Vanderpump Rules: How Ariana Madix’s Post-Scandoval Fame Ruined Bravo’s Best Show

In the season 11 finale of Vanderpump Rules, Lala Kent erupts with anger at her co-star, Ariana Madix. Her voice filled with contempt, she says: “I’ve never experienced somebody who gets cheated on and suddenly she becomes God.”

That’s not really what she meant though. What Kent meant was that she couldn’t believe that Madix had become famous.

Sure, Kent and the rest of the VPR squad are also famous in their own way. But what Madix has achieved is far greater than the level of fame thus far experienced either by her castmates or anyone else on Bravo. Madix is now household name-famous, network television-famous, huge brand deal-famous, maybe even generational wealth-famous. She’s reached a level of that could lead to a lasting career in the entertainment industry if she plays her cards right.

That’s great for her. But it’s bad for Vanderpump Rules.

The ten-year-old mainstay has been in flux for a while. The show worked in the beginning because it was about a group of very not-famous people who were hustling to try to make it, working for the glamorous restaurateur and Real Housewife of Beverly Hills cast member Lisa Vanderpump in a West Hollywood hotspot called SUR to pay their bills. Everyone on the show had a dream: Scheana Shay was a “singer” slash bit-part actress, Tom Sandoval was a “singer” slash model, Jax Taylor and Tom Schwartz were “models” as were Stassi Schroeder and Kristen Doute. Katie Maloney wanted to do something in the music industry, and Madix was trying to make it as an actor, either on film or stage. Kent, for her part, tried out both acting and singing while on the show, even making a single with aspiring DJ turned actual DJ James Kennedy that is, honestly, a bop.

This was a show about strivers, about hungry people with a lot of dreams and questionable talent who partied like rockstars but lived in crappy apartments where you couldn’t run multiple appliances at the same time. It was messy, it was fun, and it was reality TV gold. But over time, the show had to grapple with the fact that its stars weren’t a bunch of nobodies with big dreams and small checking accounts anymore. They were reality TV stars, and as they started to display the fruits of their new kinds of success (multi-million dollar homes, nice cars and clothes) the show started to feel less real.

All the cast eventually stopped working at SUR, though a few pretended to for several seasons, and they all began to try and cash in on their new notoriety. Schwartz and Sandoval opened their own restaurant, TomTom, which not only provided a next chapter for them career-wise but a new storyline and reason for them to stay on the show (Vanderpump is a partner in the venture). Madix and Maloney talked about starting a sandwich shop. Kent and Shay primarily focused on building their personal brands. Both launched podcasts (Scheananigans, Give Them Lala) and began selling products on Instagram. Kent launched a beauty line and wrote a book.

These ventures and side projects were all fine and great, and all of the cast were, in general, about equally famous. For a group of wannabe “mactors” who hadn’t exactly reached their Hollywood goals but still found fame and notoriety, things could have been worse. And although the show has faced several crisis points—half the cast being fired for racism in 2020, the entirety of the middling season 8—the show has thus far been able to grow with its SUR-vers and adjust to their new realities.

That is, until Scandoval, when the cast found out that Sandoval had been cheating on his longtime girlfriend, Madix, with another cast member Rachel “Raquel” Leviss. The bombshell revelation and the fallout propelled the show to previously unimaginable heights. The ratings for the end of season 10, when the scandal was discussed, were series highs for the network and the show entered the cultural zeitgeist in a way it never had before.

Although all cast members got a boost in visibility for being involved in the drama, it changed one person’s life dramatically: Madix’s. Madix, who had always been a more low-key member of the show, was suddenly its star. Huge brands came calling, and Madix did commercials for Bic, Duracell, and Glad, among others. Her cool grace under pressure combined with her righteous anger over how she had been treated impressed viewers, and she grabbed all her opportunities and ran with them (as she told Glamour when she appeared on our cover last year, she had realized she could “work as much as possible” to create security for herself and her family with her new opportunities).

