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Rachel Leviss Feels 'Empowered' 1 Year After Scandoval, Can See 'Light at the End of the Tunnel' (Exclusive)

"I've been working really hard on making sure I'm putting my mental health first and really putting myself first," says the former 'Vanderpump Rules' alum

<p>Claudia Glaudi</p> Rachel Leviss at GLAUDI by Johana Hernandez

Claudia Glaudi

Rachel Leviss at GLAUDI by Johana Hernandez's New York Fashion Week runway show

Rachel “Raquel” Leviss has stepped back into the spotlight nearly a year after finding herself at the center of a reality TV scandal for the ages.

The former Vanderpump Rules star, 29, spoke to PEOPLE at GLAUDI by Johana Hernandez’s New York Fashion Week presentation on Thursday about her decision to slowly return to public life after months of scrutiny and self-care following the revelation that she and costar Tom Sandoval had been having an affair.

<p>Claudia Glaudi</p>

Claudia Glaudi

“It was a very difficult time for me,” Leviss says, reflecting on the height of drama surrounding the Scandoval. “I felt like I wasn't going to get through it at some moments, and so I'm just so happy that I'm able to see the light at the end of the tunnel and finally reintegrate into the real world.”

The former beauty pageant queen adds, “I'm proud of how far I've come. I've been working really hard on making sure I'm putting my mental health first and really putting myself first.”

Related: Rachel Leviss Hits the Runway in 2 Glittering Gowns for New York Fashion Week Debut: 'Feel at Home' (Exclusive)

<p>Claudia Glaudi</p> Rachel Leviss at GLAUDI by Johana Hernandez's NYFW runway show

Claudia Glaudi

Rachel Leviss at GLAUDI by Johana Hernandez's NYFW runway show

In recent weeks, Leviss has even felt like she's had the chance to reclaim her voice.

“It makes me feel empowered,” says the Rachel Goes Rogue podcast host. “I feel like I've overcome a lot of difficulties this past year and I finally get to start living life again, so it feels really good.”

Related: Rachel Leviss Explains Why She's 'Dipping My Toe Back into the Drama' of Her Former Vanderpump Rules Friends

<p>Claudia Glaudi</p> Rachel Leviss at GLAUDI by Johana Hernandez's NYFW runway show

Claudia Glaudi

Rachel Leviss at GLAUDI by Johana Hernandez's NYFW runway show

Leviss also offered a tease of what she’s hoping to explore on Rachel Goes Rogue, saying she’s hoping to “go deeper into love-bombing” and further explore how her history in pageants helped build her “confidence and self-esteem.”

She also explains that she’s willing to get candid about her experience at The Meadows, the treatment center in Arizona where underwent trauma therapy after VPR's brutal season 10 reunion filming.

Leviss says she hopes to share “more on everything that I’ve learned at The Meadows and kind of gifting that to the viewers and listeners because I've learned such valuable information.”

Related: Rachel Leviss Swears Off Dating for a Year as She Reflects on 'Smiling' Through 'Painful Traumatic Memories'

<p>Claudia Glaudi</p> Rachel Leviss at GLAUDI by Johana Hernandez's NYFW runway show

Claudia Glaudi

Rachel Leviss at GLAUDI by Johana Hernandez's NYFW runway show

Despite admitting that she would “maybe, possibly” be “open” to bringing back her former castmates or members of the production team onto her podcast, she clarifies that’s not necessarily her focus at this time.

She says, “I don't know if we're really at a place where we're in communication with each other, but I hope to venture more into lifestyle and other things that I'm doing with my life now that I'm not on Vanderpump Rules and make that transition once we cover all our bases.”

“I feel like I have so much to say and so many stories to tell, so we’ll get there eventually,” she affirms.

Related: Vanderpump Rules Premiere: Rachel Gets a Lifeline in Exile from a Costar Who Once Deceived and Dismissed Her

<p>Claudia Glaudi</p> Rachel Leviss at GLAUDI by Johana Hernandez's NYFW runway show

Claudia Glaudi

Rachel Leviss at GLAUDI by Johana Hernandez's NYFW runway show

Leviss announced her podcast last November, pitching as a place where she could show that she’s “emerged resilient and committed to personal growth” amid a “tumultuous year of intense public scrutiny.”

Since launching the podcast in January, she’s opened up about everything from her commitment to swearing off dating for a year to realizing she still owes an apology to Sandoval’s ex Ariana Madix.

As for why she's still staying somewhat connected to the drama that shaped most of 2023, she explained, “My purpose for doing that isn't to just be in the drama necessarily.... I want to create a healthier environment for people watching reality TV. I want to be a part of creating ethical reality TV. And I think a part of that is educating people who are watching these shows about what we're actually consuming.”

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Vanderpump Rules airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET on Bravo.

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Read the original article on People.