The 'Vanderpump Rules' Cheating Drama, Explained
Bravo’s Vanderpump Rules is kicking up major drama after a sleepy last couple of seasons with a major cheating scandal involving castmates Raquel Leviss, Tom Sandoval, and his now-ex girlfriend, Ariana Madix—and things just keep getting messier.
TMZ broke the news that Sandoval and Madix called it quits after nine years together, reporting that Madix had only very recently found out that Sandoval cheated on her with Leviss, and with that revelation, immediately ended the relationship. But further reporting from People claimed that Sandoval and Leviss had been having a full-blown affair behind Madix’s back for six months—and that cameras are rolling as this all unfolds, with the intent to include the breakup and all its fallout in the current season, which is airing now.
But first, let’s back up—here’s everything you need to know about the major scandal consuming the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills spin-off.
What’s the backstory?
Buckle up. Sandoval and Madix both started on the show as bartenders at Lisa Vanderpump's sexy unique restaurant in West Hollywood, SUR. While other scandals and partner swaps rocked the show—Stassi Schroeder, Kristen Doute, Jax Taylor, and his wife, Brittany Cartwright left the show after allegations of racist behavior against a former cast member in 2020—Sandoval and Madix were viewed as the bedrock relationship on the show. The couple, but Madix in particular, always kind of floated above the drama that consumed their more volatile castmates; they joked about acting like an old married couple.
But there had been signs of trouble on the horizon. In January 2019, Madix said Sandoval “betrayed my trust” after he told friends that Madix had hooked up with another castmate, Lala Kent, in his car.
“My sexuality is not something that is meant to sound cool to a bunch of dudes,” she said on a confessional on the show. The couple was able to move past it after Sandoval apologized at home.
Earlier in the show, there had been other, less-substantiated rumors about Sandoval cheating. Back in season 3—Sandoval and Madix announced they were officially together during the season 2 reunion—Sandoval’s ex, Kristen Doute, accused him of cheating with a woman in Miami, whom the cast dubbed “Miami girl.” Doute engineered bringing the woman from Florida to SUR to force a confrontation with Madix; Madix, for her part, said she never believed the story.
What set the stage for season 10?
As the newest, now-airing season of the show opened, Leviss was newly single after her engagement to DJ James “the White Kanye” Kennedy, another Pump Rules castmate, was called off. Kennedy moved on quickly with new girlfriend Ally, whom he’s been bringing around SUR, where Leviss still works, so viewers were generally feeling sympathetic toward Leviss. It was also revealed that, as was long speculated, Kent and Kennedy did cheat on their then-partners, Leviss and Randall Emmett. In earlier seasons, Leviss always felt like something was up between Kennedy and Kent—in one confrontation between the two women, Kent branded Leviss a “Bambi-eyed bitch”—so it seemed like Leviss was finally vindicated. Just before the cheating drama broke, Leviss said in an interview that Madix and Shay “were the ones that really embraced me into this group and have been there for me since day one.”
Katie Maloney and Tom Schwartz, also once considered an endgame relationship on the show, have gotten divorced, with both of them trying to navigate both single life and trying to maintain a friendship. (One stated reason for the divorce? Schwartz’s focus on his new bar-restaurant business venture, Schwartz & Sandy's, with Sandoval and other business partners.)
But Maloney and Schwartz's fledgling friendship is apparently complicated by Schwartz hooking up with Leviss, allegedly at cast member Scheana Shay’s August 2022 wedding to Brock Davies. Since then, Leviss had posted herself multiple times wearing merch for the Toms' first shared bar, the Vanderpump-backed TomTom, and generally being a bit messy.
Scheana Shay claims Maloney gave the Schwartz-Leviss fling her full “blessing” on a trip to Vegas; but on a recent episode, Maloney denies she offered her blessing, accuses Shay of forcing Schwartz and Leviss together, and calls Shay a “shitty person.” (As a result of the current scandal, fans are now questioning whether the whole narrative of Schwartz and Leviss getting together was fabricated as cover for a relationship between Sandoval and Leviss.)
There was also a dustup during promo for season 10 when it was suggested Sandoval and Madix were in an open relationship. Madix tweeted at the time from her now-deactivated account: “We dont have an open relationship. i’m really not that cool. thought that was obvious.”
Everything we know about the cheating scandal.
Here’s what’s been reported so far: According to People, Madix found out about the cheating on Wednesday, March 1, while supporting Sandoval at a show for his band, Tom Sandoval & the Most Extras. While at an L.A. venue, she saw a sexually explicit photo from Leviss pop up on Sandoval’s phone. (According to the unverified celeb gossip IG DeuxMoi, it was allegedly a video of a FaceTime sex session between the pair.) Madix scrolled further, reportedly cluing her in to how long this had been going on.
“This has been going on for upwards of 6 months—all the while, Tom was sleeping next to Ariana in bed,” one source told People. “She was completely blindsided by this; devastated doesn’t even scratch the surface of how she feels.”
The magazine’s source added: “This is someone she thought she knew; someone she planned to spend the rest of her life with. You can’t even put into words that betrayal.”
A second source told People that Madix “had no idea any of this was happening behind her back.” Meanwhile, the same day in New York City, Leviss and Shay appeared for a taping of Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen. During the show, Leviss defended posting photos with Schwartz, saying, “I’m just trying to live my life and I’m sorry if that offends people.”
But as People reported, citing a third source, Leviss admitted the truth about her and Sandoval to Shay after the taping, and Shay was “furious.”
