Some stars are born, some are made and some get to be stars through little doing of their own. The latter scenario is the case for Rachel Uchitel, who started making headlines around this time last year for her close relationship with a certain sports megastar. The coverage continued throughout 2010, but then a funny thing happened: Rachel Uchitel reclaimed her notoriety. She signed on to appear on the fourth season of Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew, in a confluence of reluctance (of being categorized as a celebrity and an addict) and resolve to present herself to the public on her terms. As she tells me below, “I was not OK with sitting back and letting people see the media’s version of me. I wanted to show me, and if people wanted to hate me, it was totally fair game.”
In our 30-minute chat, we also discussed her family turning its back on her for appearing on this show, being uninvited from Celebrity Apprentice by Donald Trump, her love addiction, negotiating the treatment aspect of Rehab with the TV aspect, and why she stands by her calling out of Dr. Drew on this week’s episode. I hope that you find her as engaging and articulate as I did.
Are you enjoying watching the show?
Yeah. It’s so fun. Every Wednesday night, Leif, Jeremy, Jason Wahler and Jason Davis come over to my apartment and we watch it together. [On Wednesday], we liked it so much that we watched the repeats that came on right after. We liked it so much that we watched the two hours over again! It was so great to be able to watch what we were a part of. We were like, “Oh my god, this is such good TV.” We laughed, we cried. The whole thing was real, none of it was staged, but on TV it looks so dramatic. We were laughing about how dramatic are as people. We didn’t realize it.
How do you feel about implicitly being categorized as a celebrity as a result of participating in this show?
“Celebrity” has never been a word I embraced. It’s not like I signed up to be a celebrity. My name became “infamous” over the course of a few months before I was offered the show, and continued to after, but I was hesitant to sign on because I didn’t feel like I was a celebrity. I forget how many people know my name. Now, for the first time ever, I’m being recognized as a celebrity for doing a show, and at the same time, not being misunderstood anymore for what the media has made me out to be. I’m so honored that VH1 gave me the opportunity to do that. I don’t care so much about the status. From getting to hang out with seven celebrities and kind of morph into one, I realized that the word “celebrity” is a misleading title for somebody. All it means is that their name is known by a lot of people.
I can’t even imagine what it’s like to go from being anonymous to reported on all the time. Even still, people write about you – I’ve seen blogs run stories on Celebrity Rehab episodes as though they were gossip items.
Oh, they are?
You don’t follow that stuff?
No. I don’t anymore. I used to, like a year ago because I was so freaked out that people were talking so much about me. But no, I don’t follow it. Once in a while, someone will forward me something that’s funny or to ask, “Is this true?” But I don’t look at that stuff anymore for the most part.
Is ignorance bliss in this case?
Yeah. I went through a really low point of looking what the media was saying about me, and it really took a toll on my self-esteem. I had to stop looking at it for my own well-being.
You mentioned being resistant to signing up for the show because of the “celebrity” tag, but you were also resistant to being diagnosed as a love addict.
Yeah, I thought it was ridiculous.
Do you still think so?
No! Not at all. I’m the biggest proponent of love addiction. I’ll be at dinner in a restaurant talking about love addiction with the people I’m sitting with and diagnosing all of them [laughs]. I was critical of it at first, just like everybody else. But it is a real condition. I want to help bring awareness to it. I think there are a lot of unhappy people out there that if they realized there’s a label to what they’re going through and their behavior and their patterns and that they can fix it, I think I can help a lot of people get on the path to being happy.
Was there an, “A-ha!” moment when you went from a skeptic to a believer?
There were times in my one-on-ones with Drew, where I’d be talking about what came naturally to me, and he’d say, “Yeah, Rahel, that’s intensity. That’s not love.” He’d understand what I was doing and say, “But that’s what this is.” I was astonished that somebody could understand me. I thought it was just a character flaw and Drew would say, “No, that’s what love addicts do.” And then he gave me this book by Pia Melody called Facing Love Addiction. I started reading it and within the first two pages, I realized that was me. By the end of Rehab, everyone was given that book because everyone experiences some degree of a love-addiction issue or co-dependency or something along those lines.
On the show, we saw you uninvited from The Celebrity Apprentice. Did that disappoint you, and does it still?
At the time, I was really disappointed. I was really hurt that Donald Trump said the things he did to the media. He made some comment like, “Rachel Uchitel, who’s that? She’s not a celebrity.” Well, he’s the one who called me and asked me to be on this show. I argued about the fact that I was a celebrity. If I was on the outside, I would have judged me just as everyone else in America did, without knowing the facts or the truth. I get it, but it was hurtful for him to come at me like that and have that be national news. But I’m so proud of myself that I made the decision to be part of Celebrity Rehab. Everybody in my world told me not to and I know I did the right thing. My life is completely different.
When you say “everybody,” are you referring to agents and managers?
No, no, no. I didn’t have managers. I didn’t have all that stuff. I had my family and friends. I was the only one on the show that didn’t have visitors come. Nobody would stand by me. What people didn’t see on this week’s episodes is that part of why I blew up, or actually the straw that broke the camel’s back is that a producer had come in and said, “Rachel, I’ve reached out to the list of family and friends that you gave me, and no one will come stand by you.” They didn’t want to be part of the show. They found this whole thing to be an embarrassment and they found me to be an embarrassment. I was so hurt and angry by that. I felt like I had no one. I felt like I had no one supporting me. I felt so misunderstood…and then I got into a fight with Drew. But honestly, watching that fight I had with him, I don’t think I was wrong. And I don’t think I was wrong with what I said to Bob, either.
So you contend that Janice was acting out for the cameras and that Drew was turning a blind eye?
Are you on bad terms with Janice now?
