'RHOBH's Crystal Kung Minkoff on Speaking Up in Season 12 and the 'Absurd' Drama That Follows (Exclusive)
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Crystal Kung Minkoff learned a valuable lesson after watching back her first season on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills: if you don't speak up in the moment, you come off looking like you don't care.
"It's hard to explain, but when you watch the show, if you don't say what's in your head, people don't, they can't possibly know what's in your head," she muses to ET ahead of RHOBH's season 12 premiere, her sophomore year. The combination of that lesson and her now cemented relationships with these women (she came in only knowing fellow newbie Kathy Hilton last year) changed the game for Crystal.
"I feel the more I am relaxed and connected with everybody, the more comfortable I am really giving my opinion, sharing what I am, and not holding back," she says. "It's hard. I was on the phone with Kyle [Richards] for a while this morning about that and she's like, 'Remember, I started this show and we were all new, but it's so hard to come into a show and the group when everyone has connections and you're not sure...' We were talking about just how each year goes by, you get more comfortable."
"I mean any time I'm arguing with someone or having conflict, it's not fun to re-watch," she clarifies. "I think that's the part that I was always told by the girls that that's the hardest part, not the filming. It's so true, because if you have conflict with your friends off camera, it's like you can get through it. You pass it. You don't have to look back on it."
"But [reliving drama thanks to the show] allows you to self-reflect and allows you to learn," Crystal continues. "I know 100 percent I'm going to do another interview with you in a couple months about what I would have done differently and it's going to go on forever, so that's just what it is, but we get that gift."
"If I don't look at it like a gift, I will be in my bed under my blanket crying all day," she cracks. "So it's better for me to stay positive."
Conflict is aplenty in season 12, at least judging by the trailer, which features a moment in which Garcelle Beauvais warns Sutton Stracke about trusting her "new friend," Crystal.
"Sutton and I obviously started last year when we first met on a very bumpy path and we worked very hard on our friendship," Crystal explains. "Sometimes there's more bumps in the road before you get to the end. That's all I can really say, but it's going to be rough to watch. But sometimes you need to go through that with friendships."
After a little prodding, Crystal cops to the fact that she confided something in Garcelle about Sutton that she maybe shouldn't have, because Garcelle ran the information back to Sutton, sparking a situation that would not have existed had Crystal kept it to herself. This leads to what Crystal has called her biggest dust-up of the season, with Garcelle.
"I will say this: I don't like any issues and unfortunately, or fortunately? The show likes it," she offers. "I get caught up in it, but it's OK. It's real life and sometimes you want it to just be smooth and brush things under the rug and that doesn't work all the time."
Whatever the issue is or was, it's been resolved. Crystal recently stepped out alongside Garcelle in support of Sutton's cashmere collection launch at her West Hollywood boutique. The RHOBH audience has celebrated the trio as the "next generation" of the show, a counter-balance to what's known as the "Fox Force Five" -- aka Kyle, Lisa Rinna, Dorit Kemsley, Erika Jayne and former Housewife Teddi Mellencamp -- the longest running cast members who often have one another's back no matter what. The Real Coco founder finds the celebration a bit odd, seeing as she doesn't view the group as split in two, at least not two opposing sides.
"Really, my friendships are based on my individual relationships and they come at face value and that's who I am," she notes. "If you're good to me, I'm good to you. I will always start good to you. I don't have anything against anyone, but yeah, I don't think the 'clique' makes sense. I think it's more that they have been together longer, they've worked together longer, they've had real friendships longer, and that happens, but I think what's challenging in a group setting, a friend setting is ... I think you do feel that people are closer and I was lucky I did get a lot closer with Garcelle and Sutton this year. It was really amazing actually."
It remains to be seen if Crystal got closer to Erika over the course of filming season 12, though one explosive moment from the trailer hints at the opposite. Erika -- still facing questioning about her estranged husband allegedly embezzling money meant for the widows and orphans of a plane crash -- gets in Crystal's face to say, "You wanna be on the side of the victims, 'cause you think that's cool. What I'm telling you is, I don't give a f**k about anybody else but me."
"I mean the line is, I'd say, it's kind of absurd," Crystal says of Erika's "cool" comment. "It's funny because I don't really remember that until I watched it, because it's a blip in a very long night. So that particular line, obviously when it's in the trailer, it's very powerful, but I can speak to my sentiment about it -- and I've said this before when someone asks me -- if that means it's cool, then I'm cool because I care about the victims as I think anyone with any type of heart would."
"Last year, it was all sort of unfolding and it was all in real-time," she notes of Erika's legal situation, "and now that I've had a year later to reflect and feel more comfortable speaking out on it, that's where I stand and I don't think-- it doesn't really matter what anyone thinks about that, but I don't think anyone wouldn't support them."
Last season, cast members and viewers alike questioned why Erika didn't speak out in support of those victims. She ultimately did at reunion, though the trailer implies she may not feel as strongly about the situation anymore.
