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Raquel Leviss says she feels she has been ‘portrayed as the ultimate villain’ in ‘Scandoval’

She also opened up about why she is now going by "Rachel" instead of "Raquel."
/ Source: TODAY

Raquel Leviss is sharing her take on “Scandoval.”

The reality star, 28, opened up about her affair with her “Vanderpump Rules” co-star Tom Sandoval and its aftermath that made headlines earlier this year.

“The concept of an affair hits home, hits really hard to a lot of people,” Leviss told Bethenny Frankel on her iHeart Radio’s “Just B with Bethenny Frankel” podcast Aug. 16. “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 also acknowledged “the hurt” she “brought to a lot of people.”

“I was not careful in my actions and I was not thinking long term,” she said. “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 somebody who I thought I was going to marry. And ending that, I still haven’t healed yet.”

In Season 10 of “Vanderpump Rules,” longtime partners Tom Sandoval and Ariana Madix revealed they were breaking up. Not long after, rumors surfaced that Sandoval had cheated on Madix with Leviss. 

The fallout from the cheating scandal was dramatic, with the aftermath playing out in an explosive three-part reunion. 

As soon as she finished filming the reunion special in April, Leviss checked into a facility for mental health treatment. 

Why Raquel Leviss sought mental health treatment

Leviss says she flew straight to a treatment center in Phoenix after filming her final interview for the Season 10 reunion special.

“It was a really scary decision to make because I knew I needed help, but I didn’t know what to expect going in," she told Frankel.

She said at first, meeting so many new people at the treatment center was overwhelming.

“I was already carrying so much shame that it was difficult for me to be like, ‘Hi, I’m Raquel!’" she said. "But as time went on I was able to warm up and really share my story in an authentic, honest way, and I was met with grace and compassion from my peers, and a big part of my journey is learning to be compassionate with myself as well.”

"Do you forgive yourself?" Frankel asked.

“Yeah, I do," Leviss replied.

Raquel Leviss on learning she has a 'love addiction'

Leviss says she learned more in therapy about what it means to have a love addiction.

“It took me a while to accept, but I learned about love addiction, and it’s a real thing,” she said. “It’s where you confuse intensity for intimacy. … And those chemical changes in the brain are the same chemical changes that happen when you take drugs.

“So it is addictive, and it explains why I couldn’t stop seeing this person,” she added. “It also doesn’t excuse the fact that it happened, but now I know better.”

In a statement shared earlier this year with ET, Leviss also referred to her experiences with love addiction, and opened up about her desire to “end my unhealthy behavioral cycle, learn to set stronger emotional boundaries and learn to protect my mental health.”

“I am reflecting on my choices, speaking to a counselor and I am learning things about myself such as my patterns of codependency and addiction to being and feeling loved,” she said in her statement.

Looking back on that apology, Leviss told Frankel it feels "full circle, in a way, talking about that need to be validated and that wanting to be loved."

Leviss also opened up about her use of alcohol during Season 10.

“So when I was filming, I was drinking a lot to ease that anxiety," she said. "And in a reality TV environment, I wasn’t getting that safe space to express my emotions in a healthy way.”

She said elsewhere in her conversation with Frankel that when she looks back at her time on the show, she doesn't see the person she is today.

“That person that I saw watching back on my TV was someone who’s completely out of character from who I truly am," she said. "And so I feel like having this opportunity to share my side of the story and to represent myself in a way that is true to who I am is all that I could ever ask for."

Why Raquel Leviss is now going by ‘Rachel’

Leviss opened up to Frankel about how her time in therapy changed her outlook — including her decision to begin referring to herself by her birth name, Rachel, instead of Raquel.

“So I changed my name to Raquel in first grade,” she explained. “There were a few other Rachels in my class and I wanted to be special. I also feel like deep down, I wasn’t comfortable in my own skin. I wanted to be somebody better in my eyes. And so Raquel was a way for me to kind of be that person.”

She shared that in therapy, she was asked to write her name on a whiteboard, and she wrote Rachel. 

“(My therapist) was like, ‘Interesting. I see you as Rachel to your core. You’re going by Raquel, which is OK, but it’s not true to who you are. It’s a wall you have up,’” Leviss recalled.

“I feel like most of my life, I’ve been afraid, I’ve struggled with social anxiety, I’ve struggled with judgment for other people. So having a fear of vulnerability makes sense,” she continued. “So I’m really just trying to come back to my roots, and I’m introducing myself as Rachel.”

What Raquel Leviss has to say about her relationship with Ariana Madix

“I don’t expect her to forgive me," Leviss said of Madix. “I am remorseful. I do recognize that I’ve caused her a lot of pain.”

She also reflected on what her past friendship with her "Vanderpump Rules" co-star was like.

“Ariana and I were not best friends," she said. "We were acquaintances who became friends through the show. … We never had a deep conversation that I would have with a best friend. 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.”

Frankel asked Leviss how she felt about Madix being painted as “America’s sweetheart” and receiving endorsement deals and making talk show appearances in the wake of the cheating scandal.

“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," she added.

Leviss also weighed in on Madix and Sandoval's relationship.

“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 said. "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.”