So far during its fifth season, hit Bravo show "Vanderpump Rules" has been quite the doozy.
Between Lisa Vanderpump finally firing loose cannon James Kennedy, the accusations that Lala Kent is dating a married man and the knowledge that Scheana Shay and her husband, Michael, are getting a divorce, there has been more than enough drama to go around. Yet, somehow, Ariana Madix has remained more or less above it all.
Sure, she was there for the pool party blow-up between Stassi Schroeder and Scheana, and she got more than a little flack for defending Lala and James despite the rest of the group's disdain for them, but that's minor league stuff compared to the rest of her cast mates.
And, as she told me during a recent midseason interview last week, that's all about to change. "I'm definitely going to get into it a few times," she revealed to me when we talked.
Still, Madix is relatively level-headed in comparison with everyone else on the notoriously heated show, which she knows can come across as "condescending." But, she insists that's just because she can't always relate to the constant fighting and making up that goes on around her. "When I get into things like that with people in my life, I tend to just not be friends with them anymore," she explained to me.
I sat down with Ariana Madix at our AOL headquarters in New York City recently to talk through the first half of this season of "Vanderpump Rules," about her upcoming cocktail book "Made By Madix" and why Jax Taylor is kind of like a golden retriever puppy you just can't stay mad at.
See photos of Ariana Madix:
Check out my full conversation with Ariana Madix below:
How are you holding up now that we're midway through the season at this point?
Midway through this season, I feel good! I feel as though I've been able to express how I feel about certain things and not feel like anybody is really misconstruing what I'm saying. I also think that, coming off of last season, I don't care what anybody thinks, because they spent so much time talking shit about me.
Right, so it's like they've said it all at this point, anyway?
They've said it all. I don't have a big chip on my shoulder about trying to make things right. It just doesn't seem like it's going to happen. There's a teaser at the end of this week's episode -- the midseason teaser -- and it looks really intense. It's funny, because everything has been pretty good so far, but now I'm getting kind of nervous for the rest of the season. It's really ramping up.
What has the general reaction from fans been so far this season, as far as you can tell?
It's been mostly positive. I think that most people tend to get what I'm about, or they get who I am. There are some people who don't, but I can't seek all of them out and try to explain myself. It's been largely positive, and as much as you want to say that it doesn't matter what people think, I think it does a little bit. Even though you're only seeing an edited five minutes to an hour of me a week -- which isn't all of who I am as a person -- I still feel as though seeing what people say back [to me] is validating, or at least a barometer of the state of things.
It gives you a real idea of how you're coming across in those five minutes.
Right, because even though I may have thought that I said what I wanted to say, I might see what someone says online and realize it didn't come out the way I wanted. It helps with working on your communication skills. [Laughs]
The beginning of this fifth season has really been centered on the James Kennedy and Lala Kent vs. everyone else dynamic, with you and Tom Sandoval opting to defend them at certain points. Do you regret standing by them?
No, I don't, because I feel as though there was another perspective that was getting lost. James and Lala are both different; they have different perspectives. But then the group had this other perspective, and there was this outlying idea that had been forgotten, which was this: You guys know that you want to be this moral high ground at this point -- and maybe you are -- but you have to understand that even though Lala and James are talking a lot of crap about everybody, [that's exactly] what you guys have done in the past.
Totally. It's like, why is history being erased all of a sudden?
Yeah, and I'm not saying that I'm anywhere near perfect. I'm just saying, like, let's look at the big picture here. Also, James is really funny! I just don't take what he says seriously -- because you can't.
Talk to me about your birthday trip to Sonoma. What was the highlight for you?
Oh my gosh. At the end of the race, we were up on this hill, and the immediate view was right down onto the track, but, if you looked beyond it, there were the most amazing rolling hills and wineries for miles. It was really cool. That was the moment where I was like, "I'm with these wonderful people that I really enjoy being around, and I'm having this awesome birthday."
One of my favorite moments of the trip was when you and Brittany had a full-on drunken conversation about sex, and then in your confessional, you called attention to the fact that there's a stigma around women talking about these topics. Why is that?
I felt like behind closed doors -- or not behind closed doors -- most women have conversations about pretty raunchy stuff sometimes, especially when we're drinking with our girlfriends. And sometimes society sells us short a little bit there. [Laughs] It felt like a window into a more obnoxious side to our souls.
My first reaction to the scene where you find out that Lala had bailed on your trip was that I would've been much more annoyed than you were.
Oh, when I'm most annoyed, it's when I'm quietly annoyed. I'm like that person who says, "I don't even know what I say to you, so I'm just going to not talk." That's when I'm most annoyed.
In some ways, her not being there was sort of a blessing in disguise, because you ended up with this really fun group of people that didn't really have any drama.
Yeah. But, that's the thing: I really felt gypped, in a way. I really felt as though Lala sold herself short. First of all, I had told her multiple times that, nobody else would've even tried to be rude to her [besides Jax]. Even if Schwartz doesn't like someone, he'll go off and do his own thing; my brother is friends with her, and I honestly felt as though she and Brittany would've gotten along by the end of it.
Jax will say [offensive] things when he's in company that will encourage it, but he would've been in company that wouldn't have wanted to hear it, so he wouldn't have said anything. But, if he had, I told her he would've been out! Same goes for her, too, but I honestly felt like it would've gone well.
