Erika Jayne on Being Labeled 'RHOBH's 'Villain' and Her 'Complex Situation' in Season 12 (Exclusive)
By Brice Sander
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Erika Jayne famously proclaimed she gave "zero f**ks" years ago, but fast-forward to 2022, a pending divorce and a somewhat never-ending legal battle involving her estranged husband's alleged wrongdoings on her plate, and the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star says she's fully giving a f**k or two these days.
"I do care," she tells ET over video call, "but here's what: I also wanted to have a good time. I've been under what feels like a lot of pressure to me for a very long time. And I wanted to enjoy myself and have a few drinks and have a few laughs. And of course, here comes the judgment. So, it's fine."
"Look, these last, almost over a year and a half, have been really turbulent for me," she says, "and so I have just worked very hard to continue to tell my story, my truth, and basically shout it from the rooftops. And it felt like a lot of times I haven't been heard, or didn't want to be heard. And I think that that's what you'll see this season."
Erika is back for season 12 of RHOBH, her seventh as a cast member, which picks up just weeks after Erika and her co-stars sat down for a tense, four-part reunion that played out almost like a deposition for the "Pretty Mess" singer. She faced hours of questioning about her estranged husband, Tom Girardi's, alleged wrongdoings, most notably a civil case (which also named Erika) involving missing settlement money intended for the widows and orphans of the victims of a 2018 airplane crash. Tom is accused embezzling the funds, and the state of California disbarred him after an investigation into his law practice, which ultimately went bankrupt and ceased operations. He's currently living in a under a conservatorship, overseen by his brother.
"My hands were really tied, and I said all that I could," Erika says of what she shared in season 11. "Remember that there were many cases being filed against me at that time, so less said is best said in those situations. I also think that people misunderstand my concern and my compassion for those who have been wronged, and they will be taken care of. Of course I want to see that. I also feel that people need to understand that this is, again a really complex situation. I've walked right up to the line as to what I can and cannot say."
Erika and Tom are still legally married; she claims his mental capacity being called into question is holding up their divorce for the foreseeable future. "The divorce is kind of on the very bottom of my list of important things that are legal issues," she admits.
"[I wish the women understood] the complexity of this situation," Erika reiterates. "That it's not going to be wrapped up in two seconds, that it's going to take a long time. I don't think anyone on this cast understands how many layers there are to a law firm, to a marriage, to partnerships, to things like that. That perhaps the people are not looking in the right place, they need to look at those who actually worked there. I am not a lawyer. And that's where the attention needs to be."
"Again, this is a complex situation," she continues, "and it requires a little bit more patience than just calling it out, 'I don't like her, so therefore these bad things must be true.'"
When the season 12 trailer dropped last month, some viewers were quick to say Erika was leaning into "full super-villain" mode, largely thanks to an exchange between her and co-star Crystal Kung Minkoff. "You wanna be on the side of the victims, 'cause you think it's cool. What I'm telling you is, I don't give a f**k about anybody else but me," Erika exclaims in the first look.
"It's not 'full super-villain,'" she says in defense of her actions. "I'm leaning into myself. I'm leaning into full protecting Erika mode, full taking care of Erika. Who else is going to do this if I don't? And if that ruffles a few feathers, if that looks unladylike, if that offends your, I don't know, manners, then so be it. No one's living this life but me. No one is coming to help me but me. So if I have to roll up my sleeves and get a little dirty, you can trust and believe I'm going to do that."
Erika's maintained that she was unaware of any malpractice by Tom, and reminds the audience she is not facing criminal charges. "There's a big difference between civil liability and criminal behavior," she notes, "and I think that people don't understand that. And you can see that reflected in the comments; people not understanding what it is."
"People are going to pick sides, and however they feel about it," she adds. "Some of the more sophisticated audience members have looked into it -- there's all different types of levels of why people watch Housewives, some people watch it for just straight having a good time, others really look into what's going on."
Season 12 sees Erika's co-stars (at least some) continue to question her. In a sneak peek at the premiere, Garcelle Beauvais says she's not sure she can trust what comes out of Erika's mouth, until it's confirmed by a reputable news source.
"I don't know that [the women] ever will [believe me]," she reflects. "I don't know that it's in their best interest to believe me, because they need something to hold onto in order to... that's on them. I know the truth, I know what's coming, I know what's happening. I can't live my life worried about what others think, when I know what's going on. So again, more sophisticated eyes, more sophisticated ears, are willing to step back and take a look at the total picture and are not willing to jump on sensationalized headlines."
Erika says she feels there is "light at the end of the tunnel" when it comes to her legal situation, and that it "gets brighter ever day." In January, she was dismissed from the main embezzlement lawsuit, but reports soon popped up that the matter would be refiled in a different state, under new jurisdiction.
"[The light] is slow to come, but that's OK," she says. "I knew this going in. So I'm going to soldier out. I mean, that's the way it is. They just push through. I'm not giving up."
Those fiery moments from the trailer -- confronting Crystal about finding it "cool" to side with Tom's alleged victims, questioning if Garcelle is attempting to make Erika look bad and more -- are the result of "pure frustration," according to Erika.
