Taylor Armstrong Went Through 'So Much Trauma' on 'RHOBH', Promises a 'Different Side' on 'RHOC'

Being part of RHOC's upcoming 17th season, Armstrong tells PEOPLE she's "having fun and speaking my truth" after dealing with "so much drama" while on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills

Taylor Armstrong
Photo: Jason Mendez/Getty

Despite Taylor Armstrong's earliest days as a Bravolebrity being shadowed by darkness, she's excited to start a new chapter with the Real Housewives franchise.

The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills alum, 51, tells PEOPLE at BravoCon 2022 she's "really excited" to join the cast of The Real Housewives of Orange County — becoming the first Housewife ever to make the jump across cities.

"The difference for me is I went through so much trauma when I was on Beverly Hills," Armstrong says. "And now I'm getting to have such a fresh perspective of just being with the ladies and having fun and speaking my truth and not being concerned about what it's like to actually go home at the end of the day."

Armstrong, who filed for divorce from late ex-husband Russell Armstrong in July 2011, previously told PEOPLE she was verbally and physically abused during their nearly six-year marriage. One month after the reality star filed for divorce, Russell died by suicide.

"When I was on Beverly Hills, I had a friend of mine call me [during] season 1 and said, 'I don't know who that girl is on that show, but it's not you. Like, I've known you for 20 years, and you seem nothing like yourself.' I really was having so much drama at home with my marriage and the abuse in my life that I didn't really get a chance to be myself," she admits.

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Armstrong says it now feels "freeing to just be like, 'Here's who I am,' " adding: "People are going to get to know a different side of me."

The OG Housewife, who says she is "a huge advocate for victims and survivors" of domestic violence, explains that "you become like a shell of yourself" when experiencing abuse.

"You're constantly changing in order to keep your abuser at bay, to keep the lid on the pot from boiling over. And so you start to take pieces of yourself away. You don't laugh as much, maybe you don't talk as much, and you just start to chip away at who you are. And I just became a ghost, really, at that point," Armstrong tells PEOPLE.

"And when I watched season 1 of Beverly Hills, I was like, 'Eek!' I was like a Stepford Wife. It was just weird to even watch myself realizing I had lost a lot of laughter and a lot of life. So now that I have it back, I'm excited for the fans and the viewers and people who are also coming off of the domestic violence situation to know there is life after."

In August, PEOPLE confirmed that Armstrong would be joining RHOC for its upcoming 17th season as a Friend on the show.

Armstrong was one of the founding members of RHOBH when it premiered in 2010. She remained on the show as a Housewife for the first three seasons and has appeared as a guest many times since.

The reality star married attorney John Bluher, 64, in 2014 and moved to Orange County where they live with Kennedy, her 16-year-old daughter from her marriage to ex-husband Russell.

In June, Armstrong returned to reality TV on Peacock's The Real Housewives Ultimate Girls Trip Ex-Wives Club. She starred in the series alongside RHOC legends Vicki Gunvalson and Tamra Judge as well as her one-time RHOBH costar Brandi Glanville, former RHONY Housewives Dorinda Medley and Jill Zarin, Real Housewives of Atlanta alums Phaedra Parks and Eva Marcille.

Following the news, Judge celebrated Armstrong's return to the Real Housewives franchise.

Taylor Armstrong, Tamra Judge
Noam Galai/Peacock via Getty

The Vena CBD owner, 55, shared a photo of she and Armstrong on social media from June's Ultimate Girls Trip premiere party in NYC.

"Not only am I returning to RHOC for season 17 but my girl Taylor Armstrong is joining me along for the ride," Judge wrote. "Double the trouble coming your way."

Armstrong responded to Judge's post, writing on Twitter, "Here we gooooo!!!!" alongside a sea of emoji.

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Production on season 17 of RHOC began in July, and BravoCon 2022 is taking place through Sunday at the Jacob Javits Center in New York City.

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