“She and all the Vanderpump Rules costars have rallied around Ariana during this time. They can’t believe Raquel would do something like that,” the source said.
Sandoval and his band had another gig the night the news broke in Orange County, CA. Kennedy posted a video urging ticket holders to bring tomatoes and cabbages to throw, and Kent posted Instagram Stories encouraging the audience to “bust into a chant—ARIANA!”, while also revealing she had Madix’s OK to go after Sandoval.
A little message from James Kennedy
Taken from IG #PumpRules #tomsandoval pic.twitter.com/UwezBLjb36
— SniperFromtheSide (@sniperftside) March 3, 2023
For what it's worth, it does seem like fans caused a little bit of trouble in a video captured at the show, yelling “cheater” and “Ariana,” to which Sandoval responded, “We love her.”
"we love her" - tom sandoval says about ariana madix... after an absolutely horrible performance #pumprules pic.twitter.com/6enmjyXuEP
— blonde hair 🖤 black heart (@blndhairblckhrt) March 4, 2023
Since the cheating allegations broke, eagle-eyed online sleuths noticed Sandoval and Leviss have for months been wearing what appear to be matching lightning bolt necklaces.
Madix has also deactivated her Instagram account after the breakup became public.
What does Tom Sandoval have to say for himself?
Sandoval has put out a statement on Instagram—with comments off—asking fans to take their anger out on him, not Schwartz or his business partners, which seemed to confirm the cheating allegations. Notably, and much to the dismay of both fans and his co-stars, Sandoval did not mention or apologize to Madix.
“I fully understand and deserve ur anger & disappointment towards me, but please leave Schwartz my friends and family out of this situation...This was a very personal thing,” he wrote, going on to say he’d be taking “a step back” and “a hiatus” from the new business.
That same day, Schwartz & Sandy’s posted a statement (also with the comments turned off) asking fans not to take out their ire on the newly opened restaurant.
“In light of the recent news we appreciate the many words of support but we also understand the outpouring of outrage that has been directed towards our business. However, those of us who are not famous have dedicated our time, hearts and money to make this restaurant a reality,” the statement read. “We too are disappointed by the current situation, as Ariana has always been a good friend and great supporter of the restaurant...but pleasure understand that the livelihoods of others also depend on this business, there are far more people involved in this venture than just Tom Sandoval and Tom Schwartz.”
At his band's show, US Weekly reported Sandoval also asked the crowd: “Have you ever been one of the most hated people in America?”
And despite being spotted leaving the house he shares with Madix toting suitcases the day after the breakup, Sandoval’s rep told E! that he has not moved out.
How has the rest of the Vanderpump Rules cast responded?
Schwartz barely said anything when confronted by TMZ about the drama, while Leviss issued a lengthy apology on Instagram. Madix posted a photo on Instagram with a caption "expressing her sincere gratitude for the outpouring of love and support i have received from friends, family, and people i’ve never even met."
Everyone that’s spoken out has been firmly #TeamAriana, including Maloney, Shay, and Doute, who posted two videos in support of Madix, including one where she says, “I stan Ariana. This is in real-time. I love you so much.”
Current Rules cast member Charli Burnett—who hasn’t engendered much goodwill this season—also hit back hard after Leviss’s sister came after her on Twitter, seeming to allege that a cast member was violent with Leviss.
Madix’s brother, Jeremy, who has also been on the show, commented on one of Kennedy’s Instagram posts to defend his sister and fire back at Sandoval, Leviss, and the show in general, writing, per US Weekly, “Toms a try hard having a midlife crisis with his cringy band and Raquel has faked her way to the top.”
“This lifestyle and this group is beyond toxic and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone...All just for clout from a corny ass network like BravoTV 😂,” he continued. “Sell out type lame shit. Let’s all remember that Raquel was a fan of the show before all of this. Does anyone pay attention?”
Even Taylor, formerly the “number one guy in this group,” got in on the pile-on.
I’ve called a lot of things on that show that people never believed… everything I say always ends being true.. #pumprules https://t.co/UA9rFpXodD
— Jax (@mrjaxtaylor) March 3, 2023
I told you all…. 🤷🏻♂️ https://t.co/RqMTpIDGYy
— Jax (@mrjaxtaylor) March 3, 2023
How do Lisa Vanderpump and Andy Cohen feel about all this?
The doyenne of SUR/TomTom/PUMP/Vanderpump Cocktail Garden/Vanderpump à Paris semi-joked that she’s not sure her heart is up to what could very well be a 10-part VPR reunion special.
Ummm one…I’m not sure my heart is up to it.
— Lisa Vanderpump (@LisaVanderpump) March 4, 2023
Bravo King Andy Cohen replied:
You have time to get a pacemaker because I NEED YOU
— Andy Cohen (@Andy) March 4, 2023
But Vanderpump had earlier retweeted a message about how viewership of the show is up, so behind closed doors, she’s probably smiling like the cat that ate the canary.
Cohen, for his part, stirred the pot over the weekend, including by posting an Instagram video saying he’s “as riveted and upset and thinking about the Scandaval as all of you.” Vanderpump has since appeared as a guest on WWHL, sharing some thoughts on the scandal.
Will all the cheating drama be on season 10?
According to reports, the answer is yes. Entertainment Tonight reported, citing a source close to production, that cameras are back up and rolling to capture all the ongoing fallout, with plans to include it all as part of season 10. E! News also reported cameras were back up and trained on the ex-couple.
On his radio show today, Cohen also confirmed that the Pump Rules reunion is set to film in two weeks.
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