Dirty Work: Lisa Rinna Speaks Her Truth
EXCLUSIVE! RINNA SPEAKS! After eight blockbuster seasons bringing the pain on my favorite franchise, Lisa Rinna just announced her departure from The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. I felt that we the people needed more info, so I DM’d Rinna and offered a sit-down. She very generously accepted. No publicist, no demands, just down to hang. So, after pilates and therapy, Rinna joined me at my friends house in Cahuenga Pass for a glass of water and a juicy conversation about her decision to leave the show, her current standing with Kim and Kathy, her “cat and mouse game” with Lisa Vanderpump, who’ll play the villain in her stead, and much, much more.
MEL OTTENBERG: So, Lisa Rinna just came over. Where’d you come from?
LISA RINNA: Pilates, then therapy.
RINNA: So I’m not cute, but I’m real.
OTTENBERG: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
RINNA: I’m in LA mode.
OTTENBERG: Would you like a glass of water?
RINNA: I would love one. Thank you. Why not?
OTTENBERG: We met at a catastrophic fashion show in Paris. We talked about Housewives. I actually had a tear in my eye after talking to you, because you gave me so much hot tea that I was like, “I’m the luckiest homosexual alive today.” And now you have announced—
RINNA: That I have left the show after eight years, which is a long time.
OTTENBERG: That’s multiple eras.
RINNA: I look at it as an era, for sure. This is the longest job I’ve ever had in my 35-year career. As an actor, you don’t usually get to work on a show for eight years. You might get five or six, but not many people work on a show for eight years. It’s just unheard of in our business.
OTTENBERG: How do you feel?
RINNA: Well, I feel lots of things. It’s always a scary thing to decide to leave something. But I always know when I need to do something. What happened was I left, really, right after the reunion. People don’t know that. But I let everybody know right after the reunion that I was going to move on, that was going to be it.
RINNA: I had a rough year. I never think, “Oh wow. It’s just such a rough year, and I’ll never be able to handle it again.” I can always come back and handle something. But something has gotten to the Housewife Universe because of what’s going on in the world, and it’s reflected in the way the fans react to the world of Housewives. And I just think it’s unhealthy. It wasn’t working for me. It wasn’t right for me.
OTTENBERG: Can you take me through what it was like to be on Season 12 of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, day-to-day?
RINNA: You get a call maybe the day before to show up somewhere. It’s planned where you’re going to go. What’s not planned is what’s going to happen. So let’s say I get a call that I’m going to go meet Kyle Richards for lunch at this restaurant. So that’s what you do.
RINNA: So you go, and then you may have a producer there that says, “Okay, this is what just happened” or “We’re going to talk about this” or “We’d like to talk about this,” but there’s no direction. Or maybe it’s a catch-up. You haven’t seen Kyle in a while. You’re going to catch up. And then what comes out of your mouth drives a story.
OTTENBERG: And was the vibe last season a real fucked-up vibe?
RINNA: No, it wasn’t. Not at all. No. Here’s the thing. I love filming. Filming’s fun. What is not so fun is the airing of the show.
RINNA: Filming is one thing. But once you see it, once it goes out into the universe, that I don’t love, because it takes on a life of its own. When filming, you have your drama, but it’s contained in a sense. And once it goes out, you get opinions and all the stuff that goes on, that’s the part I don’t like. Does that make sense?
OTTENBERG: We all know that the editing of the show is genius. But sometimes, you’re edited well, other times, you’re edited to be assassinated.
RINNA: Here’s the thing. We all know what we’re doing. We all know that they have the power in the edit. You do not have power in the edit whatsoever. Of course, if you get a nicer edit, you’re happier. Listen, if I could tell my story the way it really, really, really happens, that would be fabulous, wouldn’t it?
RINNA: That doesn’t happen for anybody. There’s not one person on that cast that feels completely validated and says, “Oh, yes, you’re seeing me for exactly who I am.” It’s just not part of what you’re going to do with eight people. They’re brilliant at what they do. Are there times that I have liked some years more than others? Yes.
OTTENBERG: Right. And how did you feel about this year?
RINNA: I fucking hated this year. For a lot of reasons. My mom died, we all know that. But that’s not the biggest reason. The story just didn’t get told as two-sidedly as I would’ve liked. How about that?
