Vanderpump Rules is filled with outsize personalities, people who flail emotionally thinking it’ll lead to something interesting. This is the nature of reality television. Human beings pick at their psychic scabs even when they know it isn’t good for them; they’re on their worst behavior because to suppress their id would feel tantamount to self-betrayal.
Stassi Schroeder has always been Vanderpump‘s queen bee—a pretty hard stunt to pull off given that the series is named after someone else: elite restauranteur and millennial-herder Lisa Vanderpump. Devoted fans know just how much power she wields. In earlier seasons, Schroeder reigned supreme as the bossy ringleader of her friend group, dishing out fantastic insults and social demotions to anyone who dared to cross her (or God forbid, disrespect her birthday).
But as the show continued to unfold, Schroeder began to reveal signs that she was learning just as much from Vanderpump Rules as its viewers were. She relocated to New York, then changed her mind. She quit her job as a SUR (Sexy Unique Restaurant) server and leveled up into the realm of podcasting, where she’s carved out a niche for herself as an always-hilarious straight talker. And now she’s written a book called Next Level Basic: The Definitive Basic Bitch Handbook, which is everything it promises to be and more.
Observer called up Schroeder to discuss the future of Vanderpump, her favorite conspiracy theories and how she managed to key her boyfriends’ cars without ever getting in trouble.
Observer: So you’re in Las Vegas right now, right?
Schroeder: Yeah, I got back yesterday, and I was struggling so hard, I had to get an IV for my house. I still am struggling. I can’t hang the way that I used to.
I read this piece today about people in their 30s giving up alcohol, and I was like, That will not be me. But good for you.
Yeah, listen, maybe I’m, like, cutting back a tad, but definitely not giving it up.
So first of all, as an advocate for being basic, what does that word mean to you?
Well, I think to me it means something way different than what everyone else thinks it is. I don’t know when the word basic turned into such a negative thing. Probably when all of those videos came out—you know, those parody videos. Do you remember that?
“How to tell if you’re a basic bitch”—that kind of stuff?
Yeah, or “if you’re dating a basic bitch.” Which I love those videos. I think they’re absolutely hysterical. I just think a lot of the things that people talk about in those videos and what people make fun of as being basic are actually things that, like—not to go all Marie Kondo or whatever—bring us joy. There’s a reason a lot of us act basic or like basic things—because it’s fun. So to me being basic is an enjoyable thing. There’s really nothing wrong with having the same interests as many other people. There’s a reason why these interests are popular: because they’re enjoyable.
In your book you specifically mention that you don’t have to pretend to like Daniel Day-Lewis movies just to seem cool. I enjoyed that line in particular, because I love Daniel Day-Lewis and was like Oh, God, am I a try-hard?
No, no shade to him. The Lincoln movie—I thought it was a great film. Am I ever going to watch it again? Absolutely not.
You also advocate for not ripping into someone just because they like something you don’t like, which is a really nice thought. Are there any instances where being a “hater,” as you put it, is actually the right move? Or are you sort of holistically promoting positivity?
Listen, I’m somebody that finds joy in being judgy and funny and ripping on someone. I’ll use Scheana [Shay] as an example. On Vanderpump Rules, we both know we’re going to make fun of each other, and it’s all in good fun. Unless it actually really starts to hurt someone’s feelings in a profound way, I’m very scared to live in a humorless world, so I’m not out here trying to preach justice or anything.
In your book, you talk about moving to L.A. and living with Jax, who persuades you to check out Scientology, which you both eventually do. At this point you mention “Tom Cruise’s mentor,” which to me sounds like David Miscavige. Were you introduced to Scientology by David Miscavige?
I’m not talking about him, no. I never met him. This is a man whose name I don’t remember who just kept bragging about how he was Tom Cruise’s mentor. I’m sure that everyone in Scientology who’s trying to impress or recruit new people probably says that. Scientology is basically the pyramid scheme of all pyramid schemes, but there are still a lot of people out there who love the pyramid schemes, like Rodan + Fields. I use my Facebook primarily to see what my friends from high school or grammar school are up to, and they’re all, like, selling weird shit and trying to, like, recruit new people into it, and I’m like, You guys, we’ve heard of pyramid schemes. How are you falling into this?
I’d love to know what sort of novels you like, if you’re into that.
I’m ashamed to say I haven’t read a novel in a really long time, but I’ve gone through a bunch of autobiographies. I’m really into Marie Antoinette and I loved The Tudors, so the second I can get my hands on something that has to do with that, I’m really into it. And then the real basic bitch in me has read, like, a bunch of Marilyn Monroe books. But in terms of novels, it’s been a really long time. I leave that to my boyfriend. He stays awake at night reading novels.
