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Taylor Armstrong talks her 'tremendous' evolution since leaving 'RHOBH'

"I now know that I had strength inside of me that I never realized I had," Armstrong, who is starring in "The Real Housewives Ultimate Girls Trip," told TODAY.
Taylor Armstrong in "RHUGT 2."
Taylor Armstrong in "RHUGT 2."Sophy Holland / Peacock

Since leaving “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” in 2013, Taylor Armstrong said she's learned how strong she really is.

Prior to her departure, Armstrong's marital difficulties were depicted (and discussed) on-camera. Armstrong alleges that her ex-husband, Russell Armstrong, was physically and emotionally abusive toward her.

Armstrong filed for divorce from Armstrong in July 2011. A month later, Russell died by suicide, with Season 2 airing weeks after Russell's death. She left the show after Season 3, moving to Vail to "let go of what had happened and try to find (herself) again," she told Bravo.

Camille Grammer and Taylor Armstrong in "RHOBH."
Camille Grammer and Taylor Armstrong in "RHOBH."NBCU Photo Bank / Getty Images

After nearly 10 years away from the cameras, Armstrong is now returning in “The Real Housewives Ultimate Girls Trip: Ex-Wives Club,” which premiered on Peacock on June 23.

Armstrong stars alongside her “RHOBH” foe, Brandi Glanville, Tamra Judge and Vicki Gunvalson of “RHOC;” Dorinda Medley and Jill Zarin of “RHONY;” Phaedra Parks and Eva Marcille of “RHOA."

The cast, which Cohen called his “twisted fantasy”, all converged for a week at Medley’s Bluestone Manor in Massachusetts last fall, setting the stage for a drama-filled series for viewers to take in.

TODAY chatted with Armstrong to hear how she’s evolved since viewers last saw her and all about “RHUGT 2.”

Armstrong’s evolution has been 'tremendous' since her time on ‘RHOBH’

Armstrong said she has changed since viewers last saw her on "RHOBH." She has become an advocate for survivors of domestic abuse, telling TODAY she found “so much strength” for herself and her now-teenage daughter, Kennedy. 

“A friend of mine a long time ago said, you’re going to have to put on your big girl pants and get through this because you’re the only one that can do it for you and Kennedy. I didn’t know if I was going to be able to make it through everything that I had been through. Having done that, I now know that I had strength inside of me that I never realized I had and in other difficult times in my life now I can draw on that strength and know that I’m going to get through it," Armstrong said.

Armstrong chronicled her experience in the memoir "Hiding From Reality." She remarried in 2020.

She compares Dorinda Medley on ‘RHUGT 2’ to a ‘camp director’

Armstrong didn't know many of her "RHUGT 2" co-stars before filming, including host Medley. She admitted she “didn’t know what to expect” from the RHONY star. 

“I didn’t know if she was going to be like a real New York socialite or if she was going to be cool and laid back. She’s a great blend of both. She’s a really great hostess, and she also was like the camp director. I mean, at one point, she had a whistle! She definitely kept us on task and kept us busy, but also was just a ton of fun to be around. So she’s a perfect blend of the two,” Armstrong said.

Armstrong said the season “has a lot of drama, but a lot of fun,” and noted that “the parts that are really special to me are some of the things we did like team-building activities.”

Taylor Armstrong in "RHUGT 2."
Taylor Armstrong in "RHUGT 2."Zack DeZon / Peacock

Armstrong spars with Glanville throughout the series

When Cohen called Armstrong to ask her to join the cast, she said that she was excited — until Cohen asked her if she’d be willing to film with Glanville, her one-time nemesis on “RHOBH.” Armstrong said, “I was like, Andy Cohen, I should have known you had something up your sleeve?”

As she prepared to go to Bluestone Manor, Armstrong was “really nervous” about seeing Glanville, as she “wasn’t sure what direction she was going to go in.