OTTENBERG: It seemed like the tea never really got spilled.
RINNA: It really didn’t. It was unfortunate that there weren’t cameras in Aspen. It was something that happened so spontaneously. In the moment, I didn’t think to turn on my voice memos. When somebody’s having a nuclear breakdown, you don’t think, “Oh, I should be filming this.” That doesn’t come across your mind. When you’ve actually tried to save somebody and get somebody out of a club because they were hurting themselves, you think, “What the fuck do I do? Do I call the police? I don’t know what to do.” So yes, it was unfortunate that in this sprinter van, there were no cameras. Because we were done filming. We’d shut down.
RINNA: That wasn’t meant to be shown, but it happened. And if you’re dealing with me or you’re dealing with Erika, we’re going to tell the truth. All I ever did was tell the truth.
OTTENBERG: Do you have any hypotheses about why it was edited like that? Erika looks really bad in Season 12, as far as I’m concerned.
RINNA: I’m just talking about myself.
OTTENBERG: As a viewer I’m like, “Oh, Erika, looks pretty bad. She looks wasted. She looks indifferent to the plight of others. Maybe she looks like a bit of a sociopath.” And Kathy doesn’t land all of her punchlines, but it doesn’t really matter. Do you think that’s just because she’s newer on the cast, so she’s in a honeymoon period?
RINNA: I think it’s more complicated than that. I think that certain people got involved. I’m going to tread very lightly. But I think certain people got involved that could maybe quiet the story, could make certain things go away. A whole other level of stuff went down to make sure that that person was protected.
RINNA: I think it’s pretty obvious. There’s a smear campaign that went on online against me. It was all very calculated. And there was a person on payroll doing that.
OTTENBERG: I guess it was successful.
RINNA: In a way, maybe. But not really, because I survived it. It didn’t ruin my career or cancel me.
OTTENBERG: Of course not.
RINNA: But here’s the thing. You got to see the tail of the monster. She just showed her tail.
OTTENBERG: As a human, how do you get over that kind of beef?
RINNA: I’ve done this for eight years. We saw Kathy at the People’s Choice Awards. Harry said to me, “You really should just say hi to her and just try to move on from this because it’s not going to do either one of you any good.” So at the People’s Choice Awards, I saw her. We had already had moments together where we didn’t talk and didn’t even acknowledge one another. And I said, “Hi Kathy, how are you? You look great.” And it broke the ice. She and I were chatting with Erika and I give her a lot of credit for showing up to the reunion, because she could have run like Lisa Vanderpump did. But she came and she fought. She’s got balls and I respect that she stood up for what she wants people to believe and what she believes in. And I felt good about seeing her and going, “Hey, we kind of went through the fire together and here we are. We’re still standing. We’ve been nominated for an award. We do a TV show and it’s time to move along.”
OTTENBERG: I’ve had some fun sit-downs with Kathy Hilton. I love Kathy Hilton.
RINNA: Listen, Kathy Hilton is great. There are great things about Kathy Hilton. As her sister Kim said to her, “Just don’t lose your temper on the show.”
OTTENBERG: Well, if we’re obsessed with season 12 of a television show, y’all are doing something right.
RINNA: It’s the number one show on Bravo and in the Real Housewives universe. Something’s working. I’ve always just shown up and done my job.
OTTENBERG: You’re owning it, as you would say.
RINNA: Because that’s what you’re supposed to do.
OTTENBERG: If you guys all just got along, it would be the most boring shit on earth.
RINNA: When I talk about the Bravo-verse and the social media universe, it has infected everybody, because everyone wants to be liked so much. And I understand that. We all want to be liked. But when you become a fan favorite and all of a sudden people are really loving you, it’s very hard to drop that.
RINNA: You’re in a lunch moment with me. You go, “Well, I don’t want to be the bad guy. I don’t want to bring up what needs to be talked about.” I don’t censor myself. I don’t think, “Oh man, if I do this, I’m fucked and no one’s going to like me and I’m just going to ruin everything.” I just do what the job requires. Some years, it’s more successful than others. This year, if you really look at it, I was no more terrible than I’ve ever been. I raised my voice to Sutton Stracke twice. Big fucking deal. Look at Erika’s behavior. Our behavior is similar, but to single out this year—
OTTENBERG: I think her behavior is worse, for the record.
