‘Guilt and Shame’: Real Housewife Shannon Beador Gets Candid on DUI Arrest

Sami Drasin/Bravo
Sami Drasin/Bravo

In her 10 seasons as a cast member on The Real Housewives of Orange County, Shannon Beador has never been one to look past people’s transgressions.

She’ll be the first to admit that, as she did in a recent interview with The Daily Beast’s Obsessed. But one stormy year can change a person’s mindset completely—even that of a reality TV star.

“I wasn’t a big person on giving others passes for making mistakes,” she said. “Now that I’ve made my own huge mistake, I think that everybody is human. No one’s perfect.”

When RHOC returns for Season 18, Beador’s September 2023 arrest for driving under the influence is the show’s biggest, most dramatic focus. She was sentenced to three years’ probation, 40 months of community service, and a nine-month alcohol program for the incident, in which she drove her car off the side of the road and into a residential building in Newport Beach, Calif., before zooming off.

The security camera footage is harrowing, revealing both how little control Beador had of her vehicle, and the potential for harm if anyone had been around. In Thursday night’s RHOC premiere, Beador shows a photo of her face bruised and bloodied after the accident.

Now, as Beador approaches the one-year anniversary of the incident and the work she’s done to better herself, the season of reality TV chronicling the fallout of her arrest is airing. Friends have disowned her, including castmate Tamra Judge, who formerly was one-third of the show’s “Tres Amigas” friend group and spends the season accusing Beador of being a drunk who needs help. In fact, whether or not Beador has a drinking problem seems to preoccupy the entire cast, driving myriad explosive conversations.

On top of that drama, Beador also learned that her ex, John Janssen, with whom she was arguing the night of her arrest, began dating former RHOC cast member Alexis Bellino, whose involvement in a past lawsuit against Beador led to extreme acrimony between the Bravo stars. “You can’t script this shit,” Beador told Obsessed.

In a Zoom interview ahead of Thursday night’s premiere, Beador, looking radiant and more refreshed than she has in years, spoke candidly about her “guilt and shame” over her arrest, the work that she’s done to better herself, and why she has no patience for castmates like Judge and their public gossip about her drinking and well-being.

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Everyone who’s seen the premiere is raving about how good it is as an episode of reality TV, but it must be a bit traumatizing for you.

Everyone has been saying, “Oh, it’s such a great season.” And then when they ask me how I would describe it, my answer is “difficult,” because it was difficult. There’s a therapeutic part of going through it and publicly taking accountability for everything that happened. So that’s been very healing for me.

What was your mindset heading into filming, knowing your DUI was going to be a huge part of the season?

After my DUI, I really went inside myself to figure out what was best for me. I was using alcohol as a coping mechanism, and an unhealthy one. So I did go and spent 30 days in a behavioral wellness center here in Orange County, with an alcohol component. I made a lot of realizations, and I still currently work with a trauma therapist and a psychiatrist on a regular basis, because I want to be the best person that I can be. My best friends today are a walk, breathing, and cold ice packs. Those things have helped. I’ve surrounded myself with such an incredible support group. It’s a small circle that I know will be supportive, reliable, and trusting.

Gina Kirschenheiter, Emily Simpson, and Shannon Storms Beador

Gina Kirschenheiter, Emily Simpson, and Shannon Storms Beador

Nicole Weingart/Bravo

It’s one thing to know that you’ve put in the work to arrive at a better place, but another to then be thrown to the wolves and do a season of Real Housewives about what happened. I imagine you must have felt some apprehension about filming again.

I didn’t really know, walking in, what it would be like. Like I told you, I kept myself in a small circle, and I still do, actually. So I kind of felt like I was walking into this island, not knowing who am I friendlier with and who is even going to be friendly to me. It was surprising and refreshing to realize who actually is there supporting me. But clearly there was apprehension.

Of course.

The bottom line is: I am taking accountability for myself. I only have to answer to me and the people that are close to me and my family. They know the progress that I’m making, that I continue to make, and it’s mind-boggling to me that certain cast members will go out into social media claiming that they have all this information.

