Rapidly becoming famous would be a mindfuck akin to the sensation one would feel if they randomly woke up with five tits. Life as you knew it evaporates. You’re born again in the public eye and baptised with unrealistic expectations, constant scrutiny and the inability to exist privately. Essentially, you’re selling your soul to the devil in exchange for a trajectory towards notoriety – and if there’s one person who doesn’t regret their purchase, it’s Stassi Schroeder.
Besides her family’s participation in The Amazing Race, Stassi’s life was, well, dead fucking average and fame-free. Sure, she’s offensively beautiful, was dating someone who looked like a brooding Ken doll, and just so happened to be a server at one of the undeniable queen of reality TV’s restaurants. Pretty cool, right? But even when considered collectively, you wouldn’t deem her existence remarkable.
It wasn’t until Lisa Vanderpump summoned her motley crew of SUR staff in for what they thought was a run-of-the-mill meeting that things started picking up steam. Fast.
They were greeted by LVP (probably gingerly holding sweet lil’ Giggy), producers and Hollywood folk who filled them in on their grand plans to create a new reality franchise following their tumultuous interactions. Those who wanted in were instructed to stick around and be interviewed. Stassi was the last to face the firing squad.
“By the time I sat down they said, ‘We’ve heard a lot about you’,” she told me during a recent press trip with hayu. “And I was like, ‘So I don’t have to talk, right?’”.
I can only imagine the struggle those producers would’ve had trying to hide their metaphorical, reality-gold prompted erections during that interview. An outrageously outspoken, stylish, DTE gal trying to make a name for her self in La La Land? Jackpot.
“Then, I knew. I knew that it was going to happen.”
The one thing that the producers truly would’ve been enamoured with, however, was her age. This goldmine was just 22 when the show began filming in earnest – and, as anyone who’s now fondly looking back on that age would agree, your comprehension of consequence is limited. You get 50 Shades of Fuck-Eyed regularly. You initiate explosive arguments for the sheer sport of it. You fuck people over. You get fucked over by people. You unashamedly ‘do you‘.
But we didn’t have cameras documenting every mistake we made, cut them up and distribute them to thousands that would eventually come to recognise you as a mainstay of their after-work, ‘I need to forget about my day‘ routines. And that, my friends, has the potential to monumentally fuck you up.
And it probably would’ve done a number on her if it weren’t for the truly cooked circumstances that unfolded on the fledgeling show itself – most prominently in the form of known douchebag Jax Taylor.
Season One just toughened me up straight away, because everyone just loathed me until the absolute last episode where you find out Jax was lying the entire time. So I became used to people saying terrible things to me and I just realised that this is what I asked for – I don’t want the negativity but I want to keep doing this.
The distraction of fighting with colleagues shielded her, in a sense, from becoming fixated with the psychological rollercoaster of watching yourself behave in a very typically shit 22-year-old way. And when the time came to face that, she was primed to handle it in her stride.
I just realised, and I know, everyone is fucking making mistakes at the same time. Everyone who’s watching it is doing the same shit, in some capacity. I’m lucky I’m getting paid to do it.
Besides having to handle watching emotionally traumatic/cringe-worthy situations, the other part of being on a TV show is the whole flat-out fame thing.
A strong argument can be made that Vanderpump Rules breeds a type of fan that’s entirely unique because of the show’s context itself. Unlike programs that have lumped unconnected people into a house together, or detail the extravagant lifestyles of not-actually-housewives-in-the-slightest Housewives, Vanderpump Rules operates in a realm of relatability that’s its own making.
While most can’t relate to the aggressive drama that takes place at SUR and its surrounds (and if you can, then honey, you should probably evaluate the crowds you’re running with), they sure as shit can connect with an environment that provides food and refreshments to its patrons. Yes, thousands have worked/thousands work in the hospitality industry and have practically walked in the same shoes as Tom Sandoval, Katie Maloney-Schwartz and Scheana Marie – cementing a level of understanding not traditionally seen in reality shows.
Because we started off as servers and so humble, and just starving and not censoring ourselves – people related to that. They’ve grown with us, and we were a real group of friends. We’ve been friends for ten years, most of us. You’re seeing something, especially in season one, that couldn’t be more real – and I think that translates. People can tell when you just put a bunch of housewives together and they just pretend that they’re friends.
But that’s where shit gets seriously fucked. When you go to a bar or eat at a restaurant, the staff are there to literally serve you. Regardless of whether you’re a massive cunt and treat those staff like shit or if you’re a ray of sunshine, there’s an inherent power dynamic at play there that’ll always swing towards you, the customer. You could easily argue that viewers of Vanderpump Rules, especially in the earlier seasons, unconsciously decided that the cast were either their equals or beneath them. That was the cost of developing such a high level of relatability – we’re not an audience, we’re customers. And the customer is always right.
“In the first two years, the people that would come up to us would almost look down on us,” she says.
Adding to this, Stassi and the cast were working entry-level gigs. Entry-level gigs = shit money. And while the show was finding its feet, they weren’t raking in a noteworthy income.
It was weird because we were still totally broke and I was working all the time at the restaurant. So, to have people notice you and come up to you and talk about you, be flown certain places, be able to meet cool people, go to cool parties – to have opportunities, but also still be hard up for cash – that was a really weird thing to experience.
But being strapped for cash and having people not treat you like your god’s gift to earth has done the cast a massive favour, Stassi reckons.
I will say this about the whole cast: they’re all very gracious, we’re all very thankful and we remember exactly what it was like to really fucking struggle. None of us have really gotten too ahead of ourselves.
I think she accidentally lumped known oxygen thief James Kennedy into that mix, but I’m sure that was just an oversight.
Anyway, I’m glad Stassi was able to navigate the perils of fame/fortune without becoming a pretentious asshole. Being able to come home, kick off my shoes, whack on Vanderpump Rules via hayu (a service I couldn’t recommend more highly to those partial to television served with a hearty side of reality), and practically vomit from laughing at the shit that bitch comes up with has made my existence that much better. And if she’s done the same for you, then I reckon handling the mindfuck of becoming famous at such a young age was a very small price to pay.