RINNA: Okay, fine. But to single out my behavior this year as being horrific. I mean, did you see me in Amsterdam? I think it was just a conscious effort where people went, “Okay, you know what? We’re tired of her.” Because I wasn’t that bad. I was no worse than I’ve always been.
OTTENBERG: Amsterdam is one of the greatest moments in television history.
RINNA: Thank you.
OTTENBERG: Was that anger real?
RINNA: One million percent. Just so you know, we sat down not five minutes before that. We hadn’t even ordered. We’d gotten our drinks. They even pre-ordered our drinks, I think. But you get into that bubble and things are bubbling up and she had pissed me off and I had pissed her off so much up until that point. And this is the final trip. So you already have three-and-a-half months, almost four months of stuff, right?
OTTENBERG: Right. She was already so under your skin that it just set you off.
RINNA: So deep, and she knew. They knew exactly what to tell her to say, which they did. I mean, she has said to me, “I know there was nothing.”
OTTENBERG: They fed her?
RINNA: Well, they know what your buttons are by that point.
OTTENBERG: How often is it scripted like that?
RINNA: It’s not scripted, but they do help goose it along.
OTTENBERG: They get in your ear.
RINNA: They got in her ear and they basically said, “We need you to do something,” that’s my guess. “We need you to set Rinna off.” And she knew exactly the trigger because I had said how protective I am of my family.
OTTENBERG: I want to talk about cocaine in the bathroom. Because that’s even better.
RINNA: I have a lot of great moments.
OTTENBERG: You do. But the thing about that moment is, she’s pissing you off at the dinner and then that just popped in your head like, “You know what? I’ve been really nice but…”
RINNA: Well also, because they had been accusing me over my fucking pill bag. Remember?
OTTENBERG: Xanax smoothies?
RINNA: And then I tease Eden Sassoon and I say, “Throw Xanax in your smoothie.” So they were behind the scenes talking about me being a drug addict.
OTTENBERG: A pill head.
RINNA: Exactly. It was Vanderpump who wanted this narrative out there that I was a pill head, or whatever. And Dorit had came on as her friend. And that’s how it played out.
OTTENBERG: And you guys became friends after that?
RINNA: Super close.
OTTENBERG: Which moment is better?
RINNA: Well, you can’t touch Amsterdam. That would never happen in real life. That will never happen again. I don’t even know what happened in that moment, but I’m just glad I didn’t fucking strangle her, because I cross over that table and I remember thinking to myself, “Don’t touch her. You’ll go to jail and you’re in fucking Amsterdam. You’ll never get out.” That’s what stopped me. And remember, I go for her neck.
RINNA: I can’t even believe I’m saying this. I went for her neck. And somehow I pulled myself back thinking, “I’m going to prison if I touch her.”
OTTENBERG: And you just touched on Vanderpump. Ding dong.
RINNA: Well, that’s what everybody said when she left the show.
OTTENBERG: She seems to really blame you for “Lucy, Lucy, Apple Juicy,” et cetera.
RINNA: Well, you know what? I just called her out on it. Kyle [Richards] called her out. Teddi [Mellencamp] called her out. She and I always had a really great cat and mouse game that we played.
RINNA: We were really great together. And then once I really got caught onto what she does, I wasn’t having it. You don’t get to not have your hands dirty. I really saw what she was doing and she liked that.
OTTENBERG: There must be some people where you’re like, “I cannot be left in a room alone with these people.”
RINNA: Well, when it gets really intense, it’s real. That’s why it’s so difficult. It’s not a script. I’m not playing a character. I mean, I’m playing a version of myself, because you don’t get all of us. You get a certain amount of us, in the juxtaposition of throwing us all together. I don’t have to react to that in real life because I don’t get that in real life. So, it’s putting yourself in a position where you have to react to what you’re getting, and it’s not normal circumstances. And at the end of the day, I’ve always been able to remember it’s a TV show. We can love or hate each other, but we’re still making a TV show together.
OTTENBERG: Now that you’re off the show, do you know who your friends and your enemies are?