And it wasn’t just a flash in the pan. Madix’s star continued to rise as the months passed since the scandal. She appeared on Dancing With the Stars where she came in third and then on Broadway in Chicago as Roxie Hart—a run that was so successful, it broke records, meaning she is the only VPR star to actually achieve a goal they set out to in the beginning of the show. She and Maloney finally opened their sandwich shop, Something About Her, in May, just a few weeks after Madix was announced as the new host of the popular dating show Love Island.

In many ways, Madix has built in a year what the rest of the cast has spent the past decade trying to build: a long-lasting sustainable career in the entertainment industry (it didn’t come cheap though, Madix had to go through a huge trauma to be so widely embraced). Currently, many of the other castmates’ fame is heavily tied to their roles on the show. Sandoval and Schwartz have their restaurants, sure, but those are heavily promoted on VPR and it’s unclear how broad their appeal would be otherwise. Shay and Kent have built their empires on the backs of being Bravo stars, and Kennedy, to a lesser extent (he could still DJ post-show, I guess). Basically, Madix is the only person on the show who has reached the goal all of them sought, and it’s driving them all insane.

We have seen that acutely in season 11, filmed the summer after the Scandoval broke. The number one priority for most of the cast, excluding Maloney, Madix, and sometimes Kennedy, has been maintaining the show at all costs. After proudly proclaiming themselves Team Ariana when the scandal broke, both Kent and Shay quickly changed their tune. They began badgering Madix to essentially revert back into her old role on the show, to get over her pledge to not interact with Sandoval on camera, and engage in the drama.

As the season went on and Madix still continued to not play the game, their anxiety and annoyance got more palpable. They were mad that Madix was refusing to make drama for the television show they all rely on for their livelihood, and even more mad that their formerly unassuming friend had somehow become the most famous of them all, reaching a level of fame they were themselves desperate to achieve.

“She’s come such a long way from being my backup dancer,” said Shay bitterly told the camera after it was announced that Madix had been cast on DWTS, which apparently was her long-held dream.

It turns out that the thing holding VPR together all these years wasn’t ensuring that they remained broke, or that they kept all working at the same restaurant, or even that they all stayed friends. What was holding them together was the fact that none of them had become the actual star of the show, because then, all of them could believe that they were the star. Once it became clear that Madix now was the star, they couldn’t take it. Or at least that’s how the editing looked to me.


It’s gotten so bad, it’s unclear if the show can continue in its current form. Season 11 was a mess, full of multiple episodes of the Toms, Shay, and Kent trying to force a confrontation with Madix and Sandoval, and Kent and Shay tearing her down every chance they could. When, in the finale, Madix finally had enough and refused to fight with Sandoval on camera, it was the final straw for Kent.

“This is what we do,” she said. “We’ve been doing this for most of our adult lives. We’ve all experienced high highs and low lows and there’s a responsibility that comes with living your life on camera.”

Sure, okay. But I don’t think that’s quite it. I think what actually bothered Madix’s castmates was the fact that she felt confident to walk away, without giving production what they wanted. Maybe for the first time, Madix was demonstrating that she could leave the show and she would be fine. She could survive, and even thrive, without it. Could the rest of them?

During part three of the season 11 reunion, which aired Tuesday night, Andy Cohen asked Shay point blank if she felt jealous of all the opportunities Madix has received outside of the show. Shay said she didn’t think it was jealousy, but “feeling left out.”

“As she was getting all this opportunity I just didn’t want her to forget about me, I want to be on the journey with her,” she said.

As for Kent, she stood by what she said during the final episode, saying that even if Madix has moved on from the show, she needs her to care about it as a whole, because it pays all of their bills. Madix was stunned, and hurt, saying that her refusing to fight with Sandoval was at least an interesting end to the season, if that’s all Kent cares about.

“Was that not a better ending to your season, to give you another season for another paycheck?” she deadpanned.

What’s clear is that the current iteration of the show can’t continue. All along, it was a delicate balance, where no one SUR-ver could outshine the other.

Stephanie McNeal is a senior editor at Glamour and the author of Swipe Up for More! Inside the Unfiltered Lives of Influencers.

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