reality tv

In March, Raquel Leviss became the most hated reality star. She's ready to share her side.

In March this year, there was a reality TV scandal that had the entire world talking.

Before this drama, many had never watched Vanderpump Rules, nor knew the names Tom Sandoval, Ariana Madix and Raquel Leviss. That quickly changed.

It all reached a head when news broke that co-stars Leviss and Sandoval had been having an affair for seven months, despite Sandoval being in a nearly 10-year relationship with Madix.

What followed was the internet going mad, a messy break-up, a three-part reunion special and the 'villain' at the centre of the ordeal checking herself into a mental health facility. 

The affair was quickly dubbed 'Scandoval' online.

Watch: a look back on the drama from Vanderpump Rules. Post continues below.

Video via Bravo.

For a bit of quick context, Vanderpump Rules has been running on the TV network Bravo was 10 seasons now.

The reports and rumours suggest that Leviss and Sandoval began their affair around April 2022, while filming for season 10 was underway. Although some of their co-stars were perplexed at the pair's growing closeness, Sandoval and Leviss denied anything, and Madix shrugged it off.


Then in March 2023, Madix found evidence of an inappropriate video of Leviss and Sandoval on his phone.

In April, Leviss voluntarily checked herself into a mental health facility. She has been quiet on social media since, and recently changed her name back to her legal name, Rachel.

Now months on, Leviss has spoken for the first time about what really happened in an interview with Real Housewives alum Bethenny Frankel

Here's what we learned. 

Sandoval told her he and Madix were just "business partners".

Leviss said Sandoval and Madix's relationship was not "authentic", and appeared to be more of a business partnership that relied on their image as a couple.

"I would not be involved in this affair, secrecy-type 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 has not been what they portray on camera. Tom always told me they're a brand, they're an image... They're business partners."

As for how Madix would feel about that the suggestion her almost 10-year relationship was a PR stunt... she probably wouldn't agree. 

Tom Sandoval and Raquel Leviss on the left, and Sandoval and Ariana Madix on the right. Image: Instagram.


Leviss explains her decision-making behind the affair.

Leviss told Frankel she wanted to acknowledge the hurt she caused because of her actions. She then tried to explain why she did what she did.

"I was not careful in my actions and I was not thinking long-term. I was completely wrapped up in heartbreak and wanting to get certain needs met. Looking back now, I can see that I was still healing from a relationship from someone I thought I was going to marry. And in ending that, I still haven't healed yet," Leviss said.

Prior to the affair with Sandoval, Leviss had been engaged to her Vanderpump Rules co-star James Kennedy. The pair then split in December 2021. 

Leviss said she turned to comfort and attention in any form to ease the loss of the relationship, as well as alcohol. 


"When I was filming, I was drinking a lot to ease that anxiety and in a reality TV environment, I wasn't getting that safe space for me to express my emotions in a healthy way."

Leviss says the recording of her on Sandoval's phone 'is not legal'.

Leviss reiterated her claim that Sandoval recorded the intimate video of her without her knowledge. This was the video that Madix subsequently found that confirmed the affair. 

"I decided to be daring and watch the adult section of TV, and Tom and I FaceTimed a lot, so it turned into a more intimate FaceTime. I expected to have privacy at the time, so that's what happened," she said to Frankel.

"I got a text from Ariana sending me two screen-recorded videos and a text that said, 'You're dead to me,' and that's how I knew she knew. And then I discovered I had been recorded without my consent, so of course all of these emotions flooded over me."

Fearing the video would be shared, Leviss filed cease-and-desist letters to those in the Vanderpump Rules circle. It was a reminder of the legalities of re-sharing and distributing adult content filmed without knowledge or consent. 

"It appears that a lot of people have seen it. Some of Ariana's friends have described the video in great detail online, and she sent it to me as well, so I'm not sure who else she sent it to. I wouldn't be surprised if she forwarded it to others, but it's not legal," Leviss noted.

Leviss suggests she and Madix were never close friends.

Throughout the reunion special, Madix and Leviss were commonly referred to as best friends. 

Madix herself said she was once very close with Leviss and trusted her completely, only to feel like she was betrayed by her partner and one of her closest girlfriends. Leviss claimed differently.


"We were acquaintances who became friends through the show... We never had a deep conversation that I would have with a best friend," she said, but added that doesn't take away the hurt Madix clearly endured.

"It's painful to think I hurt her in this way because that wasn't my intention... I call these people my friends because I really did believe they were my friends."

Leviss makes note of the amount of money Madix made following Scandoval.

During the podcast interview, Leviss suggested that many of her co-stars saw the scandal as a business opportunity.


Madix has certainly been through an emotional toll. It would also be remiss not to acknowledge the amount of money she has made since. 

She's landed a movie role, had a hosting role on the latest season of Love Island US, and has many new sponsorships and merchandise based on the scandal. There are estimates she has raked in over US$1 million from the various deals.

"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... And the way that she spoke to me at the reunion, I feel like it was uncalled for."

Leviss also takes aim at Bravo.

When you think about how many new viewers have come to watch Vanderpump Rules, Bravo has clearly made some money from this drama. It's what reality TV is all about.

For Leviss though, she says she hasn't seen a cent.

"The network is running to the bank - like, laughing, running to the bank with this scandal - and I haven't seen a single penny. It's not fair," she argued, which Frankel agreed with.

For context, Frankel has been very vocal lately about why reality TV stars should be paid more considering it's their real-life ordeals and personal stories that make the networks money. 

As Frankel noted about Leviss' situation: "[The backlash] seemed disproportionate to me. I was watching clips on social media and hearing about this Scandoval - that had a name, was being marketed and it was being pumped through the PR machine."


Leviss reflects on the toll of being dubbed a villain. 

"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 said.

Leviss then went on to partly take responsibility for her actions, but also say "reality TV is edited".

"It is contrived to create a certain storyline. So it's not all factual. As a viewer tuning in, it's easy to get wrapped up in that. Then the concept of an affair hits really hard to a lot of people. 

"So I think there was a lot of projection happening, a lot of emotions that came up for people, and unfortunately I was the punching bag for a lot of that."

After checking out of the mental health facility, Leviss said she has been reflecting on her actions and trying to "understand my behaviours".

"The other part of the reason why I wanted to go to a treatment facility was to understand my behaviours and my goal was to really get down to the bottom of, 'Okay why am I choosing men that are unavailable, why do I keep finding myself in unhealthy relationships, what are the things that I need to change about my behaviour?'

"And in knowing that I needed to make a change, I first had to know what leads to those behaviours."

Feature Image: Instagram/Bravo/Mamamia. 

Do you use anti-aging skincare products? We want to hear from you! Take our survey now to go in the running to win a $50 gift voucher.