RINNA: Oh, yeah.
OTTENBERG: Is no one your enemy? Because it’s all theater?
RINNA: Oh, no. There are enemies right now. There are enemies and they morph. I’ve had enemies come and go, too, and enemies that I move on with and we make up.
OTTENBERG: Can you be more specific?
RINNA: Well, I’ve had my moments with Denise Richards and Yolanda [Foster]. And I’ve gone to both of them and I’ve apologized because I think that what happens in the moment on the show is one thing. I don’t necessarily want to carry toxicity. I can clean up my side of the street. I might not be chatting with Kathy Hilton, but then I was at the People’s Choice Awards. So it evolves and it changes. But it can go on. It’s women, my god. They’ll take it to their fucking grave.
OTTENBERG: Do you think Brandi [Glanville] is really coming back?
RINNA: I don’t know. I don’t know.
OTTENBERG: She’s such a villain.
RINNA: Brandi is great in little bits of pieces, little doses of her.
OTTENBERG: I don’t know if she could handle a whole season. I couldn’t sit down with Brandi. But I loved hating Brandi on the show, she’s valuable.
RINNA: I think Brandi is great. And so valuable. And again, we were not speaking, we did not have a relationship, and now we do.
RINNA: When you go through really bad shit with people, it either stays bad or it can evolve and get better. And I always try to go to a better place if it’s possible.
OTTENBERG: So this season, do you have anything to apologize for?
RINNA: No, I don’t. I’ve thought a lot about it. I already apologized to Sutton [Stracke] at the reunion saying, “Yeah, I had some moments with you that weren’t cool.” But I didn’t do anything other than tell the truth. And when I screamed at Sutton, I apologized in the moment at the dinner. And at my house, I was drunk after the wine tasting. These are not excuses, they just are. I still think it’s really shitty what she did, trying to put this ticket thing on us.
OTTENBERG: Who are you still super cool with? Or do you just want everything Housewives to go away?
RINNA: Well, I think everything Housewives has to go away for a while, which is good. I don’t need to hang out with anybody. I have my relationship with Erika off-camera and that’s great. Dorit and Kyle, too. But I’m good. I’m good to take a break. It’s time for a break. Not a pause, I don’t go on pause. You don’t put me on pause. I go bye-bye. You know what I’m saying?
OTTENBERG: Yes. I’m going to get to a few fan questions.
RINNA: I like a fan question. This is better than Andy.
OTTENBERG: You hear that, Andy? You fucking hear that, Andy Cohen?
RINNA: I love you, Andy Cohen. But this is more fun.
OTTENBERG: This is from Patrik Sandberg. How are things with you and Andy?
RINNA: They’re good.
OTTENBERG: How are things with you and Denise?
OTTENBERG: How are things with you and Kim?
RINNA: I haven’t seen her in a while. Last time they were fine.
OTTENBERG: How is sex with Harry Hamlin?
RINNA: How do you think?
OTTENBERG: What happened with Vanderpump, between Munchausen’s and Lucy Lucy Apple Juicy?
RINNA: I was too new at the time to realize that that’s the story they wanted to push and I took the bait.
OTTENBERG: Producers wanted to push Munchausen’s by Proxy?
RINNA: Well I don’t know if it was producers, but it was Vanderpump and a little bit of Kyle. And I didn’t realize it at the time because they’re so fucking good at it. So I just jumped right into it. Vanderpump would call me in the morning for days and feed… They feed you. It’s like a fucking brainwashing. I’m not even kidding. And I took the bait. I did exactly what they wanted me to do.
RINNA: And then she thought she could get away with it with Apple Lucy Juicy Bucy Pucy, and she didn’t. Because I was already onto her.
OTTENBERG: They groomed you once and it didn’t work another time. And it was a fatal mistake.
RINNA: Well, not really. She could have fought her way through that.
RINNA: What a pussy. She didn’t show up to the reunion, boo-hoo.
OTTENBERG: She could have also just been like, “Whatever, I was just doing my job.”
RINNA: She caused herself much more [trouble] than needed, if you ask me.
OTTENBERG: I guess it’s safe to say that there’s not much of a relationship there with LVP?
RINNA: There’s zero there. There’s zippo, zip, zilch.
