“Ariana is running late — there’s paparazzi following her,” a Bravo publicist signals to the room.
It’s just after 11 a.m. on Tuesday when “Vanderpump Rules” star Ariana Madix eventually arrives at Something About Her, the sandwich shop she’s opening soon with co-star and friend Katie Maloney. Just past the ladders and boxes stacked with pendant lights and other finishes, creating minor obstacles in the small West Hollywood space, she scurries to a corner to rummage through hangers of clothing before a photo shoot with Maloney.
“This is the level of mess that I am everyday,” she says. (The paparazzo who, as she noted, had been stationed outside her home all morning and trailed her here, eventually left. “For now,” Madix quips in a sing-song tone.)
The pair don’t yet have an opening date for their new endeavor; in an ideal world, Maloney says, it will be as soon as possible. But that’s not what brings us here. Starting up this business is not exactly the most challenging experience they’ve undergone together in recent months.
In early March, just four episodes into the show’s 10th season, TMZ reported that cast member Tom Sandoval cheated on Madix, leading to their breakup after nine years of dating. But there was no preparing “Vanderpump” devotees for the news that Sandoval cheated on Madix with co-star Raquel Leviss. After calling off her engagement to co-star James Kennedy — who is also one of Sandoval’s good friends — Leviss was initially linked to fellow co-star Tom Schwartz following his split from Maloney. (During the season, the dynamic between Schwartz and Leviss takes focus, and the two make out, despite Maloney expressing how hurtful it would be to see her ex engage with someone in their friend group.)
It didn’t matter whether you were a viewer of “Vanderpump Rules” or not — news of the Sandoval-Leviss affair rippled across social media platforms and demanded your attention. In the weeks since, the affair, which came to be dubbed Scandoval, has maintained its grip on our curiosity, with each new episode providing countless moments to dissect and a spate of headlines revealing the latest developments. Hence, the paparazzi.
Who needs galaxy lights when the glow of a phone screen feeding you endless “Vanderpump” updates can provide enough celestial magic to light up a room?
On the day before the first installment of the three-part “Vanderpump Rules” reunion on Bravo, sitting in the small alleyway as construction resumed on their space, Madix and Maloney talked about navigating life’s curveballs in the public eye, communication with the Toms, and staying stocked up on batteries and toilet paper.
Beyond press obligations, are both of you just constantly being asked about this even in your everyday lives?
Maloney: Yes and no. Probably her more so.
Madix: Yeah. Because for the first two months of everything, I just didn’t say anything to anyone.
I’m assuming that was a very conscious choice?
Madix: It was and it wasn’t at the same time. It started out as not a conscious choice. And then as time went on, I was like, “No, OK, let’s actually really wait.” Why? I’m processing. I’m a Virgo moon — Cancer, sun, Virgo moon; I feel things very deeply and chaotically sometimes. And so in order to talk about how I feel about anything, good or bad, I have to process it and organize it before I know how to make it make sense.
It’s the day before the first installment of the reunion is set to air. How are you feeling right now?
Madix: What’s done is done, what’s said is said, there’s no going back now. I think all of our emotions on March 23 [when filming of the reunion took place] we’re in a very raw place and that’s what you’re gonna see. It is what it is. You’ll definitely see me in a very angry place, one you’ve never seen me in before.
Maloney: It was awesome. [Both laugh.] Because the weeks leading up to it, she was going through all the stages of grief and healing. And so for her to get to that stage was really gratifying. And coming off [the finale] where it was just such a dark and twisted and insane episode. This first installment of the reunion is very gratifying to watch —
Madix: You’ve seen it?
Maloney: You haven’t watched it?
Madix: No, no one sent it to me yet.
Maloney: Did you check your email?
Would you have wanted to watch it ahead of its airing?
Madix: I don’t know. I guess? Yeah, I don’t know.
Maloney: It’s great. It’s so entertaining all the way through.