"I remember the girls kept telling me, 'You're meeting Erika and she's such a different person than she's been on these years. She's much more vulnerable,' because this was all happening while we were filming," Crystal reflects. 'I was like, OK. I'm a pretty vulnerable person, so it's all relative to me, but she did share a lot last year whereas this year, it just feels like now things are settled and it feels more like she's sort of picking up the pieces of her life now. Obviously I have questions and I have my opinions about it, but it feels different because it's not every day. It's not day in and day out all this new information."
"It's all the legal stuff that she can't talk about," she adds. "For me, it's really about the heart and compassion where things are coming as opposed to what the legal stuff is."
Erika makes fast friends with new Housewife Diana Jenkins, whom Crystal introduces to the group. The entrepreneur quickly butts heads with Sutton, however, who labels her a "soulless person."
"[Diana] is very clear about who she is," Crystal says. "There's all the 'Crystal Clear' [jokes]. It's Diana Clear, I'll tell you that. She knows who she likes, and she knows who she doesn't like and she does not have the bandwidth to try either way. I say that openly without fear because it's just what we talk about. If she doesn't like you, she doesn't like you and she reads people quickly, she makes very clear judgments about people, and I'm very different. I don't know how to be that way. In a lot of ways, I admire it and she just will cut you like, 'This is my boundary with you.'"
"She's tough, but when she's your friend, she's very loyal," Crystal continues. "I don't want to be on [her bad] side. I don't think I could handle it. You know what's funny is that as tough as she is and she knows me, I don't think she'd ever be that tough on me because she would just destroy me."
When production on season 12 started, Crystal was without her season 11 constant companion Kathy, who was busy filming her daughter, Paris Hilton's, wedding series, Paris in Love. Kathy shows up later on in the season only to find herself in Lisa's crosshairs, for some to-be-revealed reason. A smirk Lisa makes during a conversation/confrontation with Kyle and Kathy has already been meme'd, months before it's likely to air on TV.
"Everyone loves Kathy and she's sort of the grand dame of the group, the mother hen, and it's hard to see when things get really real like that," Crystal teases of the moment, playing coy when asked why Lisa comes so hard for the "friend of."
"I don't know," she offers. "I mean, I do know, but I don't know."
"Rinna is just, she is a truth-seeker and she is formidable," Crystal says. "I think it's hard for her to not have closure in anything. So regardless of how much destruction it might be to get there, she wants the truth. Some people just are like that. I'm the type who's like, I always want the truth to be out, but if I'm going to get sort of a wall, I'm going to drop it."
That drama seems to be concentrated around the cast's trip to Aspen, Colorado, set to play out near the end of the season. Tabloid reports continue to come out speculating about what exactly went down during the ladies' mountain getaway, rumors of intense fights and face-offs populating endless fan accounts' comments sections.
"I go to Aspen often so I don't get altitude sickness, but maybe that was the problem with many of the women," Crystal jokes. "It was ridiculous. It was crazy. It felt like I couldn't get a grasp. There wasn't one central thing. It was like in this corner over here and this corner over here and this corner. Then at one point I'm in it. I'm like, 'Geez, let me...' I'm in it."
"It's funny because I think we were only there for like four days and it felt like four years," she admits. "I think we have a whole season in Aspen. ... I would be shocked if they could squeeze it in five [episodes]. Yeah, that's going to be rough, but everyone gets involved and everyone has an opinion and no one comes out unscathed from all that."
Outside the fiery dynamics, viewers will also learn more about Crystal's life outside the group, as she opens up about living with disordered eating. She touched upon her struggle with bulimia last year, but goes more in-depth this season.
"I broached it last year with the girls just to explain why I felt the way I did in Tahoe and it kind of popped up because of that," she recalls, referencing her emotional response to Sutton accidentally walking in on her while changing. "It's not something I sort of discuss with people that I don't know, but my friends that I'm close with, they all know. They've known. My best friends are still from elementary school."
"So this time around, I don't bring it up myself, but I sort of do in a way," she continues. "It wasn't my plan to talk about it on camera, but it happens and I don't shy away from it. It's part of my life. It's part of my being. It doesn't define me, but it certainly is a big part of my life. I think it's important to share all aspects. If you sign up for a show like this, you sign up for all of it. Hopefully, it speaks to people that are also struggling and that our show's not just about fashion and money and all these things, that we're all human and that we all experience these types of traumas."
Crystal sharing her story comes on the heels of Jackie Goldschneider letting The Real Housewives of New Jersey cameras document her treatment for anorexia.
"I haven't watched it, but I certainly know about it and I messaged her a few weeks ago," Crystal shares. "She messaged me back and we've been going back and forth. That's sort of what's special about this experience, finding connection even though in a challenge like this, we each have support and in particular having someone going through the exact experience I am on camera and reactions, but we have two completely different disorders."
"I imagine I will share the same experience when our show airs, but it's been majority very positive from the audience," she adds. "I like to talk to people who DM me about it. They ask me for help. They want to share with me. It's like an honor."
The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills premieres Wednesday, May 11, at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Bravo.
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