They’ve certainly been talking about it a lot.

My DUI is approaching its one year mark, so they don't know what I’ve been doing the last year. I guess my statement is, you know what, viewers? Check back with me at the end of the season, and then you tell me what you think. Do you think that I’ve made improvements in myself, and I’m trying to be the healthiest that I can be? Or do you think that I belong in rehab, not on the show, and all the other things people are saying?

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You mentioned that the one year anniversary of the DUI is coming up. How are you feeling about that?

Well, I’m in a different place. First of all, I’m so grateful because not a day goes by that I don’t think about the fact that I didn’t hurt anyone. Just the thought that I could have hurt someone—it just haunts me. There’s a lot of guilt and shame, because I’m a mother, because of my age, because of who I thought I represented. I was able to, in a few seconds, change all of that. So it’s been hard to deal with.

I can imagine.

I went to BravoCon one month after the DUI, and that was so good for me. I thought, “If I can get through this and be authentic and truthful about everything that happened, then I can get through anything.” It’s all been good for me. Again, I’m in a really happier place and, interestingly enough, not using alcohol to cope. I’m not in a relationship. I’m single. It’s very strange to think that I have no desire to be in a relationship. So that, to me, shows progress.

Tamra Judge, Shannon Beador, Vicki Gunvalson, Taylor Armstrong

Tamra Judge, Shannon Beador, Vicki Gunvalson, Taylor Armstrong

Trae Patton/Bravo via Getty Images

How did you feel heading into BravoCon? That’s quite a trial-by-fire way of re-entering public life after the incident.

You know, if people are upset with what I did and can’t get over it, they’re entitled to believe that. Everyone's entitled to their opinion. I’m grateful that people can see this season that I am taking responsibility for my mistakes and that I’m trying to turn it into a positive. There’s always going to be people that go against me, including my castmates. So they can keep talking about claiming to know me, when it’s really almost been a year and they haven’t been a part of my growth. I don’t know what the intention or agenda is to try to hurt me more. I'm proud of where I sit right now.

Whenever there’s a scandal in the world of Real Housewives, fans often respond by cheering about how juicy the next season of the show will be when it’s tackling it. But that can sometimes be macabre and dark. In this case, they were excited over your DUI for its story potential. How do you feel about that?

Well, let’s also add the Alexis Bellino name into the equation, and John Janssen. It’s kind of like, you’ve got to be kidding me. But you get through it. What’s hard is just going to make you stronger. You know, it is dark. Vicki gets to come back this season. Tamra’s no longer part of the Tres Amigas, so we have our Shannon and Vicki live show, which is super fun and funny. It's about our friendship, which is amazing and it's silly. So you’re able to, thank goodness, see some silly parts this season.

Were there castmates who you assumed were going to be supportive who weren’t, or ones you assumed would target you but then maybe supported you instead?

Absolutely. On both ends. So I think it’ll be very interesting for the viewers to see that.

The disbanding of the Tres Amigas and your friendship with Tamra ending shocked Bravo fans. How did you react when that was happening?

We did a show together right after BravoCon, which was very successful. We talked with our manager at the time about how we could plan more shows, because Tamra was super busy. So she said, “If you just give me enough notice…” Then all of a sudden, she told him she was out. She didn’t call either Vicki or I. She’s blaming it on me, saying that I need rehab and that I need to look inward at myself. I don’t understand why Tamra Judge is so focused on me. She should look into herself, because I’m doing a really good job of dealing with my own life right now.

Were you nervous to drink on the show, given the fact that it could put a target on your back for judgment from the other women?

Absolutely. But the thing is, I made a promise to be completely truthful. There were periods in my life where I was drinking all the time. When my marriage ended. When my relationship with John ended, miserable parts of my life. I knew getting back together with John was not going to work, but I was dumb and I was miserable. I get that now. If I find that alcohol becomes a problem for me, then I will take responsibility for fixing that. For now, sometimes I go out and have a drink. Sometimes I don’t. I’ll have a couple. That’s it. I don’t want to be the hider.