Katie, recently on “Watch What Happens Live” you said you still had questions because so much has happened since the reunion was shot. What are those questions?
Madix: [To Maloney] What are your questions?
Maloney: There’s just people that don’t want to be honest. That’s what I meant by that. I think there was a there was a lot that was answered at the reunion. There’s things I haven’t seen yet, like the one-on-one interviews, so maybe those questions will be answered then. Like, if Tom Schwartz was so concerned about the business, maybe he should have pushed Sandoval to do the right f— thing in the beginning when he found out. You had so much opportunity to turn the ship around. And you didn’t because you’re a coward.
There’s obviously developments that come out, like, every single day. And you caused a stir with your Instagram story yesterday because there was a stack of boxes. But this is a partnership thing and not you moving, right?
Madix: I was getting my finances in order. I am ready to dip out and in order to do that I had to get my finances in order. And I partnered with SoFi in order to get that ball rolling. I really am working with that financial advisor. The post that I made was with boxes that all said “finances.” There was paparazzi, like a lot of them, outside my house yesterday, even before I posted anything. And they all just ran with their photos and stuff. And look, I knew that that was probably going to happen. So I kind of saw that part coming. Then I thought, “Well, why don’t they ask?” They say, like, “A source says this ….” And there’s no source close to me that would ever. It’s not anyone’s fault for making that assumption, but also you just could ask me.
I want to stay with that for a bit. It was a red flag for Lisa Vanderpump when she learned about Tom [Schwartz] refinancing the home you shared together and what this could mean for you if things with the business went south. Were you both comfortable with the arrangements that were made to secure funds for Schwartz & Sandy’s?
Maloney: I work with a business manager who handles that. So when [Schwartz] was going to do that, I made sure that when we bought the house, they were the ones that helped set us up with a mortgage and everything like that. And when that loan came about, they were there along the process and they made sure that I was not going to be affected by it. And when we sold our home, they were making sure that the funds were being allocated appropriately and I was not going to be affected.
Madix: We’re in the same position there.
So, Ariana, you’re still living there. Can I ask like what that is like?
Madix: We don’t cross paths.
Madix: No. It’s big enough that we don’t have to. I’m in the primary bedroom. If you go upstairs, it’s to the left. And if you go upstairs, and you go all the way down to the right, that’s the guest bedroom. That’s where he’s staying. We communicate with a third party. If he’s at the house, he stays either in the guest bedroom or in the gym. And it’s, like, “Hey, when is he going to be done with the gym? I need to use it.” “He said he’ll be done at X time.” “OK, cool.” And then he either goes straight back into the guest room or he leaves. I move about the house a little bit more freely, but I definitely make sure that we don’t cross paths. I might hear footsteps, but that’s about it.
Was it important to you to stay there? Did you think about an Airbnb?
Madix: I can’t afford to do that. I pay a hefty mortgage. We are 50/50 on that. And I’m not going to shell out more money because of someone else’s s—. And I have my dog and my cat and I’m not gonna leave them there by themselves.
What stood out to you from watching things back? Because for viewers, it’s hard not to dissect and read into looks or see more that there than maybe you saw initially.
Maloney: The conversations that were being had. Tom and I would talk and we would have very real conversations about our friendship and navigating post-divorce and how we felt and I thought we were very much on the same page. So to see him having these conversations with Scheana [Shay] or talking about me overreacting to things or him and Raquel in the kitchen being like, “Yeah, your ex-wife is overreacting.” I’m like, “I have a name.” Him participating in this conversation and downplaying everything was insulting.
