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Ariana Madix would like to forget the summer of 2019. Unfortunately for her, she’s currently having to relive it on season eight of Vanderpump Rules.
"This past summer was very, very rough for me, for a lot of reasons," she shares with ET. "I haven't seen it all [play back yet], but definitely a low moment, summer of 2019, which is crazy because, on the whole, the year of 2019 was freakin' awesome."
Last year saw Ariana and her longtime boyfriend, Tom Sandoval, purchase a house together and finish their now best-selling book, Fancy AF Cocktails; but, it also saw the pair's relationships with some members of their friend group hit speed bumps.
"I'm dreading, literally, the next three weeks," Ariana admits. "Stuff just keeps continually going down."
In the most recent episode of the show, fans watched as Tom and Stassi Schroeder got into a screaming match over Stassi's book signing at TomTom, the bar Tom partially owns. Tom felt like he was excluded from the planning of the event, which Stassi coordinated through Lisa Vanderpump -- the bar's majority stakeholder -- and Tom's fellow Tom, Tom Schwartz. The morning of the event, Tom "rage texted" Stassi about not having staff on the schedule to cover the party, which was happening outside of normal business hours.
"He was so in the wrong for sending that text message," Ariana says, noting that she advised him against it. "I felt like things escalated very quickly and I wish it could have just been -- you know, emotions were running high. I wish that the conversation could have been a little bit more, like, connecting with each other on the real situation."
When Tom and Stassi did connect, things exploded, with Stassi alleging that Tom was jealous of her success. In the moment, it appeared as if Ariana was laughing at the fight.
"I was laughing because -- and I never got to say this -- I was laughing because the conspiracy theory of the jealousy thing I just thought was so insane," she admits. "We were so excited for her book to do well, and we had conversations with our publisher about how that is such a good thing for us. So, even if we didn't love and care about her, even on the most selfish level, it's just like, that's insane. But, you know, it is what it is and I don't think anything I said was gonna change anybody's mind that day."
Tom and Stassi have long had a contentious relationship, with Stassi claiming that Tom simply has not liked her, with no explanation, from the first day they met. Ariana and Stassi's relationship started off in a similar spot, but the two "queen bees," as Lisa describes them, have worked for years to get to a place where they consider one another friends.
"I think that there's definitely some fallout that you'll see," Ariana says, referencing how Tom and Stassi’s differences impact her own relationship with the Next Level Basic author. "But again, I think that it's important to realize that two people who are in a relationship are two different people, who have different perspectives and points of view on mostly everything. And I am my own person and I have very strong opinions of my own."
The drama with Stassi will play out for at least another episode, possibly more. Eagle-eyed fans realized there might be a rift between Stassi and Ariana, who jointly celebrated their birthday last year, when Ariana wasn't invited on multiple girls' trips with the Pump Rules crew. Now, to be fair, Kristen Doute and Scheana Shay were also excluded from the excursion that Stassi, Katie Maloney-Schwartz, Lala Kent and Brittany Cartwright took.
"Yeah, I mean, I didn't know they were going on a trip," Ariana confesses. "Somebody asked me that same kind of question on social media, they're like, ‘Why are you being left out?’ I was like, 'I don't know. I didn't know they were going on a trip.' That being said, I think it's fine. You know, my pinned tweet on my Twitter is that I want to be invited, even though I'm probably not gonna go. So, maybe, invite me next time?"
As far as Ariana knows -- and as far as Stassi’s said -- she will be invited to Stassi’s upcoming nuptials to Beau Clark in Italy. Ariana, however, will never be able to invite Stassi to her own wedding; the 34-year-old has made it clear that she is never, ever getting married -- but don’t think that puts into question her commitment to Tom.
"Listen, we got a notary, we basically signed that in blood," she half-jokes in regard to buying their house. "We are in it to win it. We have a 30-year mortgage together. We have a joint bank account. So, there's no question of our commitment to each other."
Ariana says she and Tom are enjoying nesting, in a way, in their new house -- and don't worry, Tom Schwartz isn’t having to bring over his own lawn chair to sit anymore.
"We have so many chairs," Ariana clarifies, adding that they sought out "beautiful s**t" for their house over time instead of buying a bunch of new furniture at once.
"And Tom is building a fully functioning, one-of-a-kind, top-notch bar in our house," she adds. "I think he's working on maybe getting [TomTom designer] Nick Alain to design with him."
A surprising side effect of purchasing and decorating their dream house, though, was depression for Ariana. She very candidly opened up about feeling like something was missing on the show to Lisa, something Ariana admits wasn't easy to do, but felt important to do.
