reflection during her stay at a mental health facility in early 2023. During her appearance on Bethenny Frankel’s podcast, according to People, Leviss said of her relationship with Sandoval, “It took me a while to accept, but I learned about love addiction and it’s a real thing. It’s where you confuse intensity for intimacy.”
She continued, “Those chemical changes in the brain are the same chemical changes that happen when you take drugs … So it is addictive and it explains why I couldn’t stop seeing this person—but it also doesn’t excuse the fact that it happened, but now I know better.” It wasn’t long before Leviss realized she had to end her relationship with Sandoval for good.
Cutting off Tom Sandoval “was a hard process.”
After checking into a mental health facility and working on herself, Rachel Leviss came to the realization that her relationship with Tom Sandoval was unhealthy. As a result, she decided to end their romance. “It was a hard process for me to completely cut him out of my life because the story I would tell myself about our relationship that we had,” she explained on her podcast, according to People. Although she had romanticized their relationship, she started to understand that their connection wasn’t as solid as she once believed. “[W]hen you look at the cold, hard facts and write them down on a piece of paper and see all of those red flags clear as day that will break you out of your denial,” she said.
Ultimately, Leviss came to understand “how manipulative he is,” and having been through treatment at a mental health facility, she simply couldn’t continue their romance. “I couldn’t put myself in a situation where at my most vulnerable state, it would just probably get me back into those old patterns that I’m trying to break free from,” she explained. “Taking a step back and removing myself from the chaos has allowed me to gain some clarity.”
She doesn’t want to cause Ariana Madix any more pain.
While reflecting on her time filming Vanderpump Rules, which included interacting with her ex James Kennedy, who had quickly moved on romantically, Rachel Leviss decided that working with Tom Sandoval’s ex Ariana Madix again would be unfair. “Looking back and seeing how much pain I was in interacting with James on camera and seeing his new girlfriend, I could only imagine the pain I would cause by filming in the same environment with Ariana,” she explained on her podcast. “It would just be so catastrophic and I didn’t want to do that to Ariana,” she said. “I didn’t want to put her in that position.”
While appearing on Bethenny Frankel’s podcast, Leviss also asserted that she was never “best friends” with Madix, but she realized that they would likely never reconcile. “I don’t expect her to forgive me,” she told Frankel. “I think once trust is broken with somebody, from personal experience, it’s really hard to come back for that. And the fact that I was able to keep those secrets from her, I don’t expect her to ever forgive me.”
Amy Mackelden is a freelance writer, editor, and disability activist. Her bylines include Harper’s BAZAAR, Nicki Swift, Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, ELLE, The Independent, Bustle, Healthline, and HelloGiggles. She co-edited The Emma Press Anthology of Illness, and previously spent all of her money on Kylie Cosmetics.