When “Vanderpump Rules” returned for Season 11 on Jan. 30, viewers and cast members alike were still reeling from what might be one of reality television’s most shocking scandals ever — the revelation that Tom Sandoval was cheating on longtime girlfriend Ariana Madix with their co-star Rachel Leviss, which was quickly deemed the #Scandoval.
Though Sandoval and Madix split as a couple in March 2023, the season premiere showed the two still live in their Valley Village house, while maintaining a no-contact policy. Safe to say this has made a tense breakup even more so — case in point: the season’s second episode, “The Ultimate Betrayal,” in which Sandoval is nearly barred from having a birthday party at the house because Madix disapproves.
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What provided comic relief during the episode, which highlighted the former couple’s uncomfortable dynamic, was Sandoval’s now-former assistant, Ann Maddox. Among her many responsibilities, she helped Sandoval and Madix communicate with one another (for which she may deserve a Nobel Peace Prize), and infamously had the task of repairing a broken penis flute.
Because Maddox signed an NDA with Sandoval, this interview was conducted over email, and there were a few questions she didn’t answer. She skipped one, for instance, about whether Sandoval would have been so horribly late for his “Viall Files” interview had she still been his assistant.
Yet Maddox responded to plenty of our inquiries, sharing with Variety how she became Sandoval’s assistant, when she learned about the cheating scandal, how improv helped her navigate “stressful” work scenarios — and about her new podcast venture with Amanda Lifford about assistant culture called “We Signed an NDA.”
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. I had a lot of previous experience as an assistant, nanny, and organizer (I would go to people’s homes and organize rooms, garages, and so forth for them). So when I posted on my Facebook that I needed work and my experience, a mutual friend contacted me immediately saying that she knew someone who needed an assistant! I applied, had a quick interview with Tom, and got the job! I started officially working for him December of 2020.
How did you find out about the cheating scandal?
I was in Japan with my good friend Oscar Montoya (who I do improv comedy with at UCB Theater), and we were teaching an improv workshop at my old middle school in Tokyo! I’m half Japanese, and was born/grew up there. Also, my dad had just passed away, so I wanted to revisit my home town, look back on childhood memories. It was super early in the morning, I guess, because of the time difference. But Oscar and I were sleeping when my phone started popping off with a million texts. Friends were asking if I had heard the news, and if I was OK. At the time, I saw on the internet that it had snowed in L.A., and for some reason, in my sleepy haze, thought everyone was panicking over the snow? And then, my dear friend Molly, while texting, realized I had no clue what was happening, so sent me a link to an article about the scandal. At first, I didn’t believe it and kinda brushed it off as tabloid rumors, but she explained to me that it was all real. And that kinda flipped my world upside down. I was in shock and totally confused. Oscar does an incredible job recounting this experience from his point of view on Amanda and I’s podcast “We Signed An NDA”, and he’s a better storyteller than me, so I hope folks check it out!
Were you annoyed when Tom cheated? What was unique about weathering that?
Honestly, I was crushed. I talk about this on the pod too, but as a personal assistant you spend a lot of hours with your boss and their family. They sort of become like family too! Some of my best memories were working late nights at their house, hanging with the both of them, helping them pack for a trip, or whatnot. Especially going through a pandemic together you become close. There was a level of trust and safety in letting people into your home then and I deeply appreciated being let in. I still do! I also had just lost my father around then, and I am a child of divorced parents, so when I found out, I was really, really sad and confused. Maybe I was subconsciously reliving some old trauma of my own, but I definitely felt like I had just found out something I never would have ever guessed 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 find out something about them that hurts to hear, it can be difficult to put those two sides of someone together. Maybe I’m way too sensitive, but I’m still kind of processing it?
Are you listening to her podcast, “Rachel Goes Rogue?”
I am! Part curiosity, part trying to figure out my own feelings, and part really interested in her journey through her therapy. As someone who does a lot of therapy, I think it’s helpful to hold space, give people the benefit of the doubt when they are trying to do better, not for anyone else but for themselves. The hope is that we all can evolve into better humans right? But also, just want to add, I think it’s very important to hold space for the people who were hurt/victimized by situations like this, and allow them to do what they need to, to feel safe!
Were you there for the reunion taping? If so, what was it like?
No. I wish. I love the show, I’m a fan of Bravo, and the reunions are epic events. If I could be a fly on the wall…
Did you feel like you were caught in the middle, or had to act as a therapist between Tom and Ariana post-breakup?
It was a delicate situation, and I will let the viewers watch the show and judge for themselves!
When handling communications between Tom and Ariana, did you keep things verbatim or 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 I may take some liberty in how I ask, because I prefer to approach situations with maximal courtesy and politeness? I’m 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 setting up a celebration for him just months after the scandal had occurred?
As the episode shows, I wasn’t there so I didn’t get to see! I focused on preparations and then “dipped out” to feed my cat!
Did your improv background help you being the on-camera go-between with Tom and Ariana?
Improv helps a lot. Especially as an assistant! It might be a dorky thing to say, but the core principle of “yes and…” and just agreeing and listening and accepting someone’s feelings and their needs before responding is just a helpful tool in life. Also helps in staying calm in stressful situations. Because in improv you kind of have to be ready for anything!
Let’s talk about the penis flute. Did Tom ask you to fix it? How did that exchange go?
Ariana shared on the show that Tom asked me to fix it, so yes.
What’s it like to watch yourself on TV?
Woof. I have a weird voice, I make weird faces, what am I wearing, why is my hair like that, oh my God is that what I look like? Is that lipstick on my teeth? And on and on and on…
What kind of feedback have you gotten from fans being on the show?
Everyone is so nice and kind and cool and it’s exciting because I love fan accounts and Reddit. Everyone is so smart and funny. It’s so fun being a Bravoholic so it’s neat feeling a little closer to the world! It’s a cool club to be a part of! Every now and then, of course, there will be someone who isn’t happy, but that’s life. What can you do?
I understand you don’t work for Tom anymore. When did you resign and why? And what are you doing now?
Can’t spill the beans yet, but please tune into my podcast “We Signed An NDA” to check out 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 upstairs/downstairs dichotomy and how that all works, especially because we are part of it.
Come to think of it, that was the origins of the “Vanderpump” series, so it’s coming full circle! Assistants become bosses and the cycle continues, but every generation evolves a little and we love diving into all sides of it. Other than that, you can continue to see me do improv/sketch comedy around town, and if you are interested in my front of the camera work, I’ve been lucky enough to play comedic roles in commercials and TV so check that out! And I hope to continue to do that cause it truly is the most fun.
I mean, I got to do a commercial with SHAQ and get PAID! How cool is that?! I can brag a little about that right?
This interview has been edited and condensed.
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