It was a missed opportunity for her. That's the thing about Lala: I've seen a side of her that I really feel is genuine, but she doesn't show that very often. I was trying to encourage her to show that genuine side of herself.
Would you have invited Scheana in her place had you known she wasn't going to come?
Yeah! If I had known that I had the space, I would've invited her. I would've at least said, "I think you should probably go Montauk, but you do have this option. Don't feel like you're trapped." But I couldn't invite her. It was frustrating.
Let's go a little further back to the conversation that happened between you, Scheana and Stassi at the birthday pool party. It completely blew up when you joined in. What happened?
You know, I've seen things that Stassi has said since the episode aired about the editing [being misleading], but I remember it being pretty close to what was shown. We couldn't get a word in! She wasn't there, so the whole point of it was for me to be able to prove that Scheana was not trying to be friends with Lala. I don't know why it escalated -- I think alcohol had to do with [Laughs] -- but I do think that in that moment, Stassi was at least three sheets to the wind.
I could not believe that reaction! I didn't know until I saw the episode that she had sobbed in the bathroom. I had no idea. I just thought she had walked away, but I didn't feel like it warranted such a thing.
Do you ever feel like Scheana, Stassi, Katie and Kristen are this sort of inevitable clique that will always implode and always eventually come back together?
No, it consistently implodes. I will say, there are even recent instances [of that] when we haven't been filming. They have a relationship where they really love each other, and they fight a lot, so it's hard for me to relate to that. I don't say that in a condescending way -- although, sometimes I do sound like that because I get really frustrated and can get kind of bitchy about it -- but it is hard for me to relate to that. I've had the same group of girlfriends -- who are not on the show -- for, like, 10 to 15 years. We don't agree on everything, but we've never had that [level of fighting]. So, it's really hard for me to understand. When I get into things like that with people in my life, I tend to just not be friends with them anymore.
But they just come back together.
Yeah, exactly, and they do have this kind of clique thing going on, too.
Scheana was on "Watch What Happens Live!" recently and said that you two are in a good place right now. Would you reflect those same feelings?
Yeah, I would say that that's true. Honestly, I think that our friendship is in a place that's better than even when we were super close. When she used to describe this yesteryear of when we were besties, I used to think that that was a little exaggerated. Now, though, we're in a much more open and honest friendship.
I was in a horrible relationship back then, and I don't have to escape it anymore. I always used to have the biggest smile on my face all the time, because I was trying to pretend that everything was cool, and she took that at face value. But now we're in an honest place with one another.
What did you think of Jax saying that he should've hooked up with you instead of with Kristen when he had the chance?
When I watched it, there were so many things going on in my mind. I wanted to hide under the table, I was cringing, I thought it was funny, I thought it was flattering, but I did not realize it was something he ever thought. Now, it's like I have to see this person, but it made me laugh. Jax is kind of like a golden retriever puppy in that you can't be mad at him for too long. He'll say something funny or do something nice and you'll be like, "Dang it!"
What is the key to your relationship with your boyfriend, Tom Sandoval? Despite all of the drama and craziness, it seems as though you two have remained sane and in a good place with one another.
We were friends that tried to help each other in a lot of different ways at first, because we were both in relationships when we first met, and both relationships were not great. But we were honest with one another. The friendship that we had -- and being a team at work -- really helped. We're still friends, but now, of course, we have this romantic relationship that we didn't before. At the same time, though, we still have that same dynamic of friendship. We joke around together a lot, and that's something that keeps us sane. We can always go back to that as a home base.
Talk to me about the cocktail book that you've been working on recently.
We started working on this proposal a while before filming - me and my partner, Ali -- and we played with so many different ideas for it. We had cocktails based on all of the places I had lived, and then we thought that the food-to-cocktail idea was everything. I've always been so into going to restaurants and when I lived in New York City I was all about that life, so I thought, "How fun would it be to try to turn dishes into drinks?" So, that's where we're at right now.
I think something that has been important for selling it is for people to see that there will be social media push. We're also building a website and having a kickoff event in L.A. We're going to go with "Made By Madix" for the website, and hopefully there will be a hard copy thing that people can eventually put on their coffee table.
It's pretty cool that you're now able to really do these bigger things with your growing platform. When did it sink in for you that you had fans that really wanted to support you?
It happened pretty recently. I was an actor -- I mean, I still am because I still audition -- and being an actor struggling to get bit parts was something that had me feeling like I needed to be working on other stuff. But, I never thought that anybody would be interested in what I have to say. With acting, I'm playing characters, so for anyone to be interested in me is kind of crazy. [Laughs]
What can you tease for us for us going forward for the second half of the season?
I'm definitely going to get into it a few times. [Laughs] The trip to New Orleans is insanity, and James is definitely not off the hook yet with other people, so that gets crazy. I feel like the wedding is a nice bow on the season, because we all know it's coming and that drama ensues leading up to it. It's this beautiful picturesque thing that we're leading up to, but sh-t's going to get crazy. Wait till you see that midseason teaser. I'm serious. I was like, "I don't remember it being this bad."
This interview has been edited and condensed.
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