When “Vanderpump Rules” returned for season 11 on January 30, with viewers and cast members alike still reeling from what could be one of reality television’s most shocking scandals: the revelation that Tom Sandoval he was cheating on his long time girlfriend Ariana Madix with his co-star Raquel Leviss, who was quickly considered the #Scandoval.
Although Sandoval and Madix separated as a couple in March 2023, the season premiere showed that the two still live in their Valley Village home, maintaining a no-contact policy. It’s safe to say that this has made a tense breakup even more so; for example, in the second episode of the season, “The Ultimate Betrayal”, in which Sandoval is almost banned from having a birthday party at the house because Madix disapproves.
Providing comic relief during the episode, which highlighted the former couple’s awkward dynamic, was Sandoval’s now-former assistant Ann Maddox. Among her many responsibilities, she helped Sandoval and Madix communicate with each other (for which she might deserve a Nobel Peace Prize) and had the infamous task of repairing a broken penis flute.
Because Maddox signed a confidentiality agreement with Sandoval, this interview was conducted via email and there were some questions she did not answer. She skipped one, for example, about whether Sandoval would have been so horribly late for her “Viall Files” interview if she had still been her assistant.
However, Maddox answered many of our questions and shared with Variety how she became Sandoval’s assistant, when she found out about the cheating scandal, how improv helped her navigate “stressful” work scenarios, and about her new podcast with Amanda Lifford about assistant culture called “We Signed an Agreement confidentiality”.
How did you become Tom Sandoval’s assistant and when did you start?
I was working at the Greek Theater before the pandemic, but when everything shut down, I desperately needed a job. She had a lot of previous experience as an assistant, babysitter, and organizer (she went to people’s homes and organized rooms, garages, etc.). So when I posted on my Facebook that I needed a job and my experience, a mutual friend immediately contacted me and told me that she knew someone who needed an assistant. I applied, had a quick interview with Tom, and got the job! I officially started working for him in December 2020.
How did you find out about the cheating scandal?
I was in Japan with my good friend Oscar Montoya (with whom I do improv comedy at the UCB Theater) and we were teaching an improv workshop at my old high school in Tokyo. I’m half Japanese and was born/raised there. Also, my father had just passed away, so he wanted to revisit my hometown and reminisce about my childhood memories. It was very early in the morning, I guess, because of the time difference. But Oscar and I were sleeping when my phone started ringing with a million text messages. My friends asked me if I had heard the news and if I was okay. At that time, I saw on the Internet that it had snowed in Los Angeles, and for some reason, in the middle of my dream, I thought everyone was panicking about the snow. And then my dear friend Molly, while texting, realized that she had no idea what was going on, so she sent me a link to an article about the scandal. At first, I didn’t believe it and dismissed it as sensational rumors, but she explained to me that it was all real. And that turned my world upside down. I was shocked and totally confused. Oscar does an incredible job of telling this experience from his point of view on Amanda and I’s podcast. “We signed a confidentiality agreement,” and he’s a better storyteller than me, so I hope people watch it!
Did it bother you that Tom cheated on you? What was so special about weathering that?
Honestly, I was devastated. I also talk about this in the pod, but as a personal assistant you spend many hours with your boss and his family. They become like family too! Some of my best memories were working late into the night at their house, being with them both, helping them pack for a trip, or all of that. Especially going through a pandemic together, you become close. There was a level of trust and security in allowing people into your home back then and I deeply appreciated them letting me in. I still do it! I had also just lost my father around that time, and I am the son of divorced parents, so when I found out, I felt very, very sad and confused. Maybe I was unconsciously reliving some old trauma of mine, but I definitely felt like I had just discovered something I never would have imagined in a million years about a family member.
What did you think of Rachel Leviss?
People have multiple dimensions, and when you like someone and you discover something about them that hurts to hear, it can be difficult to bring those two sides of someone together. Maybe I’m overly sensitive, but am I still processing it?
Are you listening to her podcast, “Rachel Goes Rogue?”
Am! Part curiosity, part trying to figure out my own feelings, and part really interested in his journey through his therapy. As someone who does a lot of therapy, I think it’s helpful to leave space, to give people the benefit of the doubt when they’re trying to do better, not for anyone else but for themselves. The hope is that we can all evolve into better humans, right? But also, I just want to add, I think it’s very important to make space for people who were hurt/victimized by situations like this, and allow them to do what they need to feel safe.
Were you there for the recording of the meeting? If so, how was it?
I do not want. I love the show, I’m a Bravo fan and the reunions are epic events. If I could be a fly on the wall…
Did you feel like you were stuck in the middle or that you had to act as a therapist between Tom and Ariana after the breakup?
It was a tricky situation and I’ll let viewers watch the show and judge for themselves!
When handling communications between Tom and Ariana, did you keep things word for word or did you alter the tone at all?
I guess a little of both? The goal, as a personal assistant, is to get your boss what he needs. So can I take some liberty in asking, because I prefer to approach situations with the utmost civility and politeness? I am Japanese. What can I say, it’s part of my culture and embedded in my DNA!
What was the energy like at Tom’s birthday party? How did it feel to organize a celebration for him just months after the scandal occurred?
As the episode shows, I wasn’t there, so I couldn’t see it! I focused on preparations and then “dived in” to feed my cat!
Did your improv background help you be the go-between on camera with Tom and Ariana?
Improvisation helps a lot. Especially as an assistant! It may be a silly thing to say, but the basic principle of “yes and…” and simply agreeing, listening and accepting someone’s feelings and needs before responding is simply a useful tool in life. It also helps keep calm in stressful situations. Because in improvisation you have to be prepared for anything!
Let’s talk about the penis flute. Did Tom ask you to fix it? What was that exchange like?
Ariana shared on the show that Tom asked me to fix it, so yeah.
What is it like to see yourself on television?
Wow. I have a funny voice, I make funny faces, what am I wearing, why is my hair like that, oh my god, is this what I look like? Is that lipstick on my teeth? And it goes on and on and on…
What kind of feedback have you received from fans who are on the show?
Everyone is so nice and kind and cool and it’s exciting because I love fan accounts and Reddit. They are all so smart and funny. It’s so much fun being a Bravoholic and it’s wonderful to feel a little closer to the world! It’s a great club to be a part of! From time to time, of course, there will be someone who is not happy, but that’s life. What can you do?
I understand you no longer work for Tom. When did he resign and why? And what are you doing now?
I can’t tell you yet, but tune in to my podcast “We Signed a Non-Disclosure Agreement” to see everything I’m up to. It’s a passion project and Amanda and I love exploring the world of assistant life in Hollywood. We are fascinated by the up/down dichotomy and how it works, especially since we are a part of it.
Come to think of it, that was the origin of the “Vanderpump” series, so it’s coming full circle! Assistants become bosses and the cycle continues, but each generation evolves a little and we love to immerse ourselves in all aspects of it. Other than that, you can still catch me doing improv and sketch comedy around town, and if you’re interested in my on-camera work, I’ve been lucky enough to play comedic roles in commercials and television, so check it out! And I hope to continue doing it because it really is the most fun.
I mean, I have to do a commercial with SHAQ and I GET PAID! How cool is that?! I can brag about that a little bit, right?
This interview has been edited and condensed.