The latest scandal taking over the internet? Tom Sandoval and Ariana Madix, stars of the Bravo reality television show “Vanderpump Rules” who have been a couple for nine years, have reportedly split after Mr. Sandoval was accused of having an affair with their co-star Raquel Leviss.
The cheating allegations, while neither novel nor uncommon in the world of reality television, went viral over the weekend, with many devoted followers expressing shock as the rumors surfaced while the show’s latest season was still on air.
Who are Mr. Sandoval, Ms. Madix and Ms. Leviss? Why does Chrissy Teigen have “20 different chats going about this Vanderpump Rules news”? And what is a “Vanderpump” anyway — a trendy new pair of heels?
Representatives for Mr. Sandoval, Ms. Madix and Ms. Leviss did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but on Sunday, Mr. Sandoval released a vague apology in a statement on Instagram.
“I fully understand and deserve ur anger and disappointment towards me, but please leave Schwartz my friends and family out of this situation,” Mr. Sandoval wrote, referring to Tom Schwartz, a fellow cast member and business partner. He added: “I will be taking a step back and taking a hiatus out of respect for my employees and partners. I need some time to address everything else. Sorry for everything.”
To break it all down for the uninitiated, the offline or those merely having trouble keeping up, Allie Jones, a contributor to The New York Times and the founder of a weekly celebrity gossip newsletter, “Gossip Time,” spoke about the show, the scandal and the possible fallout.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
What is “Vanderpump Rules” about?
“Vanderpump Rules” actually started as sort of a backdoor pilot from [another Bravo TV reality show] “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills,” and it began with a cheating scandal. One of the cast members [of “Vanderpump Rules,” Scheana Shay] had cheated with the ex-husband [Eddie Cibrian] of one of the housewives [Brandi Glanville]. Lisa Vanderpump, a restaurateur, was a breakout star from the “Beverly Hills” franchise for nine seasons, and this show is based on the foibles and scandals of people who work in Lisa Vanderpump’s restaurant, SUR. But these days, most of the cast members don’t work at the restaurant anymore. They’ve started new bars, new ventures and a lot of podcasts, but we’re still following along as they get slightly nicer apartments and homes.
Can you explain who was involved in this latest scandal and how we got here?
The main characters are Tom Sandoval, who used to be a bartender at SUR and went on to start new bars with another guy named Tom: Tom Schwartz. And he’s been in a long-term relationship with another cast member, Ariana Madix, who also used to work at SUR and owns a home with him.
Behind Ariana’s back, Tom Sandoval has been accused of hooking up with yet another cast member, Raquel, and she actually does work at SUR. Raquel used to be engaged to another cast member, James, and Tom used to date another former cast member, Kristen, and was accused of cheating with Ariana while he was with Kristen. So basically, the web gets very complicated very quickly. But as we’re seeing right now, it’s mostly about Tom, Ariana and Raquel.
It seems like this was a shock to even the most fervent fans of the show. How did this become public?
This was not something that any Bravo fan, as far as I know, was suspecting, because the show is currently airing. Raquel has actually been accused of hooking up with Tom Schwartz, so that’s been the drama. Tom Schwartz has recently divorced from another cast member, Katie Maloney, and some of the girls are upset with Raquel because of her interest in Tom Schwartz. But what’s now being reported by Page Six and TMZ is that Tom Sandoval and Raquel have actually been carrying on for months.
Cheating isn’t something unique to the show. Why did this particular cheating rumor blow up?
It’s just so shocking, because the show has sort of fallen off in recent years, I think most fans will say, and this really feels like a return to form. What’s amazing about this is that “Vanderpump Rules” is a show foundationally built on cheating scandals with significant others. And this is sort of the apex cheating scandal that no one could have ever imagined. It touches so many different people, and it’s so diametrically opposed to what is actually happening in the world of the show right now. For the die-hard Bravo fan, it’s shocking because we’ve been with these characters since 2013. Tom Sandoval has been accused of cheating several times but always seems to slither out of it.
What do you think will happen to these people because of this recent development?
I think it’s a little soon to say because, obviously, we haven’t really heard directly from any of the involved parties. In terms of the show, there aren’t really many consequences, because this is just going to make it so much bigger. For Tom specifically, it does seem like there has been potential damage to his reputation that is affecting the reputation of the bars of which he is a part owner: TomTom Restaurant & Bar and Schwartz & Sandy’s. So it’s possible he may see some financial repercussions. I think people are pretty universally not on his side here. And you could maybe say the same for Raquel. She might face some consequences for it. As far as Ariana goes, it seems like the fans are really behind her. I definitely don’t think that they’re going to take any of these people off the show, because this is probably the most interesting story line they’ve had in about five years.