Monique Samuels' fight or flight response was activated more than once on The Real Housewives of Potomac’s fifth season, and it turns out, she did both.
"It's definitely stressful but, you know, I was definitely built for it," Monique tells ET of the show over video chat, finishing off her thought with a hearty laugh. "I'm a survivor, I'm a strong person. I can handle the pressure."
Season 5 is Monique's fourth on the show; she joined RHOP in season 2, winning over viewers but finding herself the adversary of a rotating roster of her co-stars. It's something Monique doesn't fully understand.
"I mean, I have a few guesses," she offers. "I'm always me. I'm absolutely, 100% completely real, and some people on these platforms tend to try to give these false personas of themselves, and the viewers can see right through it. So, in my case, I came onto the show, season 2, and a lot of viewers could relate to me. To the point where my following has grown, you know, and I'm able to have these open and fun conversations with people, and I have no problem with that. Maybe they wish they could do that? Maybe they wish they could be that transparent? And for whatever reasons, they're not being transparent."
This time around, Monique finds herself at odds with Candiace Dillard Bassett, a surprise to the Not for Lazy Moms founder, who ended season 4 by hugging Candiace, both women promising to look out for each other moving forward. Fans knew season 5 would find the foes-turned-friends back at odds, though, after a physical altercation between the two made headlines in the fall. That moment has yet to air on TV (and won't for many weeks), but fans are eagerly waiting to find out what really happened. Many of the details of the fight remain under the wraps, the cast teasing viewers to simply "stay tuned." The trailer only features flashes of the moment, with Monique flicking Candiace's hair before something bigger goes down.
"I can tease it this way: Watch every past season of Candiace, and then watch all of the tweets and the vulgar tweets she's ever put out, and then you can draw your own conclusion as to why that happened," Monique offers, referencing Candiace's habit of sharing her unfiltered opinions on social media.
"I'm not falling for the BS," she adds. "She is showing you who she is, every day, one tweet at a time." Just this week, Candiace apologized for a number of past anti-gay posts on Twitter.
Monique says she would rather not focus on Candiace, but instead what she's learned from their incident and the "journey afterward," which included Monique starting therapy.
"I took this very seriously," she shares. "I didn't want a pity party. I didn't need any of that. I wanted to figure out what triggered me, why it triggered me and what can I do to make sure this never happens again. So, that is what my goal was."
The season 5 trailer teases a "come to Jesus," post-fight meeting with a teary-eyed Monique and the franchise's original stars, Karen Huger, Gizelle Bryant, Robyn Dixon and Ashley Darby. The soundbites in the teaser allude to the women being upset with Monique for crossing a line, getting physical and playing into the "angry Black woman" stereotype Gizelle says the cast has worked so hard to avoid on the show. While viewers might assume the OGs called the summit of sorts, Monique says it was actually her idea.
"I wanted to talk about it," she says. "I'm 100% woman with a beautiful brain and it works very well, and I don't need anyone’s assistance."
Karen advised Monique to take a step back from the group to process what happened, and Monique says she did, but notes she didn't need Karen to tell her that. She knew she had to and, at one point, thought she had to quit the show too.
"Oh, yeah, definitely!" she admits. "That thought actually came about, and it went even further than being a thought, I'll just put it like that. But I ultimately decided that, as long as I could feel comfortable continuing my filming and show my journey, as long as that was in a comfortable environment for myself, then that’s what I wanted to do and that’s what I decided to do."
"And now that I know what I know now, I'm very grateful that I didn't walk away and that I stuck it out," she adds.
As press for season 5 ramped up and Monique started fielding questions about the altercation, Candiace accused Monique of misrepresenting what went down and trying to control a narrative that is half Candiace's to write.
"First of all, I haven't even spoken on it, and second, Candiace is exposing who she is as a liar and a manipulator every day," Monique fires back. "So, all people gotta do is, not only watch the show, but watch her social media, and they will be able to put everything together for themselves and they will be able to see who's really the liar."
It's a battle of she said, she said, each Housewife calling the other a liar and a manipulator -- Candiace has even gone so far as to allege that Monique is mentally ill on social media. In fact, a lot of the conversation about the series is happening off the show. Both women have turned to Instagram Live to share their side of the story, or at least what they can say without spoiling the whole season. The live chats are only stirring up more trouble, with new revelations about what's coming to light on RHOP exposed with each one.
