Sutton Stracke's found her voice and isn't afraid to use it (even if it gets her in trouble) on 'The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.'
At least, those are the words she uses to describe her feelings toward castmates Lisa Rinna and Erika Jayne, respectively. Lisa introduced Sutton to this group back in season 10, but their time together on the show has seemingly tested the pair's friendship, not strengthened it.
"Well, I'm learning a lot more about Lisa and the complexity of her character and the ability to stand up to her," Sutton tells ET of the "journey" the two go on in season 12. "It's a journey," the Georgia native reiterates in her signature Southern drawl.
An appearance on Bravo's Watch What Happens Live With Andy Cohen last fall created quite the crack, as Sutton claimed to have invited Lisa and her husband, Harry Hamlin, as her guests to Elton John's annual Oscars party -- a charitable event benefiting the singer's AIDS foundation -- and never received a "thank you." Sutton shared the story as an example of hypocrisy, as Lisa was actively arguing with co-star Garcelle Beauvais about not receiving a "thanks" for a small gift, a jar of Harry's homemade pasta sauce. The season 12 premiere opens with Lisa complaining to Erika about the ordeal.
"I was like, what is she talking about? And I was not happy about it," Lisa laments. She's since doubled down on Instagram, going on a bit of a posting spree about the situation and offering "receipts" in the form of Getty Images, proving she'd attended the annual gala for years before Sutton claimed to bring her as a guest. It's worth noting the Elton John party is an invite-only event, in which donors buy tables for hundreds of thousands of dollars and fill those seats with guests; Lisa has seemingly always been someone's guest, though she claims she was "never" a guest of Sutton.
"Harry and I have been going to the Elton John Oscar party to raise money for AIDS since 2006," she wrote in one Instagram Story. "We were never guests of Sutton Stracke ever. In 2019, we had our own table that we were scheduled to sit at. At the time, Sutton was desperately trying to get on RHOBH and I was happy to help her, so she asked us to sit at her table at the event. I said, 'Sure, why not?' and I gave up the table we were assigned to sit at."
"Confusion, in so many ways," Sutton offers to ET when asked about Lisa's claims. "Oh, you know Lisa, OK? Listen, I let Lisa get away with stuff because I'm nice."
Lisa's mini-rant continued with a second slide, which read, "I don't recall Sutton ever saying thank you to me for helping get her on RHOBH," along with a list (of two things) she says she did to assist Sutton in the process of getting cast, which aren't out of the ordinary for the women to do when their friends are in contention for a slot on the show.
"I didn't ask for a thank you, and I sure didn't get one," she posted. "Sutton should take several seats. The end."
"Well, this started last year so it's rather old news," Sutton notes. "It started on my birthday in September, and I remember when it started I was like, 'I'm not looking at this because it's my birthday and I want to have a nice weekend.' So I tend not to look at all of this stuff, because I actually have a business that I'm building and running, and I have children that are still living with me and need my attention."
"I have things that are going on that are of more interest to me," she says. That seems to ring true for her approach to Erika in season 12, too. Last year, Sutton was the group's unintentional lead investigator when it came to the "XXPEN$IVE" singer's legal troubles amid her attempted divorce from estranged husband Tom Girardi. Civil cases facing the Girardis continue as a through-line in the new batch of episodes, but Sutton is apparently done asking questions.
"I became very indifferent after the reunion," Sutton explains. "How would you feel? I mean, how would you feel?"
The season 11 reunion -- an unprecedented four-part special for RHOBH -- largely played out like a deposition for Erika, who faced hours of questioning about Tom's alleged indiscretions and how much she knew and/or was involved. The longtime diamond-holder answered almost everything, but also got defensive when any of her castmates attempted to jump in and poke further than host Andy Cohen. Sutton got her own split-screen moment a la The View's notorious Rosie O'Donnell-Elisabeth Hasselbeck face-off during one tense exchange.
"Erika and I are both strong women and strong in our opinions, and it's the part of her that I like, and that's the part that gets on my nerves," Sutton admits, without revealing much more about what transpires between the two over the course of the season.
"I am not telling you," she quips, before adding, "Well, I will say this: We're both following each other on Instagram. How about that?"
"I guess that's like the beacon of hope for everyone," she laughs.
While Sutton may have stood down on getting into it with Erika, the trailer promises at least one dust-up with newcomer Diana Jenkins. Sutton, while appearing to comfort a crying Kyle Richards, turns to the newbie and says, "I think you're a soulless person." Diana's response? "You need a new villain? Here I am."
