Raquel Leviss Gushed About Tom Sandoval Before Their Affair Was Exposed: 'He's So in Touch with Himself'

The Bravo reality star opened up about her feeling towards Sandoval on the red carpet last July, months before news surfaced the two were romantically involved

Raquel Leviss publicly expressed her admiration for Tom Sandoval long before news of their affair broke.

The Vanderpump Rules reality star — who made headlines last week when it was revealed that Sandoval and his girlfriend of 9 years, Ariana Madix, had split after she discovered he had been cheating with Leviss — gushed about her feelings for the TomTom owner in a red carpet interview last summer.

"Yeah, I've gotten really close with Scheana [Shay] and Ariana," Leviss, 28, told E! News, in a recently resurfaced video from July 2022 at the opening of Sandoval's cocktail lounge, Schwartz & Sandy's. "And then Sandoval as well. I feel like he's become one of my best friends lately."

When asked what she liked so much about Sandoval, Leviss did not hold back her admiration.

"He just is so in touch with himself and fully accepting of who he is and is so confident and — I don't know, I feel like he looks at me like a little sister and he's supporting me. And you know, [in] just a very kind way that I really, yeah, he's a really great guy," she said, smiling and nodding.

Raquel Leviss, Tom Sandoval and Brittany Cartwright Cauchi attend White Fox After Hours At Delilah Los Angeles
Vivien Killilea/Getty Images

Though Madix only recently discovered Sandoval and Leviss' affair, a source told PEOPLE this week that the secret romance was nothing new.

"This has been going on for upwards of 6 months — all the while, Tom was sleeping next to Ariana in bed," one source told PEOPLE. "She was completely blindsided by this; devastated doesn't even scratch the surface of how she feels."

"This is someone she thought she knew; someone she planned to spend the rest of her life with. You can't even put into words that betrayal," the source added.

Raquel Leviss; Tom Sandoval
Charles Sykes/Bravo via Getty Images; Cindy Ord/Bravo via Getty Images

Madix was with Sandoval on March 1 to see her then-boyfriend's band, Tom Sandoval & the Most Extras, perform in Los Angeles. The two were spotted by onlookers kissing. "She was supporting his new single," a second insider says. "She had no idea any of this was happening behind her back."

She learned about Leviss and Sandoval's alleged affair that night when she discovered a video sexual in nature between the two on his phone. She then began scrolling and saw their history of inappropriate texts.

"Ariana had been there for Raquel when she went through her split with James. She thought they were friends," the second source says. "This isn't something you do to a friend."

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - JULY 19: Tom Sandoval and Ariana Madix attend the Los Angeles Special Screening of Lionsgate's "Midnight In The Switchgrass" at Regal LA Live on July 19, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic)
Tom Sandoval and Ariana Madix. Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic

Also on Wednesday, on the other side of the country, Leviss made an appearance in New York City with Scheana Shay on Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen where she defended her decision to kiss Tom Schwartz, Sandoval's best friend and business partner.

"I'm just trying to live my life and I'm sorry if that offends people but it's not going to stop me from doing what I'm going to do," Leviss said, later giving Andy Cohen a TomTom sweatshirt as a gift.

After the taping, Leviss admitted to Shay the truth about her and Sandoval, a third source told PEOPLE. "Scheana was furious," the source said. "She and all the Vanderpump Rules costars have rallied around Ariana during this time. They can't believe Raquel would do something like that."

Indeed, Shay and nearly every Vanderpump Rules costar from past and present — including Lala Kent, Charli Burnett, James Kennedy, Katie Maloney, Jax Taylor and even Sandoval's ex, Kristen Doute — have all been outspoken on social media, showing Madix their support.

Tom Sandoval and Raquel Leviss attend the "Vanderpump Rules" Party For LALA Beauty Hosted By Lala Kent at Beauty & Essex
Amy Sussman/Getty Images

Fans have been equally outraged, some even turning their ire to Sandoval's establishments, flooding their social media pages with negative comments.

On Saturday, <a href="http://Sandoval spoke out for the first time about the affair, asking fans to direct their anger away from his loved ones, including Schwartz.

"Hey, I fully understand and deserve ur anger and disappointment towards me, but please leave Schwartz my friends and family out of this situation…," Sandoval, 39, wrote, noting that Schwartz "specifically only found out about this very recently, and most definitely did not condone my actions."

"This was a very personal thing," Sandoval stated.

He went on to ask fans to show his businesses some grace. "Schwartz & Sandy's might have my name on it, but also there are 3 other partners and 20 employees, who especially rely on the restaurant for income for them and their families," he said. "Just like TomTom, I'm a small part of a much bigger thing. Please direct ur anger towards me and not them. They did nothing wrong."

Sandoval also apologized to his partners and his employees who "have to suffer for my actions," adding that he will be removing himself temporarily from the businesses. "I will be taking a step back & taking a hiatus out of respect for my employees & partners," he said. "I need some time to address everything else."

"Sorry for everything—," he signed the note.

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Vanderpump Rules airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET on Bravo. The scandal — dubbed "Scandavol" by fans, a term Andy Cohen and show producers have adopted themselves — is expected to play out late this season, cameras going up back on the series over the weekend. The reunion, Cohen said Monday, will tape in two weeks.

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