'Vanderpump' star Lala Kent on Scandoval, ex Randall Emmett and building 'a freaking empire'

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Lala Kent, a cast member of the Bravo reality series "Vanderpump Rules," poses for a portrait at her office in Los Angeles on Tuesday, May 30, 2023. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)

Lala Kent would like to thank her “Vanderpump Rules” co-stars Tom Sandoval and Raquel Leviss. Since their secret monthslong affair — dubbed “Scandoval” — went public in early March, the Bravo reality show’s heat meter has skyrocketed.

First, a primer: “Vanderpump Rules” follows former and current staff of LA restaurants owned by former “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” star Lisa Vanderpump. Sandoval cheated on fellow “VPR” castmate Ariana Madix — the pair had been together for nine years, co-own a home and, this season, Sandoval was filmed making plans to fertilize Madix’s eggs. Madix and Leviss were close friends. By this 10th season, seemingly everyone in the tight-knit, drama-ridden cast had dated, dumped, cheated on, befriended or feuded with each other (and sometimes all of the above).

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Since Scandoval broke, it’s been breathless fodder for social media and mainstream media alike, with viewers combing through episodes to find hints of the affair (they’re there). But the cast members have also capitalized on the drama, with dozens of TV interviews, their own podcasts, endorsement deals and merch sales. Madix, Vanderpump and Kent even attended the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner ("A lot of them said, ‘We have a separate group chat only for (the show),’" Kent says of the politicians who approached the trio).

In an April interview with Howie Mandel, Sandoval complained about his co-stars profiting off his breakup. Kent, though, has some appreciation for him.

“Since Scandoval, (Tom’s) given me so much to work with and I will be forever grateful. I feel like when life hands you something, you’ve got to find the silver lining. We’re having a moment. We have to monetize every second,” Kent, clad in her own merch, said recently over Zoom from her office in Los Angeles.

Sandoval didn't cheat on Kent, but she's not a stranger to betrayal of this kind. She left her former fiance, controversial Hollywood producer Randall Emmett, in late 2021 after allegations surfaced that he had cheated on her throughout their relationship. Kent and Emmett are now embroiled in a custody dispute over their daughter Ocean, now 2.

Emmett’s own problems have snowballed. Known for his “geezer teasers” — low-budget action films starring iconic actors of yesteryear like Bruce Willis — he's been accused of business misconduct and mistreatment of staff. He's also the subject of a new Hulu documentary, “The Randall Scandal: Love, Loathing, and Vanderpump,” produced with the LA Times and ABC News. Kent did not sit for an interview for the documentary (her mother and brother did), but it heavily features clips of her recounting her story elsewhere.

“I had my own situation that was as dark as it gets,” Kent told the AP. “When I start fixating on all the time that I feel I wasted because I’m obviously still upset about everything, I just think of Ocean.”

Emmett has denied all allegations against him.

Ahead of the final episode of the three-part “VPR” reunion, which airs Wednesday, Kent spoke with the AP about building her brand, friendship, sobriety and the time she worked with Al Pacino. Answers have been condensed for brevity and clarity.

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AP: What have your conversations with Ariana Madix been like since her breakup?

KENT: At the very beginning I felt like maybe I was a little too abrupt for her. She needed to take time to process. ... But we do have conversations about how once you’re with someone and you don’t even realize they’re holding you back until you get rid of them and see what your life turns into. So we have we’ve had moments where we like to reminisce and laugh about that, and it’s great that I can make fun of him now in front of her and she thinks I’m funny instead of wanting to, you know, slit my throat (laughs).

AP: You’ve said Tom and Raquel’s affair is triggering for you because you were engaged to be married to Randall Emmett and had a newborn with him when you learned he had allegedly cheated. How did your reaction differ from Ariana’s?

KENT: My guard was immediately up and I was ready for war. You know, it was like “There’s no conversation to be had. This is where I burn your house down to the ground.” There’s a part of me that wishes I did have a little bit of Ariana’s mentality, where she could sit down and have a productive conversation with Sandoval and still slice him every which way, which we all saw in the finale episode.

AP: The “Vanderpump” show really had a resurgence this season, thanks in large part to Scandoval, but Seasons Eight and Nine were kind of lacking. Were you all worried the show was winding down?

KENT: I think every season, especially after Season Eight, when we tried to introduce a new cast is like, “Have we maybe lost it?” Season Nine, we got by the skin of our teeth and people didn’t really take to it. Season 10 we really got by the skin of our teeth and it was absolutely incredible. So every season I go into it like, "I’m going to enjoy this moment because it will not last forever."

AP: Do you worry how next season will be since at this point hardly anyone wants anything to do with Tom and Raquel? How will scenes happen?

KENT: I think about that all the time. Before, even though certain people didn’t like each other, there was always one bridge or another connecting the group. Right now, we are very, very separated so I don’t know how it will look like. I’ll show up and give them Lala, no matter what situation you put me in. I’m just going to be me.

AP: You’ve been upfront about your sobriety. Do any of these stressors with your ex or even the drama on the show make you worry about maintaining that?

KENT: I was already strong in my sobriety. Thank God I became stronger when all of this happened. I know that those days are looming. I’m not saying that I will never have the urge to pick up a drink, I’m only human. I can only be grateful for today when I complete another day of not picking up a drink. But I’m telling you, I wouldn’t be doing anything that I’m doing right now if I were drinking.

AP: You recently signed with talent agency CAA, host a popular podcast, have a beauty, skincare and baby clothes line. What else do you want to accomplish?

KENT: The biggest thing is, I want to turn my brand into a freaking empire. I know that I can do that. I am very inspired by Bethenny Frankel. I watched her since the first season of “The Real Housewives of New York,” sitting in a supermarket, hawking (baked goods) and everyone rejecting it to where she is now. Then to see how she is as a mother and with her charity B Strong, I just feel like she’s got it really figured out.

AP: You’ve also acted. You were in the 2021 movie “American Traitor: The Trial of Axis Sally” (co-produced by Emmett) and had scenes with Al Pacino. What was that like?

KENT: That was a surreal experience and we had the best time. He (Pacino) said to me, “I’m having a lot of fun with you. Let’s do this scene a few different ways.” And I was like, “I’m dreaming right now. How is this my life?” But I’m funny about it because I thought I was really being put in movies because I was a good actress, and then I learned many women who I was on set with were actually hooking up with my fiance. I was like, “Wow, I did not get in this movie because I’m a good actress.” That is a moment that I look back on and I talk to my mom who reassures me a lot. I’m like, “Do you think that (Pacino) said that to me because he meant it?” and my mom talks me off the ledge.