"Well, that's going to be a very interesting scene to watch," Sutton teases, admitting she doesn't consider her new co-star a friend.
"Yeah, no," she deadpans. "I'm not putting her in the best friend character, or category. However, Diana has surprised me privately, and I respect that. ... She's in the acquaintance category."
Viewers will have to wait a beat to meet Diana, though, as she doesn't appear in the premiere. "Diana was delayed... a lot," Sutton cracks, seemingly not a commentary on Diana's punctuality.
Sutton has gotten closer to Garcelle and season 11 addition Crystal Kung Minkoff over the course of filming, though both friendships are a bit of a surprise given neither Garcelle nor Crystal got off on the right foot with the boutique owner. Viewers have lauded the trio as the "next generation" of the show, a group strong enough to counterbalance the group-think driven by what's known as the "Fox Force Five" (Kyle, Lisa, Erika, Dorit Kemsley and former 'Wife Teddi Mellencamp).
"I don't think that was intentional," Sutton clarifies. "It's just hard to infiltrate -- especially when it was just me and Garcelle -- it was hard to get in. That's all."
"I think when you have a tight, group bond that those women have established over years, and then you have a group of women that are new, of course we're going to bond together because it's just a natural thing," she adds. "There's no cliques or anything like that. I don't do that. I want to be friends with everybody. I want to be inclusive. Not everybody thinks like that."
Sutton says her philosophy when it comes to bonding in this group is to leave the door open and see who walks in; and if she's walking through someone else's door, she's always knocking first -- a reference to her main issue with Crystal last season. Fans will recall Sutton walked in on a naked Crystal during the cast trip to Lake Tahoe, California.
"Well, see, now with Crystal the door is open because I knocked very loudly," she jokes. "Every time I come to her house I make sure to knock, and she does the same for me, and we think it's a joke. We've gotten so far from that."
While the trio of Sutton, Crystal and Garcelle is in a good place today -- the ladies recently attended the launch of Sutton's cashmere line at her West Hollywood store -- there will be some friction as the episodes play out. In a sneak peek at the season, Garcelle warns Sutton about trusting her "new friend," aka Crystal.
"You know, remembrance of the past..." Sutton says, implying whatever issue Garcelle brought to the table was short-lived.
"I always listen to Garcelle," she tacks on as a caveat. "She always has my best interests in mind."
Friendships and feuding aside, Sutton is excited for the audience to see her in mom mode -- her son, Philip, filmed this season -- and to watch the group back in action and out in the world. COVID plays less of a role in season 12, apparently.
"I just think that this is going to be of one of the most exciting seasons," she proclaims. "I think we do a lot. We travel a lot. We go from Mexico and then kind of all the way to Aspen. There's a lot of parties finally, we get to go to. We get to go to restaurants without masks on! We're back out in the world, which is scary because then God knows what's going to happen with this group..."
Much has been made of the women's trip to Aspen, with tabloid gossip spouting out from nearly every Bravo fan account for months about what may or may not have happened in the mountains. "I think things get so bad there because you have to use that oxygen to breathe, so we're all on oxygen, so our brains aren't working normal," Sutton jests. "That's what I think."
A number of the so-called leaks about Aspen have focused on Kathy Hilton, the breakout "friend of" addition in season 11 who won't show up until the latter half of season 12 (she was filming her daughter, Paris Hilton's, show, Paris in Love when RHOBH went back into production). But Sutton says when she does show up, Kathy gets "thrown right back into the arena."
Sutton found herself in that arena a lot, too, more than her prior two seasons.
"I'm going to be sitting in my seat with my sleep blinders on my face," she says of preparing to watch back the show. "You see me be a lot more vocal, and you see me not being afraid to express my opinion to anyone. And sometimes I'm wrong, sometimes I'm right. And I love it when I'm right. That the best part."
"If you don't speak up you're in trouble because it's going to come out," Sutton continues. "You've got to do it. You've just got to... or someone will speak for you. Someone will speak for you, and that's the worst. But you've got to find that inner strength, and you got to say it. Even if you're wrong, you've got to say it because at least then you can say, you know what? You're right. I was wrong. ... So for me, that was my season. I can be a hothead. Who knew?"
The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills premieres Wednesday, May 11, at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Bravo.