“I feel like once you start talking about something, it somehow makes it easier,” she says. “Once you rip that Band-Aid off of being open about it, and [say], ‘This is who I am.’ Then nobody can come and say anything to you. That's part of who you are. And I've taken ownership, and I'm working on it every day to make sure that I'm doing the things I need to do to take care of myself. And there's a whole list of things: therapy, exercise, writing -- all kinds of things. And I just feel like we need to be having those conversations because I don't like the idea that people feel bad talking about it. Nobody should feel bad talking about it. It doesn't define -- Scheana’s divorce doesn't define her, my depression does not define me.”
"I used to say, 'I suffer from,' and now, I say 'I live with,' because I have depression, but I am living," she adds. "[And] there's been a lot of people who have said they have gone through similar things, whether it was getting married and having kids, and they felt like they still had the same [issues], or buying a house. A lot of people have said, 'I bought my house and I was sitting in my house feeling like, OK, I did it. Now what? I'm still me.' And so, what's funny is that those people will say that I helped them by being open, but they don't realize that they're helping me so much by making me feel like I'm not alone."
Ariana and Lisa having that sort of deep dialogue, with Lisa opening up about her own struggles, too, is a little bit of unchartered territory for Vanderpump Rules -- especially when it came to Lisa and Ariana, who ended season seven of the show in a low place, with Ariana questioning how Lisa treated Tom when it came to the business of TomTom.
"As difficult as our relationship was during that time, it was the best thing for our relationship, because we have gotten to a place where we are so open and honest with each other, and that's a place where I never thought I would get to with Lisa," Ariana shares. "To know Lisa as a person, and get to know her at that level, and be able to share things about me to her, it feels really good."
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Lisa Vanderpump Focusing on Positivity as She Opens Up About 'RHOBH' Exit (Exclusive)
Those kinds of conversations were formerly reserved for The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, but Lisa walked away from that show at the end of season nine after falling out with nearly the entire cast, who Lisa felt set her up for a takedown.
"I feel like something that maybe -- I'm speculating here -- but maybe something that she got from that whole experience was that being on Vanderpump Rules was, we actually do love her and do support her," Ariana offers. "Maybe we're people that she can see as future friends instead of people that she can't trust or feel good around."
Something else to come out of Ariana and Lisa's chat was a conversation around "pick-ups," insert scenes regularly shot for reality TV to fill in gaps in footage needed to tell the story. As Ariana opened up about feeling at a low point, her hair appeared to magically grow -- going from a blunt bob that stopped at her chin to a more shaggy cut that stopped at her shoulders.
"I take a lot of biotin," Ariana quips. "It's just the nature of production and filming. We’re having a very real conversation in both instances. But, you know, sometimes something doesn't work -- a light goes out, or an audio thing goes out and they didn't catch it. So, it's no stretch for me to talk about depression, or my life or things like that on any given day, regardless of my hair length."
Essentially, Lisa and Ariana had to recreate their original conversation about depression because what was shot the first time didn't work -- but it was still a real chat and a real issue that will continue to be a through line for the season. In a still-to-come moment, Ariana breaks down in tears over something mysterious.
"Without giving too much away -- it's like the most lame answer -- I just feel like in that moment, I was really, really overwhelmed by many, many factors and many things that were happening at that time," she offers. "And it just all kind of felt like it came crashing down, [and I felt] very alone in that. I love everybody -- every cast member on our show is a friend of mine -- but sometimes you just need your person, and if your person is not there, you feel like you're trying to explain, and you're not doing a good job of explaining and you just know people are gonna judge you for not being able to say things right. It just -- it can get like, for me at least, I'm such an overthinker. I short-circuit."
"Right now, I feel like I'm doing great," she adds. "Today is a good day. I feel really good about today. I felt great yesterday. You know, I feel like I have to start training myself to take things day by day and live in the moment of now a little bit better, and feed my creative spirit and do things that take care of me, myself and my brain."
Ariana is currently brainstorming a follow-up book to Fancy AF Cocktails, as well as an idea that has nothing to do with drinks, which she's keeping close to the vest for the time being. Right now, she's sitting on the success of the book, and even made one of the book's margaritas for her ET interview. That came in handy during a drinking game portion of the chat, when ET put Ariana on the spot to answer some touchy questions -- from which cast member she'd be OK never seeing again, to whom she wants to apologize to, secret cast (and Bravo-lebrity!) hookups and the wildest place she’s ever hooked up with Tom. For her answers to those questions and more, watch the full video above.