The 'Vanderpump Rules' star is opening up about her part in Scandoval.
Vanderpump Rules star Rachel Leviss is opening up to Bethenny Frankel in her first interview since the explosive season 10 reunion aired, where the cast collectively spoke out against Tom Sandoval cheating on Ariana Madix with Leviss.
The 28-year-old reality star has kept a low profile since the affair was revealed in March, and checked into a mental health treatment facility for three months. She surfaced for the first time on July 18 in Tucson, Arizona, donning a baggy look and a hat that read: "Be a good person."
"I’m OK. I’m hanging in there," Leviss tells Frankel. "It’s been a whirlwind. It’s been chaos, but I’ve taken some time to myself to reflect and try to understand my actions and I finally have come to a place where it makes sense to me."
Leviss explains to The Real Housewives of New York City alum why she needed to step away from the spotlight for a moment. "Part of the reason why I wanted to take some time away is just because it was so chaotic and loud, and there was such vitriol online."
Leviss says she chose to go to the treatment facility so that she could try to "understand her behaviors."
"My goal was to really get down to the bottom of, 'OK, why am I choosing men that are unavailable? Why do I keep finding myself in unhealthy relationships? What are the things that I need to change about my behavior?'" Leviss ponders. "And in knowing that I needed to make a change, I first had to know what leads to those behaviors."
In early March, Madix and Sandoval announced the end of their relationship after being together since 2013 when she first joined Vanderpump Rules. It wasn't long before news broke that Sandoval was cheating on Madix with Leviss. The cheating scandal, often referred to as Scandoval, was a major plot point in season 10 of the Bravo reality series.
On Wednesday, Frankel posted a photo of herself with Leviss on Instagram to promote the interview, writing, "A woman’s voice is very powerful. Now Rachel is using hers to tell her own story…for the first time…"
ET has learned Leviss' interview with Frankel is three parts. Part two will be released on Thursday, Aug. 17, and part three will debut on Friday, Aug. 18. The entire interview and video will then be released on YouTube on either Friday or Saturday. Leviss will be addressing the many rumors and misconceptions surrounding her time on Vanderpump Rules.
Frankel – who admits she didn’t watch Vanderpump Rulesuntil the affair took over the news cycle – says she felt sympathy for Leviss while witnessing the backlash she received online and knew her life was being "exploited" without compensation.
Leviss agrees with the Skinny Girl creator, noting, "It’s so nice to have you validate that experience because for a moment I thought I was going crazy. And it’s true, reality TV is edited, it is contrived to create a certain storyline. So it’s not all factual."
Leviss adds, "As a viewer tuning in, it’s easy to get wrapped up in that. Then the concept of an affair hits really hard to a lot of people. So I think there was a lot of projection happening, a lot of emotions that came up for people, and unfortunately, I was the punching bag for a lot of that."
Leviss makes it clear that she understands why she received backlash from her co-stars and viewers of the show. "I do want to take a moment though to just acknowledge the hurt that I brought to a lot of people," she says. "I was not careful in my actions and I was not thinking long-term. I was completely wrapped up in heartbreak and wanting to get certain needs met."
"Looking back now, I can see that I was still healing from a relationship from someone I thought I was going to marry," she admits, seemingly referencing the end of her engagement to Vanderpump Rules co-star James Kennedy. "And in ending that, I still haven’t healed yet."
Leviss confesses that she turned to alcohol to deal with her tough times, and that wasn’t a good idea while filming a reality show. "When I was filming, I was drinking a lot to ease that anxiety and in a reality TV environment, I wasn’t getting that safe space for me to express my emotions in a healthy way."
Frankel points out that viewers and Bravo producer Andy Cohen have no understanding of what it feels like to film a reality show scandal that continues to manufacture unrealistic scenarios.
Leviss agrees. "That person that I saw watching back on my TV is someone who is completely out of character from who I truly am," she tells Frankel. "I feel like having this opportunity to represent myself in a way that I feel like is true to who I am is all I could ever ask for."
The duo then discuss where Madix and Leviss stand now. "I don’t expect her to forgive me. I am remorseful. I do recognize that I’ve caused her a lot of pain."
Leviss also recalls what her friendship was like with Madix before the affair.
"Ariana and I were not best friends," she reveals. "We were acquaintances who became friends through the show. … We never had a deep conversation that I would have with a best friend. It’s painful to think I hurt her in this way because that wasn’t my intention. … I call these people my friends because I really did believe they were my friends."
Frankel asks Leviss how she felt about Madix being painted as "America’s sweetheart" and receiving endorsement deals and making talk show appearances in the wake of the cheating scandal.
"Part of me says, good for you, because take advantage of these opportunities while they come your way," Leviss responds. "But it is hurtful to me just to think that — my nature is very kind and forgiving and understanding of other people, so the concept of me being the ultimate reality TV villain just blows my mind."
She adds, "And the way that she spoke to me at the reunion, I feel like it was uncalled for."
Leviss also weighs in on Madix and Sandoval's relationship.
"I would not be involved in this affair, secrecy-type situation if I thought there was longevity in this relationship between Tom and Ariana," she notes. "The people closest to them can see their relationship has not been what they portray on camera. Tom always told me they’re a brand, they’re an image. … They’re business partners."