You didn’t want to be accused of sneaking alcohol.

I didn’t drink during my treatment program or at BravoCon. But when we were doing that live show the first night, we went and had dinner after and someone said, “Do you want me to order your drink?” And I said, “OK.” Then I went to my hotel room. I thought, I can’t do that anymore, because it’s going to look like I tried to sneak something. So when we did our show the second night, I ordered the drink. Well, guess what Tamra Judge is talking about? “She was sneaking.” One time, a guy offered and I said yes. I thought, you know what, I’m not going to be that person to say, “Oh, I’m not drinking,” and then sneak stuff. It’s just not who I am. For right now, it seems to be working.

People want to see transparency on reality TV.

Well, there are other people on the cast too that maybe should stop making judgments about my drinking. Maybe look at how they look on camera when they drink.

Katie Ginella, Gina Kirschenheiter, Heather Dubrow, Shannon Storms Beador, Tamra Judge, Emily Simpson, and Jennifer Pedranti

Katie Ginella, Gina Kirschenheiter, Heather Dubrow, Shannon Storms Beador, Tamra Judge, Emily Simpson, and Jennifer Pedranti

Sami Drasin/Bravo

As you mentioned, two bombs exploded in your life. There was the DUI, then there was the Alexis Bellino of it all. How did you react to the news of her and John?

I mean, if you think about the timing of it, John and I pretty much had ended things for about six weeks, and then he got together with Alexis. When we started filming, I think they were almost two months into a relationship, so everything was very new. As much as John wants to say we were together for three years, we were together for a little over four years. That’s a long time to be with someone. I thought we were going to get married, but I’m grateful that we’re not together anymore because it wasn’t a healthy relationship. So God has a plan, and I’m along for the ride.

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Did watching last season and seeing the ways in which the other women judged your relationship with John change how you thought about your relationship?

Absolutely. I was a mess, which you could see at the reunion. I was just puffy. I wasn’t sleeping. I was so stressed out because John wanted me to clear his name as to what some of the women were saying about him, so I didn’t even focus on myself or anything else that I was going through. It was always about protecting the relationship. Someone named Alexis might be doing that right now. So, you know, he has his minions in order. I didn’t know what to expect. I don’t know her, but I do have a past with her. She started the ball rolling on a lawsuit. I lost a lot of money in that. I didn’t do anything wrong. I won, but I still lost a lot of money defending myself. So, no interest! No interest in becoming buddies.

How do you feel about what Heather Dubrow and Emily Simpson called the “rebrand” of John Janssen into “Johnny J”?

It’s just… [stares into the camera goofily] Like, honestly. All of the things that have happened to me in the last year… you can’t script this shit. Johnny J giving a promise ring after a month. It’s unbelievable.

It seems like you dodged a bullet.

Good for them. He told me the same stuff after two weeks. So it seems to be a pattern. But I didn’t get a ring.

The season is fixated on a dark time in your life. But did you find any joy in doing this season?

The joy with me right now is that I was able to spend some time with my children. The joy that I get is doing this show with Vicki, because it’s something I can focus on. It’s something that I can look forward to. And Vicki plus Shannon equals silly fun. You can’t script the stuff that happens to us. I do have joy and I have silly moments on the show, if you can believe it, with Vicki and a couple of the other castmates. And I’ve got a lot of the other stuff, too, a lot of dramatic moments,

Did you ever, heading into this season, think about the message you might send people by chronicling your life in the aftermath of what happened?

I wasn’t a big person on giving others passes for making mistakes. Now that I’ve made my own huge mistake, I think that everybody is human. No one’s perfect. If we do make a mistake, you have to look at what you’re doing to correct that mistake. If you are actively working on yourself and trying to make good out of the bad, then you’ll be okay. It’s hard and it’s embarrassing, and I’m horribly humiliated. But it is what it is, and through time, I will be able to prove to myself and others that, in the end, it turned everything into a positive.

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