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Vanderpump Rules star Raquel Leviss has spoken for the first time in months about her shocking affair with castmate Tom Sandoval and the backlash that led to her checking into a mental health facility.

Leviss, 28, became an instant TV villain after news broke in March that she and her co-star had been having a months-long affair while he was in a nearly 10-year relationship with her “best friend”, Ariana Madix.

Madix, 38, promptly dumped Sandoval, 41, as producers picked up cameras to capture the fallout.

But in a new interview released on Wednesday, Leviss said Sandoval and Madix’s relationship was not “authentic”, and appeared to be more of a business partnership that relied on their “image” as a couple.

“I would not be involved in this affair, secrecy type situation if I thought there was longevity in this relationship between Tom and Ariana,” she told Real Housewives of New York alumni, Bethenny Frankel, on her Just B podcast.

“The people closest to them can see their relationship has not been what they portray on camera. Tom always told me they’re a brand, they’re an image… They’re business partners.”

“I do want to take a moment though to just acknowledge the hurt that I brought to a lot of people.

“I was not careful in my actions and I was not thinking long-term. I was completely wrapped up in heartbreak and wanting to get certain needs met.

“Looking back now, I can see that I was still healing from a relationship from someone I thought I was going to marry. And in ending that, I still haven’t healed yet.

“When I was filming, I was drinking a lot to ease that anxiety and in a reality TV environment, I wasn’t getting that safe space for me to express my emotions in a healthy way.”

Leviss also claimed that she and Madix had never been best friends or even hung out together off camera.

“We were acquaintances who became friends through the show… We never had a deep conversation that I would have with a best friend,” she said.

“It’s painful to think I hurt her in this way because that wasn’t my intention… I call these people my friends because I really did believe they were my friends.”

After the Emmy-nominated series‘ reunion aired in June, Leviss checked into a mental health facility to seek long-term treatment and has largely kept out of the spotlight.

Speaking publicly for the first time since she was discharged, Leviss told Frankel that she went to the facility in an attempt to “understand my behaviours”.

“But then the other part of the reason why I wanted to go to a treatment facility was to understand my behaviours and my goal was to really get down to the bottom of, “OK why am I choosing men that are unavailable, why do I keep finding myself in unhealthy relationships, what are the things that I need to change about my behaviour.

“And in knowing that I needed to make a change, I first had to know what leads to those behaviours.”

‘IT’S NOT FAIR’

During the conversation with Frankel, Leviss also took aim at Bravo for profiting off the scandal – dubbed “Scandoval” – claiming she has yet to see any of the money herself.

“The network is running to the bank — like, laughing, running to the bank with this scandal — and I haven’t seen a single penny,” Leviss said on the podcast.

“It’s not fair,” she continued. “And I feel like a toddler saying, ‘It’s not fair!’ But it really isn’t. And I feel like I’ve been portrayed as the ultimate villain. My mistakes that I’ve made on-camera live on forever.”

Frankel said she felt the star’s life was being “exploited” without compensation off the back of the scandal.

“(The backlash) seemed disproportionate to me. I was watching clips on social media and hearing about this Scandoval — that had a name, was being marketed and it was being pumped through the PR machine,” the former RHONY star said.

“And I did say … “Everybody’s gonna be more well known than they were before because of this.”

“And my mind was, ‘They’re on a reality show. It’s set in a bar, is what I think. It’s fuelled by alcohol and partying and multiple affairs. So what respectfully, what the hell is the big deal that everyone’s talking about?’ … And I said your name just as an example of what I imagined to be somebody who had been exploited. And for the rest of your life, that content will be out there without compensation.”

Leviss responded: “It’s so nice to have you validate that experience because for a moment I thought I was going crazy. And it’s true, reality TV is edited, it is contrived to create a certain storyline. So it’s not all factual.

“As a viewer tuning in, it’s easy to get wrapped up in that. Then the concept of an affair hits really hard to a lot of people. So I think there was a lot of projection happening, a lot of emotions that came up for people, and unfortunately I was the punching bag for a lot of that.”

Leviss suggested that many of her co-stars saw the scandal as a business opportunity.

Madix, in particular, landed a Lifetime movie role and numerous sponsorships in addition to releasing merchandise and opening a West Hollywood sandwich shop called Something About Her.

The Daily Mail estimated that she has raked in over US$1 million from the various deals.

“Part of me says, good for you, because take advantage of these opportunities while they come your way,” Leviss said.

“But it is hurtful to me just to think that — my nature is very kind and forgiving and understanding of other people, so the concept of me being the ultimate reality TV villain just blows my mind… And the way that she spoke to me at the reunion, I feel like it was uncalled for.”

Cast member Lala Kent, who publicly bashed Leviss multiple times over the dalliance, also dropped merch — and made enough money from it to cover a down payment on her $1.35 million home.

“Vanderpump Rules” began filming Season 11 in July, though Leviss’ role remains up in the air.

However, during her conversation with Frankel, Leviss appeared to confirm she will not return to the show.

“I feel like I’ve been portrayed as the ultimate villain,” she said.

“My mistakes that I’ve made on camera live on forever. And you mentioned something about the addiction of doing reality TV and the way that they always dangle that carrot in front of you, like, “Well, you need to tell your side of the story otherwise it’s gonna be written for you.” ‘And that’s terrifying. So I almost went back, I know just because of that.’

A source previously told Page Six exclusively that the former beauty pageant queen — who has started using her real name, Rachel, again — “wants to get as much money as she possibly can, so she is playing hardball” with executives.

Frankel, 52, has been one of Leviss’ most vocal supporters through it all, encouraging the embattled reality TV star last month to “get paid” and not be a “punching bag.”

More recently, the “Real Housewives of New York City” alum made headlines for recruiting “over 80 people” in her war against Bravo and NBC, claiming the networks have subjected their reality stars to “grotesque and depraved mistreatment” including “deliberate attempts” to “manufacture mental instability.”

– With The NY Post

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