Reality television is the sharpest of double-edged swords. On the one hand, bad behavior is often encouraged for the entertainment of us all, but it can also come at the cost of certain marginalized people while pursuing specific storylines. Vanderpump Rules is no different in this regard, according to one former star who recently revealed the level of toxic behavior on set during her time on the show with the likes of Jax Taylor and Stassi Schroeder.
Billie Lee became the first out transgender star of Vanderpump Rules, and indeed of the entire Bravo network during her two years on the show. She was applauded for her sincerity, but as it turns out, it wasn’t all cocktails and gossip. In fact, she claims that filming the show was detrimental to her mental health, forcing her to leave after Season 7. She said on the 2 Servings of Fruit podcast,
I was around all cis people. They had their own cliques. They had their own groups. It was very catty…I was extremely uncomfortable and depressed…I just felt all these really bad things coming back. I felt like I was literally dropped back in high school, very insecure.
When it comes to her former Vanderpump Rules castmates and crew, Billie Lee believes they came from a place of “cis privilege.” The phrase refers to the privilege given to male-female relationships and traditional gender identities over same-sex relationships and non-binary identities. This dynamic became a huge part of her arc on the show, as it became super obvious that while Lisa Vanderpump’s West Hollywood waitstaff were more progressive than most, they still sometimes lacked empathy and consideration.
The former PUMP server actually described the toxic behavior from Vanderpump Rules figures like Stassi Schroeder and the particular “microaggressions” she faced. She stated that Schroeder would tell others to look at her boobs and questioned how they could possibly be real. This isn’t the first time that Schroeder, who was fired from the show last year, has been accused of insensitive behavior.
Apparently, the production team behind Vanderpump Rules also didn’t quite see the effect that their words and actions had on Billie Lee. She claims that producers actively pushed her to talk about her vagina and body parts on camera, as well as tiptoeing around show veterans like Jax Taylor and his obvious drug use. Though Taylor was “difficult to work with,” Lee implied that the overall experience of being around people determined to not treat her as human was the actual difficult part. She said,
Like my body was on display. I was like an object…I think most of them didn’t understand how hurtful that was. I didn’t even understand it [at the time]. It was just one [experience] after another after another. It was a blessing that I ended that and moved on definitely.
It is possible that the work culture that Billie Lee describes will change or has already changed with the times we are in. Bravo neatly swept its controversial figures under the rug, and Lisa Vanderpump herself hinted that once restaurants pick up again, we might be seeing a totally different Vanderpump Rules, one day.