Do you believe the conspiracy theory that the Kennedys had Marilyn Monroe killed? That’s one of my favorite conspiracy theories.
Well, I love conspiracy theories, so I choose to believe in all of them.
What other ones do you like?
Let’s see, that the government is having planes fly over us, just like, dropping different sprays that are making us die younger.
Chem trails, yeah.
Yeah. I like the one that says there are shape-shifters in the government among us—like maybe they’re aliens that are shape-shifting. The amount of times I’ve Googled “shape-shifting at government meetings” and just really tried to study the footage in slow motion! I like that stuff.
What made you decide to actually sit down and write the book?
I’ve always wanted to do that. That’s why I went to Loyola Marymount University, and thankfully my dad let me major in English writing, because it was my favorite subject and I really just have always enjoyed writing. I just never knew what I wanted to write about. In college I used to just write stream of consciousness stuff, things like that. And then once I started thinking about writing a book… like, I think one of the hardest parts is figuring out what that means and what that’s going to be specifically. I’m not going to write an autobiography because, like, what do I know?
I’m very thankful for my podcast because that’s when I realized that the more I would talk about my basic stories or basic things, the more I would have listeners reaching out to me saying that they loved hearing that, and that they felt less alone in the things that they like and the things that happen to them. That’s when I realized I know exactly what I want to write about and exactly what I stand for. I feel like everyone wants to feel like they have some sort of purpose or that they’re giving something to the world. I’m not, you know, in India building homes for people yet, but at least I can write something that’s making people laugh and feel like they’re OK.
What was the writing process like?
It was way harder than I thought. I thought the proposal was hard, but I had no idea that it was going to be so much harder after that. This is my first time writing a book, and I didn’t know about structure and how certain things should be. I had all of these notes that I’d been compiling for years, thoughts and little mini personal essays. I can’t just throw that all into one Word document—that’s not how it works. Everyone at Gallery Books was so helpful, and I would not have been able to do it without a lot of people helping me. There were a million texts and crying phone calls that I made being like, “What the fuck am I doing? Why did you hire me? This is really hard.” But I found that finding the structure was, to me, the hardest part, and then once that was done it was so much easier, because then you’re not just sitting in front of your computer thinking, What do I want to write about?
I loved your section about keying guys’ cars. Did you ever get in trouble for that?
No, I never got in trouble. I’ve done that to two boyfriends, Jax being one of them. I mentioned another one—I don’t know if I named him. It was my first boyfriend here in L.A., and he tried to sue me. Every time he would call me, I knew he was on the phone with a lawyer trying to, like, get a confession out of me, and I’m like, Dude, I’m way ahead of you. I’m not going to admit I did this. This was before I even worked at SUR, so I was next-level broke. Not just broke, but like broke broke broke. I’m not gonna pay for your car when I found out you cheated on me. Go fuck yourself.
Does the Vanderpump cast talk about how much longer the show will air?
Oh, every single day. We’re kind of at a crossroads right now, where so many things are changing. A lot of people are buying houses, and people are getting married, and the Toms own a bar. I have a book coming out. Everyone is kind of working really hard, and we’re not just servers anymore. My personal opinion on it is that this could be a show that shifts a little bit and could go on for-frickin-ever. I mean, it could be like The Golden Girls, where we’re each other’s chosen family where regardless of whether the cameras are around, the same shit is going on. They’re the same people I hang out with, travel with, call on a regular basis. These are my friends, so not having the cameras around, nothing would change. If Bravo or whoever wants to watch us continue to grow and shift and see all those life changes, I think it could go on forever. But I mean, if they want to keep it just at SUR with servers, then that’s different.
Right, because do you guys even serve anymore?
There are a couple of us that try to go in, but it’s like Disneyland. It’s like they’re a Disney princess at Disneyland, and you couldn’t possibly try waiting a table because there’s a line of 20 people right behind you trying to take a photo. They try and show up for as long as they can, but it only lasts about 45 minutes, and then they’re like, “OK, gotta get out of here.”
You say that the show could go on forever if Bravo’s interested, but is that something you personally want?
Honestly, yeah. I’m so used to it now, and we’ve had the same crew and producers from the beginning, so they’re like my family. When I get married, I would want them there anyway. And I feel like my viewers, our viewers, they’ve been there since the beginning, and it’s almost like I feel like we owe it to them, you know what I mean? I owe it to them to show them the big moments, or if I get in a fight with my boyfriend. I owe them that honesty and that truth because they’ve grown with us. I think now that we’re going into our eighth year, we are all so used to living our lives that way that it’s almost like it’s all I know.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
Next Level Basic: The Definitive Basic Bitch Handbook is available now through Gallery Books.