Lisa Vanderpump on What's Happening With 'Pump Rules,' Her Podcast and That 'RHOBH' Drama (Exclusive)
By Brice Sander
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Lisa Vanderpump is expanding her empire, and no, it's not another restaurant. It's a podcast. The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills alum is set to launch the All Things Vanderpump podcast in the coming weeks, a way for her to speak to the people and on the issues she cares about the most.
"I love connecting with people," Lisa gushes to ET’s Lauren Zima over video chat. "All the times I've done kind of personal appearances -- everybody will tell you, we've been across the country with the [Vanderpump] rosé -- I stay to meet every single person that has showed up, because I really do love talking to people that have supported us over the years."
"It's all gonna be about fan questions and people that inspire me, you know?" she adds. "And I mean on many different levels, as celebrities, as business [people], iconic people. It's just started, but I'm very, very excited about that."
As for whether Lisa would bring on any Bravolebrities to the show, that's to be determined.
"Oh, I'm going to have all the Housewives on of course... said no one ever," she quips. "Well not from Beverly Hills."
Lisa exited RHOBH on not-so-great terms with the women, having cut most of them off after it was alleged she plotted "Puppygate," a somewhat bizarre, complicated and ultimately unsuccessful takedown of co-star Dorit Kemsley after a dog she adopted from Lisa's Vanderpump Dogs rescue center wound up back at the center through a series of unfortunate events. Lisa has denied any involvement in the plot, making it clear to her cast that she was incredibly offended by the insinuation she would do such a thing. She chose not to attend the season 9 reunion because of where things stood with the women.
Now, Puppygate has resurfaced in the fan conversation surrounding the show's current 10th season, with some viewers comparing the cast's so-called attack on Denise Richards to what went down with Lisa. Teddi Mellencamp, who found herself as the "messenger" of Puppygate, wound up in that role again as it pertains to Denise, after Brandi Glanville told Teddi and Kyle Richards that she's had sex with the actress. Brandi also claimed Denise bad-mouths the cast. Denise denies all of Brandi's allegations.
"I hear Denise has been having a really rough time, and I always had a great connection with her -- and we have a lot in common, you know, in terms of having adopted children and a huge dog lover -- I mean, I would love to speak to her at some point," Lisa admits. "I hear that she's had a really rough time on it."
Lisa says she "probably" believes Denise when it comes to the Brandi saga (she has her own history with the former model), but clarifies that she hasn't watched any episodes of RHOBH this season -- and steered clear of season 9, too.
There's one other Beverly Hills Housewife Lisa would want to invite on the show: Joyce Giraud, who appeared on the series' fourth season and had her own issues with Brandi. Lisa and Joyce have remained close since Joyce's departure from the show. There's also the possibility of Lisa interviewing some of the Vanderpump Rules cast; she name-checks James Kennedy as one idea.
That show is currently on an extended hiatus, seeing as it centers around the current and former employees of Lisa's restaurants, which have all shut down amid the coronavirus pandemic. Vanderpump Rules traditionally films in the summer, but with some of California’s lockdown orders still in effect, a production start date is still very much TBD. Currently, only TomTom and Pump are open for outdoor dining; SUR remains shuttered, while Lisa's Beverly Hills eatery Villa Blanca has reportedly closed permanently.
Whenever cameras do go up, though, the show will look different. Bravo fired two of the series' original stars, Stassi Schroeder and Kristen Doute, before season 8 even finished airing in June, after past racist actions against former cast member Faith Stowers resurfaced amid the Black Lives Matter movement and the call for social change following the death of George Floyd. Lisa says she still struggles with the decision.
"You know, I've reached out to Stassi two or three times and I haven't heard back from her and I really, you know, I do love them both," Lisa shares, revealing that Stassi told her about her pregnancy just before the network decided to cut ties with the 32-year-old. Lisa says she understands if Stassi just wants to "step away" and focus on "a happy time in her life," rather than face the drama by speaking with Lisa.
