Recently we sat down with model/actor turned "Bravoleberity" Tom Sandoval. With bated breath, we waited to see which side of Tom we would get. On the hit reality series Vanderpump Rules, the viewers are treated to many different sides of Sandoval: the emotional, the kind, the slightly egotisical and the not always so trustworthy of beaus. We anticipated an inflamed ego due to a large fan following of young good looking women and gay men alike. However, upon the first moments of meeting he proved our premature opinons wrong.
Sandoval's easy going personality, collaborative spirit, and thoughtfulness in each and every question shed light to the "character" we had come to know on the show. With the burning question of what did he lose on his DVR and an overview of the evolution of his personal style since becoming a household name, we have gained a deeper insight into what life is like for the man behind the SUR bar.
Labeling Men: So, you are from... ?
Tom Sandoval: St. Louis, Missouri.
L.M: How was it growing up there?
T.S: It was pretty cool. I'm from North County, which is in St. Louis County, went to a Catholic school then a public school. I'm going back there for Christmas. It was a really good environment [to grow up in].
L.M: That's not a small town is it?
T.S: It's a big-small town.
L.M: I don't know anything about that part of America.
T.S: It's the Midwest! Everybody is pretty cool in my opinion.
L.M: More mellow. So what brought you to LA?
T.S: Acting, modeling, music, the old LA.
L.M: The entertainment industry. Which out of them are you the most passionate about?
T.S: Oh man, sometimes music, sometimes acting, nowadays I want to host a show.
L.M: I could see that.
T.S: I initially started modeling when I was 15 years old, I got with an agency in St. Louis and booked my first modeling job. I got into it for acting and booked the modeling job with my first headshot and I was like, "Woooah, $2500 and I'm 15 years old, this must be amazing."
L.M: What was it for?
T.S: It was for Jim's Formal Wear; prom tuxedos, so everybody got a prom tuxedo pamphlet in the the mail and it was me on the front of it.
L.M: So you were a local celebrity at 15
T.S: I guess ::laughs:: My senior pictures were like the best! I had all these test shots and everything! [continues] I got signed to this agency in Chicago, I moved to Chicago, took acting classes there, then went to Miami, bounced back and forth from Miami and New York for a while, then moved out to LA.
L.M: Do you write a lot of music?
T.S: Most of the stuff, I do, I write all my own music. I've been in three bands now, but the stuff I'm going to be doing now is going to be more solo, electronically built but with live instrumental. It's more current. I've played at the Viper Club, the Key Room; walking into a place like that, that kind of crowd is looking for the cheapest beer on the menu versus club venues that are selling tables for $10,000 can afford to throw money at somebody like me [DJ]. I'd rather do that and bring in the other members [later].
L.M: So getting back to a bit of modeling, was it an interest in fashion or is it something that just happened? I know you mentioned you were kind of "discovered."
T.S: I've always been into fashion. I was always the guy that came in with his hair fixed a certain way and all the guys would get jealous and they would talk shit about me and then a week later, they would cut their hair just like mine.
L.M: So, you were a bit of a trendsetter.
T.S: Yeah, they would ask me, "Yo Sandoval, what are you doing this weekend, where the girls at?" I had a black book in high school, I went to four different homecomings, it was ridiculous.
L.M: ::laughs:: Check you out!
T.S: ::laughs:: I was a good guy though!
L.M: Treated the girls well?
T.S: Yes, yes I did.
L.M: That's good, that's the St. Louis in you.
T.S: It's the Sandoval in me!
L.M: So, do you have go-to brands or designers or even a staple in your closet?
T.S: Yes, those shoes that I wore in here, those Chucks. I have two pairs of those. They stopped making those in 2011 and I would just love if they made them again because they literally go with everything. I wore them with this green and black suit on "Watch What Happens Live," I wore them with jeans, I wore them with shorts, they really go with everything. I get compliments on them all the time and try to keep them clean but they are falling apart, slowly but surely.
L.M: Are they leather?
T.S: Yes, they are.
L.M: We know a place that can restore them. It's next to "The Griddle". I think he makes like J.Lo's shoes.
T.S: If he can make me a pair just like that -- or I can just get Converse to endorse me.
L.M: We'll work on that first.
T.S: Yeah, we can create the "T. Sandy" shoe line. [continues] I don't have any staple that defines my style, I knew you had a question that asked me to define my style..
L.M: Well our website is Labeling Men, and we do have labels that categorize guys. It's more about what you would categorize yourself as.
T.S: I would call myself a "Shape Shifter."
L.M: Shape Shifter, edgy!