"No one can push my buttons like Brandi," she said. "For some reason, that girl sparks a fire in me that no one else on this planet can do. I think the viewers are going to enjoy the fact that we’re back together, but there’s definitely some sparks.”

Armstrong said that her and Glanville are “good” today, comparing them to a "family that fights.” She said that the original six “RHOBH” ladies (Armstrong, Camille Grammer, Adrienne Maloof, Kim Richards, Kyle Richards, and Lisa Vanderpump) plus Glanville “survived a lot together as a cast,” creating a “bond that will always be there.”

Taylor Armstrong and Eva Marcille on "RHUGT 2."
Taylor Armstrong and Eva Marcille on "RHUGT 2."Zack DeZon / Peacock

She talks about that meme

In a clip released ahead of the premiere, Glanville makes a reference in her confessional to the meme template featuring Armstrong seeming to yell at a cat seated at a table. In the scene, Glanville says, “Taylor is literally yelling at me, but all I can think about is that stupid cat meme.”

Armstrong told TODAY that when she saw the clip, she was “impressed” by Glanville’s characterization of the moment, and said she's aware of the meme's enduring image. On Halloween in 2019, she ran into someone dressed as Smudge, the cat from the meme, and posted a picture from the meeting.

Armstrong gives her take on the Vicki vs. Dorinda drama 

A bond that’s broken between two ladies from 'RHUGT 2'? The relationship between Gunvalson and Medley.

Drama boiled over as press began for ‘RHUGT 2,’ as Gunvalson said on a Bravo Instagram Live that she would be “miserable” living in Bluestone Manor full-time due to it being “old” and in a rural area.

Medley responded, calling out Gunvalson in an Instagram post and saying on her podcast that Gunvalson has no “taste.” She said, “You have to have a taste level to understand a home like Bluestone Manor."

Gunvalson responded in an Instagram comment, saying that Medley is “the nasty one” and reiterating that the experience was “miserable” at Bluestone Manor.

Medley then said that she was ignoring “hundreds of texts” from Gunvalson, and Gunvalson responded in an Instagram comment saying that Medley is an “absolute liar.”

Armstrong told TODAY that she “felt bad for Vicki," because she was going through a breakup from ex-fiancé Steve Lodge while the show was filming.

"On 'Ultimate Girls Trip,' it was a different side of Vicki, which was unfortunate," she said.

Armstrong answers rapid-fire questions about ‘RHUGT 2’ and what’s to come

Armstrong said what viewers need to know as the show premieres.

  • Most likely to cause the drama: Glanville
  • Most likely to make the group laugh: Parks
  • Most likely to tout their own brand: Zarin. “Every time I turned around, Jill had some kind of product,” Armstrong explained. 
  • Best outfits throughout the week: Parks
  • Who else she would want to bring on from the ‘RHOBH’ cast: Kyle Richards, who starred on the first 'RHUGT!' She explained, I always have a blast with Kyle. There’s so much behind the scenes that people never saw on Beverly Hills. Kyle and I lived just a few streets away from one another. Portia (Umansky, Kyle's daughter) and Kennedy would spend the night with each other all the time, and I’d be over at Kyle’s house. We have had so many laughs in our history as friends, and she would have been really fun to have on the trip” Armstrong explained. 
  • Who spills the most tea: Gunvalson. Armstrong explained, “Vicki and I had lunch before we went on the trip. She was like, ‘I don’t want to talk about Steve (Lodge, Gunvalson's ex-fiancé).’ I’m like, ‘I’m good with that.’ Then the first thing she does, we’re barely inside the house, and she’s already telling a story that she and Steve have broken up, and that they haven’t had sex in 13 months. I’m like, didn’t we just have lunch and talk about the fact that we weren’t going to talk about Steve? I was like, Vicki, Vicki, Vicki.”
  • On who she had the most fun with: Marcille and Parks. Armstrong explained, “they were probably the best part of my vacation.”
  • Who is the best team player: Herself
  • Who is the best team player: Herself