"I think it's sad, really, what happened, because I do think that people can learn from their mistakes, and I'm all about that," she says. "I think you've seen that on the show. Of course, we do know that we're in this momentum of really people kind of standing up for what's right, and I'm all about that and embracing that -- and I do believe in zero tolerance for that -- but I also believe that you can come back from that and you're young and you can learn from it."
Ultimately, it was Bravo and the production company behind the show, Evolution's, decision to cut ties with Stassi and Kristen, as well as season 8's new additions, Max Boyens and Brett Caprioni. Lisa calls what Stassi and Kristen did to Faith "totally inappropriate," and says she understands why Bravo pulled the trigger, even if the end result was "very difficult" for the restaurateur to accept.
"So, if it were up to me, I would like to see them go on," she continues, "but really have a better understanding of where they went wrong and really, you know -- I'm not into just kind of getting rid of people, because they get it wrong. Otherwise, I'd probably have nobody working for me at this point."
"You have to remember, they weren't working for me at the time," Lisa notes. "Stassi hadn't worked for me for a couple of years, nor had Kristen. So that part wasn't down to me really at all. ... It's not my decision. And I think that was then and this is now, but I'm all about giving people second chances, yes, but also about holding people accountable."
Lisa says when season 9 does come to fruition, fans should expect some new faces ("There are new cast members!"), as well as more diversity onscreen. Viewers have long criticized Vanderpump Rules for centering on mostly white people and white stories, despite the fact that Lisa employs many people of color. Lisa says the reason the cast hasn't been as diverse as she would have liked in the past is because not everyone who works for her wants to be on reality TV. Many of her servers and bartenders are aspiring actors who are seeking fame in other ways.
"It's really up to people that want to be front and center," she says of making season 9 more diverse. "I mean, I'm always all about that. Our companies are like the United Nations."
As for other cast shake-ups fans have called for, Lisa is staying mum and reiterating that casting decisions aren't up to her, even though she holds an executive producer credit on the series. She does point out that the series has evolved from its original focus on a core group of six friends to being about the much larger world of her employees. Fans also criticized season 8's giant cast (there were 19 official members), so it seems safe to assume viewers can expect a slimmed-down roster in season 9.
While Vanderpump Rules is in a holding pattern, Lisa says she’s been trying to keep productive in other ways while stuck in quarantine. Along with getting her podcast off the ground, she’s also worked on her "passion project," a range of lighting designs co-created with the man behind the aesthetic of TomTom, Nick Alain, aptly called Vanderpump Alain.
"They're jewelry for the house, beautiful things," she promises. "It's been a labor of love."
Lisa is also readying another TV show, Vanderpump Dogs, set to air on NBCUniversal’s streaming service, Peacock.
"It's a kind of natural fit, really," she says of the spinoff, for which there was much speculation after the amount of screen time the rescue center got on RHOBH, much to some of Lisa’s now-former co-stars' dismay.
"There's so many stories," Lisa says. "Heartwarming stories, heartbreaking stories -- we've seen a lot of very sad cases, but also wonderful stories of dogs enriching humans' lives and humans enriching the dogs' lives, and we recently started this veteran program where we're connecting veterans with dogs that we've trained."
"I think people will really relate to it," she adds. "It will be stories of people that are looking for dogs and also what's going on at the center on a day-to-day basis."
"I do think there's people out there struggling now," she reflects. "This isolation could be very difficult for people, so I encourage people to reach out to the Trevor Project. It's one of the organizations I've been very involved with, you know, suicide prevention... that's extremely important right now."
Lisa has been quarantined in her Beverly Hills mansion, Villa Rosa, with her husband, Ken Todd, and their menagerie of animals, with frequent visits from her daughter, Pandora, and her husband, Jason Sabo. Lisa hasn't seen her son, Max, in five months, as he's been isolated in Idaho doing volunteer work with autistic children. Expect lots of family talk on the podcast… and maybe a little relationship dish, too.
"You wanna hear about our sex life? That's gonna be a really short podcast!" she jokes. "You know what? He just had back surgery like a few weeks ago. I slept in the spare bedroom and guess what? I love it!"
All Things Vanderpump will launch everywhere podcasts are found through Kast Media in the coming weeks.