While Sandoval has been a mainstay on the Bravo hit since its first season in 2013, Lee joined in 2018. During her debut year at SUR, Lee — who was the show’s first transgender cast member — quickly hit it off with the TomTom founder and then-girlfriend Ariana Madix. The comedian even went on an on-camera date with Ariana’s brother, Jeremy Madix.
“I love Ariana, so it just really kind of scared me and I did get a little nervous before my date [with her brother],” Lee exclusively told Us Weekly in March 2018. “But at the same time, I talked to Scheana [Shay] and she’s like, ‘You know who he is; he’s an amazing person. Don’t let [Stassi Schroeder and Katie Maloney’s] negative perception of him affect you and this date tonight.’ Lala [Kent] and Scheana really helped me that day, just putting me back into a positive situation because sometimes I think Stassi and them can be a little bit on the negative side.”
The reality TV alum further gushed to Us that her date with Ariana’s brother was “amazing” and they still “kick it all the time.” She added at the time: “I’ve said this from the start, I didn’t wanna get into a serious relationship. And I’m a little older than him and I know he has some things to experience, so I didn’t wanna jump into anything serious with him, but I do enjoy him.”
Lee ultimately left Vanderpump Rules after season 7 over claims that she had been bullied during her reality TV stint. Despite walking away from the show, she remained close with both Sandoval and Ariana.
However, things reached a turning point in March 2023 after news broke of Sandoval and the Lifetime actress’ breakup. (Their split came shortly after it was revealed that the Missouri native had a months-long secret affair with costar Raquel Leviss.) Lee, for her part, wanted to be there for both friends — much to her former costars’ dismay.
“Tom and Ariana are my family. They have been there for me over the years and I wouldn’t be where I am today without them. It saddens me that people are so fixated on picking a side. Both are human and are both hurting in their own ways,” she wrote via Instagram in April 2023. “There is a world where you can support and be there for both parties and that’s the world I choose to live in.”
Lee added at the time: “There is also no reason for this to continue to be so divisive. Ariana is happy and Tom is really working hard on himself. I’ll continue to love and support them unconditionally.”
That month, Lee was spotted hanging out with Sandoval one-on-one as Ariana unfollowed her on Instagram. Shay — as a show of solidarity for the Florida native — also tapped the unfollow button on Lee’s profile. The “Good as Gold” songstress even told Andy Cohen during an April 2023 appearance on Watch What Happens Live With Andy Cohen that she thought Lee was “shady” for her hangouts with Sandoval.
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Scroll below to revisit Sandoval and Lee’s friendship timeline: