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Reality Bites Bravo

renee poche, caroline manzo, bethenny frankel, rachel leviss, leah mcsweeney
There seems to be something going on beneath the surface: namely, the feeling that these stars are being financially exploited without the ability to rebalance those power dynamics or fully capitalize on their fame. Photo-Illustration: Puck; Photos: Monty Brinton/Netflix/Santiago Felipe/Getty Images/Udo Salters/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images/Monica Schipper/Getty Images/Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Mythical Games
Eriq Gardner
March 18, 2024

Like any great reality television drama, the wave of lawsuits targeting Bravo and other “unscripted” producers features a cast of heroes and villains—and has been immaculately choreographed behind the scenes. The latest entry in the franchise is the suit filed by Vanderpump Rules star Rachel Leviss, on February 29, accusing her cast mates Tom Sandoval and Ariana Madix of revenge porn, among other things. Notably, Leviss has enlisted veteran entertainment litigators Bryan Freedman and Mark Geragos, who are also wagging their fingers at Bravo, a division of NBCUniversal, for orchestrating the storyline to juice Vanderpump’s ratings.

The so-called “Scandoval” began last year, when TMZ broke the news that Sandoval had split with Madix, his longtime girlfriend, after it was discovered that he’d had an affair with Leviss. In her complaint, Leviss alleges that she was “a victim of the predatory and dishonest behavior of an older man [Sandoval] who recorded sexually explicit videos of her without her knowledge or consent, which were then distributed, disseminated, and discussed publicly by a scorned woman [Madix] seeking vengeance.” (Sandoval and Madix haven’t yet publicly commented about the new case.) Nevertheless, according to Leviss, producers wanted to make her the arch-villain on the show.