The Vanderpump Rules crew is infamously good at partying. However they have one greater talent than holding their tequila (and Pumptinis, and self-branded wine, and blowjob shots): stirring up drama amidst their crew. Usually hostilities will flare up between two warring tribes, like the Team Katie Maloney Schwartz vs. Team Billie Lee feud that’s been simmering over the last few weeks of season 7.
However, a romantic VPR partner does sometimes betray their romantic VPR partner, as Monday night’s “A Housewarming Divided” proves. During the episode, birthday boy Tom Sandoval announces to his friends that his girlfriend Ariana Madix once hooked up with castmate Lala Kent. A day of drinking, the backseat of Sandoval’s car, and oral sex is involved in the gossipy retelling, which paints Sandoval as the chauffeur in his own cuckolding. It’s a reveal so shocking that DJ James Kennedy’s obnoxious lilac hat actually flies off of his head.
While many will likely remember “Housewarming” for revealing so many personal details about Ariana as a bisexual woman, that shouldn’t be the case. Instead, the episode should stand out because Sandoval crossed a hurtful line when it comes to his girlfriend. Ariana’s sexuality should never have been deployed as a supposedly salacious topic for a boozy boys’ day out.
The problem with Sandoval’s ill-advised birthday spill session is that it removes Ariana’s agency from her own history. What she wants to say about her sexuality, to whom she want to say it, and when she want to say it should all be decided by her. “I’m not embarrassed or ashamed of what happened between Lala and I,” she admits in a Vanderpump talking head interview. “My sexuality is not something that is meant to ‘sound cool’ to a bunch of dudes.”
That explains why Ariana has happily spoken about her interest in women previously, but was hurt by Sandoval’s behavior. The difference is, the prior conversation was on Ariana’s own terms and in her own voice. In February 2017, Ariana appeared on podcast The Tomorrow Show when VPR veteran Scheana Marie co-hosted. During the interview, Ariana confirmed she had “partook in the lady pool,” but stressed the experience was “more involved” than “let’s kiss in front of boys.” Again, it’s clear how much Ariana wants to stress her sexuality exists outside of the male gaze.
“I think sexuality is more fluid than the labels people put on it,” Ariana explained, adding she views herself “somewhere in the middle” of the Kinsey Scale.
The entire interview stands as the open-hearted version of Ariana’s tense “Housewarming” argument with Sandoval. In the episode, she throws her boyfriend out of the bar the moment he loudly says she previously had a girlfriend as an awful defense for his initial betrayal. Ariana is obviously upset Sandoval is sharing even more of her business in front of cameras without asking her permission. However, on Tomorrow, where Ariana could divulge as much or as little as she wanted, she confirmed she had an “attraction” with a best friend. During that period, Ariana and her friend also worked through romances with men and bigger life problems.
“I don’t want to make the other person … feel weird,” Ariana added, trying to limit the exposure of the former “complicated” relationship. This guarded answer also helps explain why Ariana becomes upset when Sandoval brings up her former relationship with “a girl” during Vanderpump: it sounds like the woman in question doesn’t want to be the subject of public conversation. Sandoval blabbing to gossip queen Jax Taylor on national television about Ariana’s sexuality only puts that private individual at risk.
During the Tomorrow interview, you can see the difference between Ariana’s reaction to speaking about her former hookup and a makeout session she shared with none other than Scheana Marie. At one point, Scheana reminds her co-star they kissed in Las Vegas when Ariana and Sandoval first began dating. This time, she’s an open book (because Scheana is an open book). “We were so drunk,” Ariana says with a laugh, before reiterating once again the hook up occurred when the women were “off on their own,” away from the prying eyes of men like Sandoval and BFF Tom Schwartz. The guys only realized Ariana and Scheana were kissing when they accidentally “discovered” them somewhere in a casino.
All together, it’s a fun conversation between friends. If Lala Kent and Ariana had shared the same type of conversation on a different podcast, it would have been an appropriate opportunity for both of them to talk about their sexuality in public. As we see in “Housewarming,” Lala, whose sexual history Sandoval also rudely broadcast, only confirms her hookup with Ariana once they verbally discuss how much of their story they want to share with the world. “If you would have told me, ‘Nope, it didn’t happen,’ I would have been like, ‘I got your back. We lying ‘til the death,’” Lala promises Ariana.
On the other hand, Sandoval decided to use their encounter as a weapon since he was “annoyed” by it, as he says twice during “Housewarming Divided.” As someone in a monogamous coupling, Sandoval’s irritation over his girlfriend’s extra-relationship romps is justified. Using them against Ariana in front of Bravo producers and West Hollywood’s loudest mouths, is not.
We can take solace in knowing Sandoval’s classic end-of-episode “You’re my treasure” tears suggest he’ll never make such a huge mistake again.