"Pure frustration," she repeats. "I'd like for the audience to keep in mind context in which [the 'cool' comment] was said, and you can only advocate for yourself and take the high road for so long, and try to be humble and soft. And then when you're continuously pushed back and called names, then you go, 'You know what? I'm not being heard.' And you get frustrated with that. And so that's why you hear the frustration and the anger in my voice."
"I do have to focus on what's in front of me, as well," she continues. "I do have a lot in front of me, and it needs my attention, for sure."
Erika admits to seeking comfort in prescription medications and alcohol throughout this process, which RHOBH cameras documented for season 12. However, Erika says the trailer's implication that she has a substance abuse problem is far from the truth.
"I think it's being blown up to more than it is," she says. "I definitely mixed medication with alcohol, and I've been very upfront and honest about that. I also wanted to have a good time, and sort of numb that feeling of pressure and that judgmental heavy stuff that was coming down. A problem? No, certainly not. But let's be honest, some of these ladies, their company's rather boring. So you do need to spice it up a bit. And that's exactly what I did. And I think that they should be grateful that I came in here, personality plus."
Erika confesses to this season worsening her relationships with a few of those women, especially Garcelle. Erika says they're worse off now than they were when cameras went down earlier this year.
"I think that Garcelle wants something from me that she's not going to get," Erika surmises, "and that is this sort of, she has this perspective about the way I should be behaving ... and what I should be doing in regards to my legal situation. And that's just not-- I can't do what others want me to do. I have to do what is right for me."
Their feud fed "the blogs" last month, when Erika posted a video tossing a copy of Garcelle's memoir in the trash, after Garcelle used a clip from the trailer to promote preordering her book on Instagram. The internet has speculated that the video actually came courtesy of co-star Lisa Rinna, though, seeing as the contents of the garbage bin appeared to be from her house, not Erika's. "I cannot confirm not deny," Erika quips when pressed on the matter.
"She unfollowed me first," Erika notes, putting the onus on Garcelle for their fallout. "She unfollowed me, and then she put up the post about, 'You know how else you can make yourself look bad?' And so she swung twice. And there we go."
It seems safe to say that Erika won't be apologizing for the act ("I don't think so," she offers up when asked about an apology. "I'm pretty good."). She says she's already made amends with the co-stars who count, at least to her.
"I apologized to a couple of people on the cast, and they are heartfelt apologies," she shares. "Whether they are received; I don't know. But yeah, I mean look, no one is perfect, and it is when we try to portray ourselves as perfect that we get in trouble. And I apologized for what was probably not right."
Erika also faces off with Kyle Richards over to-be-revealed drama involving Kyle's sister, Kathy Hilton. In one heated moment from the trailer, Kyle questions Erika for wanting Kathy to be "called out" and face the heat like she has with the group.
"It's not the heat, it's behavior," she clarifies. "If we're going to talk about Erika's behavior, we're going to talk about everyone else's behavior ad nauseam, OK? Because that's what has happened here. And so everyone knows no one gets a free pass, and that includes Kathy Hilton. So you know, you sign up, you're going to get it."
After what promises to be a catastrophic cast trip to Aspen, Colorado, rumors leaked to fan sites about some group issue with Kathy, with unconfirmed reports of Kathy using a slur or behaving badly. Kathy has yet to comment directly on the situation.
"I just wanted an equal playing field," Erika says of the aftermath of the mysterious incident. "Especially when the things that are happening with Kathy happened in a public place."
In Erika's corner seems to be new Housewife Diana Jenkins, who is set to make her debut after the premiere episode.
"Oh, you're going to really like her," she promises. "You talk about someone that gives no Fs? That's on like a mega level!"
Outside of the group dynamics, Erika's also dipping back into the dating pool. Well, more so the consenting adults having fun together pool.
"I'm not dating anyone," she says. "The most that I say is that I'm having some good contact, and that's nice. And it is, it's important. And I'm thankful for that. Thankful! You know, sex is a good stress reliever. I think some of the women on here ought to have more sex. Make them nicer."
At least one of Erika's castmates, Sutton Stracke, speculates in the premiere that Erika's relationships might not be driven by love or passion. Instead, they might border into SeekingArrangements.com territory, aka sugar daddy status.
"Well if that were true, I'd be in a much bigger house, b***h!" Erika cracks. "OK?! I'd have a lot. I'd have a new car, some new jewels and a better wardrobe than I already have -- and it's pretty kicka** -- so she is wrong. But if I wanted to do that, we would all know in about 2.5 seconds, because I would bag the biggest one there is out there."
Back out in the world and figuring out her new normal, Erika's ready to get back to what she loves: creating. She recently launched Pretty Mess Hair, a line of extensions, and is working on new music.
"Pretty Mess Hair is definitely a bright spot, and definitely a great business for me," she gushes, "and something that I am proud of, and something that I can really speak to, because I've worn hair for well over for a decade; all of it. I'm back in the studio, I'm back creating, which is super important to me."
"That's really where my heart and soul lies," she says. "And to get away from some of this pressure of everything that's been said would be really nice. And I want to perform again, let's be honest. The last time I performed was on Broadway. It's time to get back out there and have a good time."