T.S: Yes! I feel like I can wear anything. I don't say, "Oh, I can't wear that". I'll wear Ariana's jewelry sometimes or sweaters, I'll wear flashy suits, I'll wear beanies, I'll wear top hats, just anything!
L.M: Just down for whatever...
T.S: Hall & Oates one day, Justin Bieber another day, and Kurt Cobain another day! My closet is just filled with a whole slew of different kinds of clothes.
L.M: Not a lot of guys can do that, they have much less patience for style.
T.S: It does take patience, but you just have to be open minded and sometimes it's fixing your hair different or just throwing on a beanie or accessorizing, just not making it look like you're trying so hard, which isn't good.
L.M: Having you wear the outfit, not having it wear you. [continues] So from acting and modeling to reality TV, how did that come about?
T.S: Well, I mean, definitely not my first choice, not something I ever wanted to do. I fought back and forth with the decision until right before I signed. I was the last person to sign my contract for Season 1. It came about because we worked at SUR; well, I was working at Villa Blanca and started working at SUR right then. I don't know if it [SUR] was buried on an ancient Native American burial ground or what, but it's ridiculous! The amount of -- I think it was because when it initially started, it was a very relaxed place. There was hardly any staff and it was like, "Oh whatever". As it's gotten bigger and more people, old habits die hard for some people. I don't know what it is. I feel like Villa Blanca is a retirement home compared to fucking SUR, it's ridiculous! These girls have meltdowns walking out in the middle of their shifts, like this is how it really was and it's what gave Lisa the idea of doing a spin-off show. Then that stuff happened with Scheana and Brandi and it kind of all just happened. There was initially a bunch of us that were sort of "casted" on the show. I mean, we all knew each other and that's the one real big difference between our show and a lot of other shows that are casted. I think that our show is probably one of the realest shows out there.
L.M: You guys have a lot of drama happening!
T.S: It is unfortunate; good for you guys though!
L.M: Everytime I watch, I just think to myself,"Oh my god, this is all so stressful."
T.S: It is really, really stressful, especially with a camera in your face.
L.M: I can't imagine that...
T.S: You think it's easy but it's really not. You even try to tell yourself, "Oh, I can do that, I'll figure it out."
L.M: It doesn't look easy to me. Since being on the show, do you notice yourself being dressed up more when you're out in public?
T.S: Definitely. If I post a picture on Instagram, I get paragraphs from people just going on and on about a fuzz on my ear or something, or did I stuff my pants...anything, wherever their imagination takes them. Of course people are hyper critical of you, so yes, especially if I'm going to events, but I enjoy it too. I like going out and picking out a cool outfit, putting it together, watching it build. I have a lot of fun with that.
L.M: So you said the drama and stuff is real; do you think how you're portrayed on the show is how you are, or is there a different side of you that people don't get to see?
T.S: With our show, it is very real. I feel like I am portrayed pretty close to who I am.
L.M: I think you're nicer!
T.S: They might edit through hours of me being nice until I'm pushed to my limits to be a dick. I do think I'm pretty much how I am. I will say one thing that is a little exaggerated is that I'm a little high maintanance or that I take a long time to get ready. I'm extremely low maintenance and I can actually get ready really fast, probably faster then anybody else in the cast besides maybe Schwartz, but it's just getting out the door which is the hard thing for me.
L.M: Gotta check out the mirror a few times?
T.S: Gotta grab my keys, brush my teeth, finish a beer....turn off lights, set the DVR...
L.M: That is our burning question. What was the biggest loss on that DVR?
T.S: There were so many gems!
L.M: Literally, my best friend who is a HUGE Bravo fan totally felt your pain and said she would stay with somebody strictly for her DVR series recordings.
T.S: Yes, it was as bad. We had actually already gone to the cable office and I had specifically done everything in my power to keep that DVR player that had two movies that I did that happened to show on TV, then my "Hills" episode, then I had of course, Seasons 1 and 2 [of Vanderpump Rules].
L.M: ...Cause you couldn't get those anywhere.
T.S: ::laughs:: I know, but I can just pull them up on my DVR. Rambo, Commando, old childhood favorites like Spoils of Babylon; The Walking Dead, all The Cosmos, How The Universe Works, all my favorites. I watch a lot of science shows, science, physics, theoretical physics, all that stuff, I love it. So yeah, I lost all of that stuff. And guess what? I got a notice in the mail three months later from the collections agency that the DVR player had not been returned.
T.S: I shit you not!
L.M: Speaking of that realm - we won't mention names - from that tumultuous ending of a relationship, but what was the biggest thing that you learned about how to kind of figure out how to get out of it and the breaking point of when you know it's just not worth it anymore?