Madix: Once I found out [about the affair], I stopped watching the show. I’ve only seen the original finale, the finale [a bonus finale was shot after the scandal broke out], and I’ve seen a couple of clips of different scenes. And I think for me, what really stood out was the scene between the two Toms at the bagel truck because that was after things had started. Tom Schwartz was very aware of what had started and was actively participating in this new little narrative that they were going to try to spin into this like victimization thing. And had I seen that clip, before speaking to Tom Schwartz on March 7, I would not have been as kind as I was at that girl’s night after everything. Because at that point, I was going along with this idea of like, “He just found out, he doesn’t condone it, blah, blah, blah.” But then that clip came out of that bagel truck scene and it was like, “Oh, no. You were not just complicit, you were actively participating.”
Katie, you’ve gotten a lot of criticism over the show’s run over what some viewers see as negative or mean girl behavior at times. I’m curious, how much do you attribute some of that as being a response to your dynamic with Schwartz and your unhappiness?
Maloney: He’s so likable and it’s hard to be the other person in this couple because everyone loves Tom. I’m going to be the one that takes the hit and is going to be the bad guy in every situation. … It is hard to be that person in a couple and I think anyone that is that person can relate to it. But I’ve been trying to drive that point home for a very long time. It’s that, coupled with misogyny. … It’s me being scapegoated by Tom all these years, and also just the way society views women who aren’t necessarily quintessentially happy-go-lucky, positive all the time, upbeat, smiling — being the way women “should” be.
Coming out of that, it does make me feel lighter. It does make me want to embrace the lighter side of life and myself.
Do you feel like fan perception about you has changed at all? What kind of messages are you getting?
Maloney: One-hundred percent it’s changed. People are apologizing for not understanding or seeing my perspective of things. And now just seeing Tom did sort of scapegoat me in a lot of ways and watching back to how he used me as a shield in a lot of ways.
How does Tom Schwartz affect the dynamic between you both? I know your contact with him, Katie, is very limited, but what if that changes? Ariana is not his biggest fan at the moment.
Maloney: I just communicate about the dogs. I’m not in any place where I’m trying to hang out with him. I think he needs to have a come-to-Jesus moment and he needs to get his s— together if he ever wants to have any kind of redeeming moment for himself. Not just in this group, but for himself. So I don’t think there’s an issue.
I want to talk about the original finale. “Vanderpump Rules” has struggled in recent years to maintain the glory it had at its height. And that speech that Lisa gave at the end had a finality to it. Prior to the fervor surrounding this scandal, was the fate of the show uncertain, to your knowledge?
Madix: Not to my knowledge no. As far as we know, they were feeling very positive.
Maloney: Lisa’s speeches are always that way. They’re always so finite. They’re always wrapping up the summer and putting a button on the season.
Madix: “It’s been 10 years …” [imitates Lisa’s British accent]
Maloney: The only one that felt really tentative was Season 8.
Madix: Yeah, the one with the slow-motion song? You’re like, “Wait ….”
Maloney: Yeah, it was like, “This feels like the end.” I didn’t get that vibe at all [this season].
Why do you think this blew up the way that it did?
Maloney: I think it’s the history, the dynamics. It’s the deception. It’s the lengths they went to. If you look at Raquel, the way she had conversation at Sur, where she was trying to gauge you [Ariana] to be like, “Are you attracted to him? So, you want to be with him” under the guise of always trying to be a good friend. And having code names, and she was catching flights to go to his shows. And the way they roped mutual friends into the deceit to protect and hide this thing. It’s so devious and so scary. And Sandoval trying to gaslight her and being like, “I’m just this 40-year-old, I’m lost and I thought my life was over and I wanted to break up with you this whole time” — just trying to just blame every possible thing besides [himself]. It’s all just so dark. And I think having that lens on it, people maybe couldn’t relate, but they have been through at least one part of that in their lives.
Madix: They see their situation in that situation.
What had been your read on Tom [Sandoval] in recent months or years? Had your intuition told you something was off?
Madix: He was going through some s—. But I sensed that he had been going through some s— since he started trying to open the bar.
Maloney: When he was opening a bar and then was, like, “I think I’m also going to start this cover band.” I remember telling Schwartz, “Why does he feel this is a good time to be doing any of this other stuff? Why can’t he stay focused on one thing?”
Madix: At my suggestion, my therapist suggested a therapist for him. When I was in therapy during COVID, she was, like, “It’s a good idea if your partner is too” because sometimes if one person is in therapy and the other person is not, it can be difficult. That was in 2020. And then all of a sudden, in 2022, he finally asked me for that guy’s info again and I gave it to him. He started seeing this therapist. Well, lo and behold, he started seeing that therapist after he’d already started this affair.
When did it click for you that this was bigger than a normal “Vanderpump Rules” cheating scandal?
Madix: I think it was when I was off Instagram. I deactivated my Instagram and my friends were at my house. I was not alone, which was great. My friend Brad would be like, “I know you’re not on Instagram, and I know you don’t want to see some stuff, but actually, this is crazy.” And he would show me somebody like Molly Shannon talking about it.
Katie, when you and Schwartz initially split, you came to the agreement that you were not going to hook up with anyone in the friend group. How much of that was you already worried about someone in particular or how much of that was just, “We’re on ‘Vanderpump Rules.‘ We know how things happen here, so let’s set this straight now?”
Maloney: Honestly, both, but mostly getting ahead of the curve and just knowing how I was feeling. … I just told him, “Listen, if we’re gonna continue this, it’s not really going to get any easier because ‘Vanderpump Rules’ is the Thunderdome, I think it would be the most healthy scenario and less toxic if we just tried to keep that portion of it off the table.”
Ariana, cameras were back on you not long after the breakup and we see some of that. How were those days after — was it very much Carrie Bradshaw in “Sex and the City” with the drapes closed? Or are you someone that cuts off emotion and tries to move on fast?
Madix: There were nights when we were blasting Beyoncé’s “Lemonade” to the point where I thought maybe we were going to break the speakers in the house and just like screaming the lyrics at the top of our lungs, and then there were days where I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep. Our friend Janet came over and made French onion soup because it’s my favorite and just basically had almost like a funeral at the house.
I know when the whole situation between Lala [Kent] and Randall [Emmett] happened, she gathered everyone on Scheana’s rooftop to debrief you all on the matter of her desires moving forward. Did you have a similar moment with the cast after this? If you’re going to talk or engage with Sandoval, I can’t have a relationship with you?
Madix: I will never have an argument with anyone over it. I just don’t want to be in that position. So people might just not hear from me anymore and wonder why. And then you can probably put it together.
Maloney: I think everyone sort of made up their mind. There’s some people that you kind of look sideways at a little, but I think everyone else was like, “Yeah, no, he’s cut.”
Madix: One of the things that he was saying very soon, after it all came out, via his publicist, was, “Oh, it was a relationship of convenience and companionship” or something along those lines. … I think people were like, “I want to distance myself from somebody who would treat anybody like that, because then what would you do to me?”
Prior to the TMZ story breaking, you had already alerted production to the demise of the relationship. Talk a little bit about that. Did you feel any sort of implicit or explicit pressure to start cameras back up? Was it you wanting to start things back up?
Madix: We were actually supposed to film B-roll around the house on that Monday. So when our talent coordinator texted me about times for Monday, and I said, “Hey, so that’s not going to work, here’s why.” … I was actually in front of Tom. I was sitting there writing in my Notes app like, “I want to tell everyone about this!” And he was like, “Don’t post it on Instagram.” In hindsight, it’s best that I didn’t. So, he was right about one thing.
Our showrunner called me and he was like, “What the hell are you talking about? Are you joking?” We talked on the phone for a long time. And at the end of the conversation, he was like, “I don’t know when we could do this, but I do feel like we need to capture this moment.” And I was like, “I don’t love that. But I completely understand. And you just let me know.”