After episode 2, Candiace went live to seemingly confirm a plot some of the cast allegedly put together to take down Monique, which both Candiace and Monique say is only partially unfolding on season 5: the rumor that Monique was stepping out on her husband, former NFL player Chris Samuels, with her trainer. Apparently, the original rumor was much worse.
"There was a conversation about someone plotting to spread a rumor that Chase was not Chris' baby," Candiace shared on her fan chat. Chase is Monique and Chris' nearly 2-year-old child.
"The rumor was going to be that it wasn't Chris' baby, it was the trainer's baby," Candiace continued. "That was what somebody was going to try and make the rumor out to be. And I said, 'That baby look just like Chris. That -- Chris Samuels spat that baby out. There is no way that anyone is going to believe that this is not Chris' baby.'"
"I never contributed to the plot-tation of the conversation -- ever," she added. "As a matter of fact, I said, 'That would never fly and it should be dropped.' I know that."
Monique believes the women were originally going to try to bring up the baby daddy rumor at the season 4 reunion, but backed out at the last minute, heeding Candiace’s advice that no one would buy that Chris wasn't his look-alike child's father. The alleged "plot-tation" conversation happened in January 2019, after Housewives boss Andy Cohen's Housewives-filled Los Angeles baby shower. Season 4 of RHOP had already been shot by that time.
"Candiace going live the other day, that there was this whole plot that I had been hearing about, but she then confirmed, it's just absolutely, it's too much," Monique says in response. "It's disgusting, and you know, I'm just doing my best to just stay strong and just tell my story and keep moving forward."
Monique did her own Instagram Live with her husband, Chris, to counter Candiace's Q&A. Monique and Chris never wanted their kids brought into this drama.
"Once my child came up, I was literally to the third power of angry and upset," Chris tells ET, popping into the video chat. "I'm the man of this house and the first instinct is, protect your family, and to see my wife's character, you know, get slandered on TV, to see my child brought into it? I mean, this is below the belt, lowest of the low. I'm heartbroken. I'm totally upset."
On their Instagram Live, Chris got heated and said he would like to physically fight the women of the show for allegedly attempting to go so low. He now offers a heartfelt apology.
"I don’t believe in hitting women or anything like that, but I was floored and so upset about bringing a child in and hearing about this nasty plot and rumor just to take my wife down," he says. "I'm fine with the show, as far as Monique being on the show and they take their jabs and have fun, but you've never once seen in the past me and Monique really go after people’s kids and literally make up rumors."
"I'm always walking around so cautious, and now people can finally understand where that cautiousness came from," Monique says. "So it's not just me being some victim. It's not me being like, oh, everyone's focused on me. No, it's actually what’s been going on. So now that things are in the forefront, now it really feels like a full-out attack and, you know, it's never OK to attack-- come and attack me. Whatever. But to try and attack my family and my child is disgusting. And it's really pathetic."
Monique says she believes Candiace was fully involved in the alleged plot, at least at some point, claiming that Candiace had three-way calls with former co-star Charrisse Jackson Jordan and a now-former friend of Monique's about spreading the rumors. Monique is choosing to keep the identity of the now-former friend a secret, but does say RHOP viewers met the woman on season 2 and she was in Monique and Chris' wedding. During the IG chat, Monique pulled out a stack of "receipts" she says she's collected over the last two years that prove this woman actively attempted to mess with Monique's family in an attempt to earn herself a spot on the show.
"This particular person who was creating this whole mess started reaching out to my friends, my own friends who know me well enough to know that the stuff she was saying was untrue, and some of my family, so -- and producers and cast -- so, what I did back then is, I started gathering all of my receipts," Monique explains. "I started asking them to give me statements as to what conversations they had with that person. And I held on to everything just in case I needed to get legal and go after her for defamatory remarks."
Monique says either Candiace connected her ex-friend with Charrisse or vice versa ahead of season 5. Then, Candiace seemingly brought Charrisse back into the fold (though other cast members have remained friendly with Charrisse over the years). Now it's her name that's associated with the trainer rumor.