T.S: Obviously, when you're living with somebody it's like you're practically married, especially in a city like LA or New York. I think really what would I've learned I would say is that when you first get into a relationship, it's very important to really understand does this person have things that really bother you. Do you guys share similar opinions on things, or are you guys just hooking up and don't want to end it. And all of a sudden these things that you could deal with because you were excited about this person, because you thought they were hot or whatever, they start to become real issues. I think it's really important that you really get to know somebody. I'm not a big fan - I haven't been ever - of dinner dates. That is such bullshit. If you meet a girl by the bar and she's sitting by herself, guy too, that person can be anybody they want to be. What you want to do is you want to get somebody in an environment when they around their friends and you're around your friends and somewhere where you can drink and feel comfortable, dive bar, karaoke is a real good place. You can tell so much about somebody based on when you go to sing with somebody at karaoke. Did they go and completely just suck up there and then come back and tell you how everybody else was shitty and that they were amazing? Are they that self unaware, or did they go up there and take themselves too seriously like "American Idol," they are a perfectionist or can they let loose and go up there at all and do it? Can they have fun in the situation, do they feel pressured, do they get mad? Obviously when you're out doing that, you're not just sitting there drinking, you're doing an activity.
L.M: A comfortable, casual setting when you aren't putting it on.
T.S: It's a really good way to see who people really are instead of these stiff dinner dates, it's just so dumb.
L.M: Agreed. Dinner dates can be so awkward and long.
T.S: So long!
L.M: Or how to end it...
T.S: Yeah, exactly. [continues] I have to tell you this story: One time I was single, dating around and this girl stopped me in CVS parking lot, I was walking from there, I bought an umbrella and she was like, "Hey da da da." I'm like, "Hi, okay," and we're talking and she goes, "We should go to dinner," and I'm like, "Oh, you'll take me out to dinner?" I was broke at this time, she was driving a Mercedes. So she's like, "Yeah, I will." We went out, she picked me up, we went there, we're chillin', it's cool, casual, and the bill comes [she stares at me] and I say "Are you expecting me to pay for that?" She says "Well, it's the gentlemanly thing to do." So I have to pay for your time? I'm like, "It's no big deal, I got it," throwing it on the charge card.
L.M: Worrying if it will even go through.
T.S: ::laughs:: She had a little bit of an ego. Thought she was kind of hot shit and I'm like, "alright." We went to a bar afterwards and we're hanging out and I just called up this other girl who is a friend of mine who I was also hooking up with to just show up, it was great. And this girl was kind of taller and slender and overall better looking and I was like, "Hey this is my friend so and so," just to kind of show her, she wasn't like the only chick I knew or something. It was showing her that you aren't the only thing I have going on...
L.M: ::laughs:: She must have loved that!
T.S: She was fine with it!
L.M: Really?! I would have flipped out!
T.S: It was casual...
L.M: Where was the restaurant?
T.S: Katsuya...and the bar was Belmont.
L.M: [Katsuya is] Not cheap! They [Belmont] has good drink specials though!
T.S: I thought it was kind of funny. I was like, "Dude, I'm tired of hearing about how cool you are." This girl was like an up and coming "pop singer," I was like, "Dude I'm tired of it, you drive a Mercedes and probably didn't pay for it, you asked me out to dinner and picked me up - I even said it!"
L.M: She sounds lame. She should have at least done the fake offering to pay half.
T.S: We just shouldn't have gone to dinner so there would be no awkward shit like that.
L.M: So, to round out this interview, is there anything else you would like to say about the show?
T.S: About acting. I gotta say: actors are acting, on shows and everything, but I kind of feel like, obviously reality shows have been kind of taking over and I feel the reason behind that is the human civilization is always seeking the truth. It's in our nature, and as fun as it is I have a lot of respect for my castmates or not [whether I get along with them or not] because they bare their souls to the world. No other show I've seen, to me, takes a lot more guts than getting into a fucking character and pretending. Because in real life, the stakes are always higher. You can be shooting a fake death scene, I can be picking out a pair of shoes, my stakes are still higher than yours...
L.M: It really is revealing yourself and completely putting yourself out there to be judged by the world.
T.S: At the end of the day, you do feel exploited, you feel a little whatever. But, at least, I feel like whether we look cool or not, sometimes it's irrelevant because at least you know who we really are.
Watch Tom on "Vanderpump Rules" every Monday night at 9 p.m. on Bravo, and follow him on Instagram @tomsandoval1
Photos by Kayla Estrella Wooldridge
Interview by Amelia Williams