I was almost like “Weekend at Bernie’s” a little bit in those first couple of weeks: Tell me where to go and I’ll go there. We’ve been showing our lives and going through all of our highs and lows for 10 years. And so it felt like it’s only right to do that. Also, I wanted that s— exposed. So, we were already sitting down and had already started filming when we got the alert from [our Bravo publicist] that the TMZ story was coming out. And I said, “All right, well, I’m going to deactivate my Instagram. But I am thrilled.”
What did you think, Katie, about cameras capturing this moment? You’ve gone through big life discussions, like your divorce, without it being filmed.
Maloney: I was supposed to go to New York the following week. And [a producer] told me I couldn’t go. They were going to need me in L.A., we’re actually going back into production. And I’m like, “What are you talking about?” He said, “Do you know what I’m talking about? If you don’t, I can’t really say.” I’m like, “This is most confusing, cryptic thing ever.” … I said, “Are people OK?” He said: “Yes and no.” I’m like, “Does this affect me directly? Am I gonna cry?” He’s like, “You might cry.” I was trying to ask so many questions. I’m not gonna lie, because there’s things that were happening, like seeing Raquel catch a flight and going to his show. I remember telling Lala, “There’s something funny going on. And I don’t want to raise it with Ariana until there’s something — evidence. It’ll upset her and I don’t want to be that kind of friend.”
With the new finale that captured the fallout of everything, and knowing that you were going to be able to have this conversation with Sandoval, did you go in like, “I want to make sure I say this”?
Madix: I knew that I wanted that to be accurate to the way that he had been behaving the 48 hours leading up to that. And when he sat down and started acting sad, I said, “This is not you. This is an act. Why are you acting sad now? You’ve been yelling at me for 48 hours.” Even the next day, after he filmed with Raquel, he came back to my house and yelled at all my friends that were there. So I found everything to be very disingenuous. He was so indignant about the whole thing. And I was just like, “I need him to get back to that level because that’s been the reality.”
Do you know if he ever brought Raquel to your home since the breakup?
Madix: She spent the night at my house when I went to Mexico for a wedding. I know that for a fact, even though his publicist, via his own word-for-word text message, said, “Don’t worry. I was able to get Page Six to take the word ‘sleepover’ out.” The paper trail runs deep. Let me just say that.
Maloney: There always have to be screenshots.
What did you think of the moment Sandoval and Raquel have together in the finale?
Madix: If it wasn’t real life, I would have thought it was like an episode of “Arrested Development.” It was bizarro comedy.
Maloney: The cheers-ing, “Welcome to hell” … just the juxtaposition. The galaxy lights. How many galaxy lights are going off in that house? Do you have stock in galaxy lights, Raquel? I want to know. Anyways, I digress. But it was disturbing, to say the least. And just the way she all of a sudden had like this aha moment of, “Wait, if you could cheat on Ariana, could you cheat on me?” It’s like, “You just arrived at this?”
We saw that she turned off her phone after that was shot. Was there any plan for you and her to have a discussion at all?
Madix: No. I’m sure the powers that be would have loved that. That was never a possibility.
Has she ever tried to explain herself to you?
Madix: The day before I filmed that scene, she sent me a text and said, “I don’t know what to say, but I’m sorry.” And I said: “F— you, you f— rat.” And I blocked her.
The reunion was shot in March but, as we’ve established, things keep coming out. Is there anything more that you would want to say to him that you haven’t already said?
Madix: I don’t have anything to say to him. I think that he is probably well aware at this point that I know a lot more that he was still lying about at the reunion.
Maloney: We all know your secrets, buddy.
Something I found interesting in speaking with fans of the show is this feeling of internal conflict. They can’t get enough of it. They want to know every bit and piece of it. But also recognizing that you’re a human going through something really tough right now and it feels wrong to be so consumed by it. What do you think about that sort of dynamic at play here?
Madix: I understand it. Me and Katie, we’re big fans of other shows. We’re like that with “Love Island” and all of our favorite things that we like to watch. I think the only place that I start to get a little all bummed out is when people think that we’re just following some sort of elaborate break.