OTTENBERG: Who do you think is going to have a tough time next on Real Housewives of Beverly Hills?
RINNA: I think Sutton and Garcelle are going to have a tough time, because they’re going to have to show up and work.
RINNA: I did a lot of work. Because I’m a worker bee and I’ll just do it. I’ll say it. I don’t have any fear. If you’re so liked, you’re not going to want to do the work. So who’s going to do the work over there? That’s my question. Who’s doing the work? Who’s going to say, “I heard you said this about me.” Who’s going to do that? You tell me. Who’s going to do that over there?
OTTENBERG: Kyle’s not going to do that.
OTTENBERG: Although Kyle would crush if, in her 13th season, she was down to become the villain. I would gag for that. That would be fucking cool.
RINNA: I would gag for it on so many levels. She’s sharp and she’s fast.
OTTENBERG: She’s Switzerland.
RINNA: She just wants to be liked too much.
OTTENBERG: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
RINNA: I love her, but I say that to her face. She’s too worried about what people think about her.
OTTENBERG: But you can’t just become that. You’re a natural at getting in trouble and being iconic. So who can do the dirty work?
RINNA: I don’t think you can count Erika. Because Erika shouldn’t have to do anything.
OTTENBERG: At this moment, her life is the work. The drama of actually existing and being Erika Jayne is work enough.
RINNA: Yeah, I agree.
OTTENBERG: Can we ask for more?
RINNA: No, and this is what I wish for Erika. That she can sit there and roll her eyes and be iconic and look at her phone and be bored with these bitches. Because that’s all she needs to do, is react to what they give her. But unfortunately, they don’t have much to give. So I don’t know what’s going to happen over there.
OTTENBERG: Crystal can’t do the dirty work. She doesn’t have the stomach for it.
RINNA: She’s too young, by the way. I will give Crystal the benefit of the doubt and say she’s too young.
RINNA: You’ve got to be a more hardened bitch like we are to do this show. She’s like a baby dolphin and we are sharks.
OTTENBERG: Is Sutton a shark? Is Garcelle a shark?
RINNA: Oh, yes. They are.
OTTENBERG: Our hope is that Garcelle and Sutton become truly iconic by being comfortable with being villainous.
RINNA: Well, they just need to be who they really are. They are that, but they just have to let go of this facade they created.
OTTENBERG: I would like Dorit to work a little harder. I feel like she’s been drinking too many Xanax smoothies.
RINNA: Well, she had a rough year. And what’s nice is they’re giving her a chance. Dorit’s got it in her.
OTTENBERG: I’m into Dorit.
RINNA: We love her.
OTTENBERG: We love you, Dorit. But also we need you to step it up now that we lost Rinna.
RINNA: Maybe they’ll bring in a great wildcard or somebody unknown. That’s what they need. I think doing that is better than revisiting somebody from the past.
OTTENBERG: We the people deserve a new Brandi.
RINNA: If worse comes to worst and they got nothing five weeks or six weeks into filming, they should call Brandi.
RINNA: That will be an immediate fix, right? But I still think that somebody new and fresh should come in. But it’s very hard to find somebody who is a good Housewife. It’s a brutal job.
OTTENBERG: Who are other Rinna-level Housewife GOATs you want to mention?
RINNA: NeNe Leakes.
RINNA: Bethenny Frankel.
OTTENBERG: Absolutely incredible.
RINNA: I think Kelly Dodd was great.
OTTENBERG: Who’s that?
RINNA: Kelly Dodd was on Orange County. Sonja [Morgan] and Ramona [Singer]. I mean, these are legends. These are legends in the world of Housewives. And Kenya Moore.
OTTENBERG: Teresa [Giudice].
RINNA: Those are the goats to me.
OTTENBERG: Any final words of wisdom to the bad bitches out there?
RINNA: God, I wouldn’t change any of it. I’m grateful for the experience. I am who I am before it, during it, after it. I learned a lot, man. And I can go up against anybody in the fucking world right now. I mean, I never would’ve had that if I hadn’t had this experience. The tools that it gave me as a bad bitch, you can’t really cross me. I mean, you can, but…
OTTENBERG: But should you?
RINNA: You shouldn’t, no.