I’m not on bad terms with her. She didn’t change after the show. Listen, she said a lot of bad things about me on the show, not on the show, whatever. I made an effort to be her friend, but I hold my friends in high esteem. Especially after what’s happened to me in the past year, I pick them very wisely. She’s not capable of being my friend right now. When she’s capable of being a friend to me and letting me be a friend to her, I’d love to have a relationship with her.
So, do you think that Drew was lying? He had a big problem with that.
No, I wasn’t accusing him of lying. I wasn’t accusing him of anything, actually. I was suggesting that I was having a very hard time in treatment and he was acting like he didn’t know what I was talking about. That frustrated me. For the first time, I sat there and thought, “Have I been duped? Am I just on a reality show or are we in treatment?” I thought we were in treatment at that point, and there just happened to be cameras there. I felt like Janice’s acting out was distracting and Drew didn’t see it and settle it down for the people that really were trying to get through treatment. I had a real problem with that. The fact that he said he hadn’t seen it, I found inappropriate. If he’s the doctor, he should be seeing this stuff. It was so evident and so distracting and it was affecting me and the rest of the people in rehab. I don’t regret what I said to him. I think it took up to that point for them to realize what was going on in the unit and the effect it was having.
Is this what you were alluding to when you were packing to leave and you said that you’d reveal why if the cameras were turned off?
Yeah, that I was confused about whether we were on a show or in rehab. I just felt left out to dry. I felt like I had no one on the outside world standing by me, and then on the inside world, I felt duped. I wasn’t accustomed to any of this, and I wondered if I was just naïve. It was like, am I on a show and I didn’t know it this whole time? Is everyone else acting? Am I supposed to be acting and I didn’t get the memo?
Did you come around to seeing the value of the treatment you were being offered?
I always did. The entire time.
When you left, the group rallied around you, maybe with the exception of Janice. Was that surprising?
I wasn’t surprised about Janice, but when I watched the show, I was really moved by everyone’s reactions to me leaving. I remember sitting on the floor of my hotel room, listening to the voice mail they left me. Leif and Jason Wahler had also talked on the voice mail. I wanted to come back. I needed to hear that from them. I needed to hear from them that they cared about me and they wanted me back .
Drew suggested that you were testing everybody.
I thought that was very intuitive. I never would have put my finger on that, but it was very accurate. It’s part of a pattern I’ve had for a very long time. No one had eloquently articulated that before, so it took me a moment to be like, “Oh. OK, that’s what this is about.”
Drew suggested to me that you were something of a leader to the group. Did you feel that way?
While I was in it, no.
Watching it now?
Yeah. It was a real honor to watch how when I left, it affected everyone, again. I feel kind of proud of myself, watching the show. I see things I didn’t remember. I’m happy that I made the effort help Jason Davis so much and not talk about him behind his back. I defended him and Leif and Frankie. I don’t remember that stuff, because it’s kind of a blur, but I’m happy to see I had that much of an affect on people. In my own head, I felt out of place there. I didn’t feel like enough of a celebrity or an addict. I didn’t feel like I understood what a lot of them were talking about. Like when I was asking Leif about heroin. I’m not an addict like that. I’m a love addict and I cope with prescription pills. That was me genuinely asking. I’m so close to Leif and those guys right now, and it’s because I took an interest in them. I never asked questions to challenge them, I asked them because I genuinely wanted to know. Maybe they’ve gone their whole lives without someone asking questions that deep. People think they know celebrities, but these are people who probably feel the loneliest. People know their persona as portrayed by the media or that’s portrayed by whatever it is that they do, but that’s now who they are on the inside. They feel really lonely and really misunderstood. And I can identify with that.
Besides Janice, are you still tight with everyone?
Yeah. I haven’t spoken to Frankie in a couple of weeks, because she changed phone numbers, but yeah, I love Frankie. She’s great. She’s really funny.
Did your family ever end up coming around regarding your participation in the show?
Really? It remains a source of contention?
Yeah. I guess so. I don’t know how to answer that for them. But again, I didn’t have any visitors there for that reason. Now that it’s visible that people’s opinions about me are changing after seeing me on this show, now they’re coming around to not be so embarrassed by me, let’s say. But that’s not OK with me. The point is that family and your close friends should be there for you when you’re going through the hardest time and not judge you. A lot of their reaction was very selfish in my opinion. I’m working on forgiving people for that. I went through a lot, and I went through it alone. That’s reminiscent of my life, in general. I’m not OK with that.
When you talk about the changing public perception, was that part of your objective in doing this show, or is it a byproduct?
I wasn’t aiming to change the perception. I was not OK with sitting back and letting people see the media’s version of me. I wanted to show me, and if people wanted to hate me, it was totally fair game. They can say whatever they want, because I’m choosing to put myself out there. I’m choosing to make decisions and fall on my face in front of them. That’s fair game, because it’s all from my mouth. That’s why I chose to do the show. The upside is that in the three or four weeks that the show has been airing, the reaction that I’ve gotten from strangers on the street to people on Twitter to people on Facebook has been overwhelming. People saying things like, “I’m your biggest fan,” to, “I’m sorry I judged the media’s version of you”…all that kind of stuff. It humbles me every time I see something like that. People are rooting for me. People identify with me and I’m not this scary, threatening person I’ve been made out to be.
Are you happy?
I’m totally happy. I mean, It’s something you work on, on a daily basis. But I’m so happy right now with the way things are going, with my life. I’m still trying to figure it out, but I’m in the space of being 100 percent happy with the direction I’m going in. And I’m making all my own decisions, I’m not stuck in making decisions based on what I want people’s reactions to be. I’m happy because I’m able to surround myself with people who are helping me get through it, like Drew, like Bob Forrest, like the people on the show. I’m in the driver’s seat, and I genuinely like that.