Maloney: Yeah, that this was all concocted or that production and everyone knew.
Madix: That’s the only place where sometimes it goes there or they’re like, “Oh, well, Ariana seems to be doing great, so she must not have cared.” And I’m like, “OK?”
Maloney: The same way I must have been fine because I wasn’t in a puddle over my divorce.
Has there been a fan interaction that has surprised you? Any celebrities reaching out?
Maloney: Liev Schreiber.
Madix: I was in New York and we were looking at this post and that was the top comment. He said, “Is this news?” or whatever. I was literally backstage at “The View.” His comment and the responses and the way people were going on his page and trolling in the comments saying, “Is this news? Is this news? Is this news?” And then he apologized. I get it. Look, there’s so many things happening in the world that are really f— up. There are wars going on, there’s famine. There’s way more important things. But at the same time, I understand why people want that pop culture escape. And it is news. I am a big fan of Liev Schreiber’s work, but in the same way that if the New York Times was to do a big profile of him for “Ray Donovan,” would I comment, “Is this news?” No, because I would understand.
Maloney: Just because you don’t know what they’re talking about doesn’t mean you need to be rude. Keep scrolling. Leave, Liev. Sorry, I love “Ray Donovan.” I don’t understand when people have to do that.
Madix: The “Who cares?” stuff. Some people do, and if you don’t, that’s fine. But that’s one big thing, I’m always like, “You know when you engage with content, you see more of that content.”
Maloney: Let me tell you how the algorithm works.
Schwartz and Raquel kissed at Scheana’s wedding. What did you think when you saw how it played out?
Maloney: Once I saw it, that kiss was so creepy and gross. Watching it I was, like, just two drunk slobs. But again, just the way that it happened and the place that it happened and the people that cheered, I was, like, y’all they’re terrible people
Madix: It was f— up. And you know what’s annoying is that, again, the duplicitousness of the three of them. Because the way that it was like, “Oh, my God, it just happened” or “We were caught up in the moment” and “I don’t know if I have feelings, but I kind of do; I think maybe I have a crush on him.” Then you see that later on and she’s like, “Oh, she already hates us.”
Last week, coinciding with the finale, came the news that Sandoval and Raquel are no longer together. And there are also rumors about this new woman in Texas. Do you have any thoughts or insight into that?
Madix: A postcard came to my house yesterday [from Arizona and seemingly from Raquel]. When I got home yesterday from recording a podcast, it was in the mail. I put it on the counter. I mean, come on, babe, put it in an envelope. … I don’t know what the deal is, but I don’t believe they’re not together.
How are you feeling about an 11th season of “Vanderpump Rules”? Is there a world where you come back if both Sandoval and Raquel also return, if you don’t want to film with them?
Madix: It’s not up to us who comes back. I’m just going to be doing me. Me doing me means they are not a part of my life.
So does that mean you would come back if they do return?
Madix: For sure, I just wouldn’t hang out with them.
What about you, Katie?
Maloney: For me, yeah, I’ve got my friends. I’ve got her, I’ve got Lala. Me and Scheana are getting along. There’s enough to work with and we have the sandwich shop. They’re all kind of the last thing on my mind. There’s so much great things happening and so much other stuff to worry about, it’s not for me to worry about how you fit into my life cause you’re not in my life.
Madix: Well said.
I hope you don’t mind if I end on a silly question, but I have to know: Are you both stocked up on your supply of toilet paper and batteries? You managing OK?
Madix: [laughs] I’m stocked up. And it’s funny because someone just sent batteries to my house.
Maloney: Really? What kind? I might need some.
Madix: Do you need some AAs? I have you covered.
Maloney: I don’t have a man, so I don’t have batteries.
Madix: You don’t have anyone to take care of the house like they always do?
Maloney: I have pens, but they might be drying up. First of all, what do guys know about toilet paper? They don’t know anything.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.