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The Perils of Representing Reality Stars

The Perils of Representing Reality Stars

Tom Sandoval, a star of “Vanderpump Rules,” has shared a lot in the decade that he has appeared on that reality TV show, the 11th season of which began airing on Bravo in January. But in a recent interview with The New York Times Magazine, Mr. Sandoval, 41, said things that surprised even people who were well familiar with his penchant for shocking behavior.

Speaking about the public interest in an affair he had with a co-star while he was dating another co-star, a tryst known as “Scandoval,” Mr. Sandoval said that he was not a historian of pop culture, but that he “witnessed the O.J. Simpson thing and George Floyd and all these big things, which is really weird to compare this to that, I think, but do you think in a weird way it’s a little bit the same?”

Mr. Sandoval also said he felt that he received more hate for his affair than the actor “Danny Masterson, and he’s a convicted rapist.” He spoke in the presence of a member of his publicity team, which to some was as astonishing as his comments.

The writer who interviewed Mr. Sandoval for The Times Magazine wrote that a representative for Bravo contacted her after their conversation took place and before it was published to relay concerns about what he had said.

Alyx Sealy, a publicist for Mr. Sandoval, declined to comment for this article. Bravo declined to participate. Adam Ambrose, a publicist who represents reality stars and who has represented Mr. Sandoval in the past, said in an emailed statement that working with people on reality TV could present unique challenges because of the nature of that genre.

“Unscripted stars portray and are their authentic selves, so at times the lines can be blurred for them to discern between being in front of the camera and speaking to the media,” said Mr. Ambrose, the founder of Brand Influential, a public relations company in Los Angeles, who emphasized that he was speaking generally and not about any specific client, past or present. “Sometimes they may be perceived as uncoachable, making it more challenging to manage their media presence from a P.R. perspective.”

He continued: “Moreover, the interest in their lives is or can be more intense than other ‘celebrities,’ as fans feel like they truly know and identify with them. So, when a scandal occurs, it can spark an out-of-the-ordinary public response. The media attention can spiral out of control to the point where the humanity of the situation can be truly lost and forgotten.”

Kelly Brady, a publicist and the founder of Brandsway Creative in New York, a public relations and branding company, said an opportunity like Mr. Sandoval’s recent interview with The Times Magazine was “a great get” for a controversial client because it had the potential to “to change public opinion.”

Ms. Brady, whose company represents stars of “The Real Housewives of New York City,” “The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City” and other Bravo shows, said her preparations for that type of interview could involve researching the outlet and the journalist in order to prepare a client “as much as you possibly can.” But even if every detail has been thought out, she said, there is still the chance that someone will go off script.

That’s why Lori Krebs, a publicist for reality stars who include past and present cast members of “Vanderpump Rules,” said she preferred that her reality TV clients participate in articles only by outlets that agree to involve her in the editing process, in order “to ensure a positive outcome.” (The New York Times does not agree to such arrangements.)

Ms. Krebs, the founder of Lori K Public Relations in Montreal and Los Angeles, described reality stars as “a very different type of celebrity.” Some people expect them to be more relatable than traditional celebrities, she said, which can “make it more challenging to manage their image.”

Lynn Hason, a publicist and the founder of Lab Media Group, a public relations and branding company in New York that has worked with stars of “Housewives of Salt Lake City” and “Housewives of New York City,” said her approach to handling interviews with reality TV clients had been influenced by a line from “Hamilton.”

“‘Talk less, smile more,’” Ms. Hason said.


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