She first floated into Los Angeles as a shaky-voiced companion to James Kennedy, the witty, if deeply wounded, DJ favorite 0n Vanderpump Rules, and now finds herself with the dubious distinction of being crowned 2023’s most notorious Bambi-eyed snake in the grass: mysterious, duplicitous chaos-cypher Raquel Leviss.
The 28-year-old former beauty pageant contestant is at the white-hot center of the #Scandoval, the cheating scandal that’s ripped apart the Bravo reality series (which, now on Season 10, has never been more popular) and, frankly, all of our lives.
How did she get here? Leviss spent five years dating Kennedy, even getting engaged to him in spectacular fashion at a Coachella-themed proposal, and she’s been a presence on the show since her introduction as his girlfriend in Season 5.
But what’s so bizarre and endlessly compelling about this woman is that she’s evolved from a totally blithe, if pleasant, near-nonentity—in years past, she was the kind of person who’d throw a “puppy party,” with a “poo bag toss” as one of the activities—into the most chilling villain reality TV has ever seen. Of course, that’s second only to Tom Sandoval, the formerly-taken reality star with whom she spent several months having a secret affair.
Ariana Madix, of course, blisteringly kicked Sandoval to the curb when she discovered what he’d been doing with Leviss, which included fucking in her car and explicitly FaceTiming.
Online commentators have thrown around a lot of harsh words to describe Raquel during the scandal’s fallout—evil, sociopathic, narcissistic, psychopathic—but let’s do a step-by-step analysis of her on-camera antics this season, and see where we end up.
When Season 10 of Vanderpump Rules kicks off, viewers lay eyes on Leviss driving to SUR restaurant in her waitress outfit, seemingly processing the single life in the aftermath of breaking up with Kennedy, which she’d done on-camera during the Season 9 reunion.
Ahead of the 10th season reunion, the first segment of which airs Wednesday, May 24, the timeline of the affair between Leviss and Sandoval is still not completely certain.
But at the beginning of the season, it at least seems that Leviss was still mostly preoccupied by her recent breakup with Kennedy.
Kennedy had been occasionally verbally abusive to Leviss during their relationship, especially when he was intoxicated.
Minutes into Episode 1, we learn that Kennedy has a new girlfriend, Ally Lewber, whom he met and fell in love with only five or six weeks after Leviss broke up with him.
Instantly, any normal person would think: “Wow, that’s a little fast,” and feel a bit sympathetic towards Leviss.
“The last time I saw James was at the iHeartRadio Awards,” Leviss tells the camera in a talking-head interview. “I went over to say hello, he introduced me to Ally, and then I ran away. I don’t know anything about James’ new girlfriend, except for the fact that she looks exactly like his mom. He’s got some real mommy issues.”
In one sound bite, Raquel establishes that she’s no longer the vacant-seeming person we’ve seen in earlier seasons; she’s relatable and someone to root for. This, of course, turns out to be a total facade.
In the next episode, in an effort to move on from Kennedy, Leviss goes on a date with Peter Madrigal, the long-beloved fan-favorite manager of SUR.
OK. So Madrigal is Leviss’ boss, so this is a little bit of an ill-advised choice. But you cut her some slack for this move, because you can sense that she’s hurting, and hurt people can be a little chaotic sometimes.
On their date, Leviss starts crying, both to Madrigal and in her talking-head interview, after recounting that she placed in the Top 15 in Miss California, her final pageant. She has aged out of competing in pageants ever again.
“It sent me into a deep depression,” she says. “I don’t know. It’s hard. I’m just trying to figure out my life. And obviously I could go back to school and get my master’s, but I just wanna, like, be single and live my life.”
Leviss has built up so much goodwill at this point, so early in the game. Almost every judgmental part of you, as the viewer, that used to consider her vacuous and boring has pretty much vanished, which is important: Leviss smashed all of this progress into smithereens with the cruelty of her affair.
Like the viewers, at this point, fellow cast members Madix and Scheana Shay are initially 100 percent behind Leviss in her efforts to explore her options and be fun and single.
Shay even more so: While interviewing Tom Schwartz for her podcast about his divorce from Katie Maloney during Episode 3, Shay encourages Schwartz to make out with fun, single Leviss.
This is where things start to get really weird. At drinks with Maloney and Lala Kent, Leviss is asked about Shay’s efforts to encourage a kiss between herself and Schwartz.
“I’m like, ‘Ha ha, no, never,’ and then I think about it more,” Leviss says. Maloney is not yet officially divorced from Schwartz at this point of the show, and she also expressed, in Episode 1, that she would be very upset if he hooked up with anyone in the friend group.
“I do like Schwartz a lot,” Leviss says. “I don’t know. Like, I wouldn’t ever date him seriously though.” She says this with zero shame, and Kent and Maloney are totally incredulous.
Leviss doesn’t blink, and it’s the first of many times throughout the season that she appears unflinching in the face of conflict that would make a normal person’s skin crawl with self-recrimination.
Maloney tells Leviss in no uncertain terms that a hookup between her and her ex-husband would make her uncomfortable. But in the next episode, Leviss gets drunk, approaches Schwartz and gigglingly asks him if he wants to make out.
He declines, and Leviss tells Maloney all about being turned down at their next drinks date, again with zero shame, as though she was never dissuaded from making such a brazen move in the first place.
Things escalate from here like a runaway freight train. Leviss’ lack of respect for other people’s boundaries, her blank facial expressions when taking in other people’s distress, and her sudden changes in strategy begin to pick up steam.
On a girl’s trip with Maloney, Kent and returning guest star Kristina Kelly (always referred to by her first and last name), Leviss makes out with a cute, allegedly recently separated guy named Oliver on the dance floor, only after learning that Lala has a crush on him.
“I gave her the OK,” Kent insists to her incredulous friends. However, she tells Leviss, “You drinking, I would never trust you around my man.”
Leviss is wasted. “I mean, like…” she drawls at Kent, “…thank God you don’t have a man to like, fucking have around.”
This deeply revealing comment arguably marks the true beginning of Leviss’ downfall.
It alienates her from Maloney, Kent, and Kristina Kelly permanently, sparking a huge argument which sends her packing up her things and scurrying back to Los Angeles to interrupt a Guys Night at the Mondrian attended by Kennedy, Schwartz, and Sandoval.
Guys Night, or the night after, according to Madix’s commentary during the finale, is when Leviss’ secret affair with Sandoval began.
It only took Leviss six episodes to spiral from the show’s heroine, a little spiritually lost but on her way to finding herself, into someone who’s clearly untrustworthy—although of course no one, not the cast members, the audience or even the producers knew to what extent.
By this point, Raquel has made enemies, and starts getting more aggressive. At a pool party at Madix and Sandoval’s house, after she and Sandoval had allegedly begun to cross the line physically with one another, she declares that Kent gives off “mistress, bimbo vibes.”
At Shay’s wedding in Mexico, she makes out with Schwartz in front of everybody, declaring that since Maloney already hates her, they might as well go for it. She laughs and smiles through it all, seeming to delight in her own audacity.
When the other cast members, including Madix, react in shock to her kiss with Schwartz, Leviss giggles more: “Can we have fun now?”
This appears to be her essence: throughout the entire season, as she wreaks havoc upon Maloney’s emotions, dances with Sandoval at the Abbey late at night, and chuckles with Schwartz about doing exactly what they said they wouldn’t do, Leviss just gives no indication that she cares about the consequences of her actions.
She’s sloppy; she shows up ultra-late to work one day after sleeping over at Sandoval’s house while Madix is away, and is basically, like, “Oops!”
It is absolutely astonishing to watch Leviss ingratiate herself with Madix, at one point questioning her about whether she’s still sexually attracted to Sandoval, knowing that all the while she was having an affair with Madix’s long-term partner behind her back.
What makes Leviss such a fascinating villain is the sophistication of her disguise, whether she was intentionally constructing it or not. Because Raquel is conventionally pretty, ditzy, and endeared herself to everyone early in the season, it was easy to write her indiscretions off at first as the actions of someone who’s just lost, and a little obtuse.
But the sheer brazenness and extent of her affair with Sandoval, which has still not fully been explained, reveal just how gallingly flat Raquel Leviss is.
In “#Scandoval,” the show’s jaw-dropping finale, Madix learns of the affair and goes rightfully nuclear on her cheating partner. He scurries to Leviss’s apartment, and some of the most nausea-inducing few minutes of television I’ve ever seen commence.
Opening the door for Sandoval, Leviss asks if he’s OK. He says no. Is she? “Mm-hmm. I mean, I think so. It’s been rough.”
She immediately pours them big shots of some kind of dark liquor, and they cheers before chasing with Coors Light. Seriously? What the fuck are they cheers-ing to? The total obliteration of everything they were supposed to hold dear?
“I think we’re just two people that, fucking—were friends and started having feelings for each other,” Leviss says, smiling. Sandoval, unbelievably, accidentally calls her Ariana; even more unbelievably, she smiles at this too.
“I know we always said, like, we wouldn’t fucking do this if we didn’t think it was worth it,” Leviss says, while Sandoval strokes her face. “Just think of the way that it imploded—this is not ideal at all.”
From her demeanor and the way she seemed to be processing the fallout, Leviss, at the time of filming this scene, seemed to be under the impression that she and Sandoval were going to be happily together from thereon out.
Her talking-head interview reflected this as well: “I was just so curious to know what it would be like to be physical with someone that you love, ’cause I already knew that I loved him as a friend, and I’ve never had sex like that before,” Leviss told producers, grinning.
Was she also implying that she never loved James?
At the end of the truly staggering, galaxy light-drenched scene with her now reportedly-ex lover, a card from the producers flashes to say that Raquel then turned off her phone and was not seen or heard of for weeks afterwards.
We’ll only truly get every piece, or at least more pieces of the puzzle, when the reunion episodes begin to air, but after assessing the material, it’s clear that the dark, chaotic sex tornado that is Raquel Leviss and Tom Sandoval has wreaked more havoc than anything else we’ve seen on TV in years.
He’s a scumbag, sure, but she’s a cypher, laughing and smiling her way cooly through the collapse of almost every friendship around her. And you know what: yeah, that’s evil.
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