"Charrisse talks so badly about a lot of people -- a lot of her own friends," Monique claims. "To this day, there's things she told me about every member of the cast that I still have not spoke on. So I know how she works. So, I’m not-- I’m not falling for it."
Monique believes Charrisse allegedly took the rumor-spreading bait because she is desperate to get back into the group. Charrisse, an original Housewife, went from full time to "friend of" in season 3, before sitting out season 4. She popped up again in the season 5 premiere, a guest at Candiace's one-year anniversary party, much to Monique's surprise. Monique and Charrisse had a major falling out in season 3 -- Candiace's first season on the show -- after Monique called Charrisse out for attempting to orchestrate drama with Gizelle by bringing the ex-wife of Gizelle's then-boyfriend around the group. Candiace claimed on the show she had no idea that Monique and Charrisse's beef was that deep, despite the fact that she was around to see it play out years ago.
"Candiace knew exactly what was going on, and when she made that statement -- you'll see in my expression and you'll see moving forward in every episode how I, I try to do my part and just, like, let it go, but you’ll see how it was eating at me, because I’m looking at her like, wow," Monique notes. "I was not expecting that from Candiace, especially given all that we had went through and we had gotten on the same page and said, hey, we’re gonna look out for each other. But at the point where I saw that that no longer was the case for me, as it pertained to her -- she wasn't looking out for me anymore -- then I said, screw it! I'm not playing this game and I called her out every step of the way after that."
One thing Monique says she can't figure out is why Candiace would involve herself in this mess, other than to center herself in the drama of a season of the show and win over either co-stars or Monique's haters. Again, Candiace has denied being involved and, surprisingly, Monique takes full blame for what's gone down.
"I blame myself for having a friend who would think it would be in her best interest to completely try and ruin a person who she's known for 14 years, and I blame myself for bringing her into my home and around my family, even on the show," Monique admits. "At the end of the day, I'll take it and I'll say it's all on me for not being smart enough to see through the BS of a person who called myself her best friend and vice versa."
"I ignored all the signs, and now I am moving in a way where I only will accept a person and see them for who they are, and I will believe them when they show me who they are," she adds, recalling how this woman told Monique, "I knew you would always be the one to make me famous," when Monique first landed a spot on RHOP, a comment she finds quite odd in retrospect.
Something else Monique wants viewers to know is that the physical altercation with Candiace has nothing to do with the rumor mill drama of these early episodes. There's still a lot of season 5 to play out.
"I want fans to know that, out of all the seasons, I really feel like this season is the season that people can relate to just being a human being," Monique says. "They will be able to look at the season and say, OK, if I put myself in that position, how would I react? And they're gonna see exactly what a normal person would relate to, but what they're also gonna see is, how you're able to come back and recover and regroup and really deal with things. They're gonna see vulnerability. They're gonna see a lot of good, human moments, and hopefully it's a teaching moment for myself and others, and I'm just excited to see how everything unfolds."
It won't be all Monique vs. Candiace, either. Monique's home life is also a central part of the journey, as she and Chris experience growing pains in their marriage now that they're parents to three little ones.
"I think that it's a narrative that many people can relate to, and you have, you have those seasons," she shares. "I always say marriage is like seasons. You have those seasons where everything is bliss, you have those seasons where it's a little uncomfortable, and then you have those seasons where you're just busy. And it's not that anything is wrong, it's just that you're so busy that you're not putting the focus and attention on each other as a married couple. So we're killing it as far as parents go, but then it's like, OK. We gotta make sure we're nurturing each other and we’re spending time with each other and creating that balance."
Part of that balance is working together on the Not for Lazy Moms brand and podcast. Monique just debuted the lifestyle brand's first book, Potty Training "Mommy & Daddy": A Guide for Introducing Infant Potty Training as Early as 6 Months Old. She also dropped her first rap single, "Drag Queens," a nod to a season 4 moment with Candiace in which Candiace declared "Drag me, Monique!" The lyrics call out "dehydrated women" who just want to impersonate Monique.
"Gotta have a little fun shade!" Monique replies when asked if her bars are a direct message to her co-stars. "When you listen to the verses, it's me talking about what I believe, what my morals are, what I believe I stand up for, and then I throw little digs at a person or two."
The Real Housewives of Potomac airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Bravo. Monique's potty-training guide is available wherever you find books, and her song is available across streaming services.