Monique Samuels says the brutal brawl that transpired between herself and Candiace Dillard on The Real Housewives of Potomac was deeper than just the deterioration of their friendship.
"She took a beating for 36 years of built up frustration," Samuels, 37, tells PEOPLE of the physical altercation that aired earlier this season, which saw Samuels appearing to hit Dillard repeatedly on the head.
Watching the incident back, Samuels says she feels "absolutely remorseful" and "completely foolish."
"It wasn't just about [Candiace] that night," Samuels explains. "Once it became physical, my response was that of defending myself, but also that pounding was for every person that has ever done anything to me."
"For that, I just felt like, 'Wow, [Candiace] didn't deserve all that,' " says Samuels, who adds: "I do not excuse my actions. I take full ownership of my part in the altercation."
While she admits to being at fault, Samuels does feel that she was "egged" on. "I was not trying to engage her. I was already at the point where I realized she's not the person who I thought she was," Samuels says, recalling the incident, which took place at a winery where Gizelle Bryant's recent literary award was meant to be celebrated.
Samuels says she remembers saying, "I'm through with her," and believes that may have been what set Dillard, 33, off. "She starts coming closer and then that hand comes right next to my chin and instantly, now that I look back, that was definitely a trigger. I don't like hands in my face. I said, 'Get your hand out of my face' and 'You need to back up,' but she did not."
"That's when she starts saying, 'You gone drag me?' Where I grew up, if you don't want to engage in a fight and a person says back up, then you back up. That's where the tone changed. She egged me on with that question, and I returned it by touching her hair, which I shouldn't have done. That definitely escalated things."
A rep for Dillard did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.
At the time of the incident, Samuels thought that Dillard pushed her, but later realized it was Bryant, 50, trying to innocently separate them from each other.
"I didn't know that was Gizelle. I thought that was Candiace, so I'm thinking, 'now I'm grabbing.' So as I grab her, and then she hits me in the face with the wine glass and wine splashes me … that moment is when I blacked out," Samuels shares. "My body just took over. I went into shock."
She was later told that Dillard did not hit her with a wine glass. However, Samuels is still confused as to why she ended up with a busted lip.
"I was told by certain people in production that the wine glass didn't happen. What they didn't understand was that my lip wasn't cut with a sharp glass, my lip was busted from the impact of blunt force against my face. … Glasses were flying left and right and everyone asks why didn't I let her go," says Samuels.
"I couldn't even hear," Samuels says, explaining her reason for holding on to Dillard as her castmates screamed for her to stop. "My whole entire being was in a state of shock [and] I didn't let her go because when I finally snapped out of it, [Candiace] was still throwing glasses."
She also feels Dillard wanted to create drama that night.
"People ask why you went back after her and I'm like she's literally yelling, 'She's fired, right?' That made me feel she did this on purpose. You didn't expect the fight would happen but you created this and took it to a whole other level and the first thing you say is, 'She's fired?' I'm like okay, she wants me to be fired. Then let me go and finish this," says Samuels.
Having seen Dillard threaten violence previously also made Samuels feel on guard. "I've seen her with a knife in her hand," Samuels said of Dillard pointing a knife at Ashley Darby in season 4. "I've seen her almost fight her husband to get someone. I saw parts of the reunion that didn't air when her and Ashley were arguing and she jumped off the couch and told her, 'You better shut your mouth before I come over and shut it for you.' I've seen her in action, so if we're having this verbal altercation and I say back up, I don't know what's next."
Still, Samuels wishes she would have walked away.
On last week's episode of RHOP, Samuels apologized to her castmates for putting them in harm's way and also expressed her desire to seemingly take a step back from the show.
She now tells PEOPLE that she did try and quit the show right after the fight. "I requested that [Bravo] release me from my contract right after the fight, and we talked about it and they reassured me that whatever I needed to do that would make me feel comfortable they would oblige — and they did," Samuels says.
"I took the fight so seriously that I was like maybe I don't need to do this show. I have too much to lose," Samuels continues. "No one should be able to push me to a point of being physical."
Since the altercation, Samuels says she's spent a lot of time self-reflecting. "I spoke with my pastor. I ended up hiring a therapist. I just want people to know that this wasn't something I took lightly. I was very serious about getting the proper help so that nothing like this happens again. Everything was about self-reflection," Samuels says.
While Samuels apologized to her costars, the women weren't buying it. Bryant, Robyn Dixon and Dr. Wendy Osefo slammed Samuels' actions, with Bryant and Osefo saying the incident was a bad look for Black women.
"I felt like it wasn't about the fight. It wasn't about them being mad about Candiace and I being in a fight. It was like finally we can kick Monique down, finally we can get her out of this circle," Samuels said of her fellow Housewives' reactions.
"Wendy was the most shocking because she was the one — outside of Karen [Huger] and Ashley — that reached out to me and I thought it was sweet. We talked for two hours and she was understanding. She was like, 'I understand, you got egged on.' She said all of these things that made me feel she doesn't agree but understands. Then to see her flip the script, it was clear there was a conversation that changed her mind," Samuels says of Osefo.
On Oct. 4, Osefo, 36, confirmed that she did text Samuels after the fight, writing on Twitter: "Yes, @Iammrssamuels I texted you & we spoke via phone and I was genuinely concerned. The #RHOP ladies know this. Nothing new. They also know, that during our call you said, 'Candiace tested me & I have never failed a test.' Not sure your purpose of mentioning me, but be blessed."
"It's always an interesting thing when people try to generalize one person's actions and say it's representative of an entire group. If that's the case, we've all been in a position where we all haven't been the best role models. It just further shows who they are. Their closets are completely dirty," Samuels says of her costars.
The drama with Dillard began in 2018. Samuels claims that a former friend reached out to Dillard to spread lies about Samuels' family.
As for what the lie was? Samuels says the rumor was that she was sleeping with her fitness trainer and that her youngest son, Chase, was not her husband Chris Samuels' child.
Samuels says that after her ex-friend told Dillard the rumor, and Dillard gave the former friend Charrisse Jackson Jordan's number. From there, Jackson Jordan allegedly began spreading the lies to people in their circle. (Jackson Jordan has denied spreading the gossip.)
"This friend had her heart set on spreading this and Charrisse was trying to get back on the show," Samuels claims about Jackson Jordan, who left the franchise at the end of season 3.
So what does Dillard have to do with any of this? Samuels claims that after the rumor was out, Dillard met with a few other Housewives and discussed the gossip; during that conversation, the women allegedly spoke about bringing the rumor on camera, but with a different spin.
Fast forward to this season, when viewers were first introduced to the gossip by Bryant, who said that the rumor was that Samuels had an affair with her trainer.
While Samuels admits that Dillard refuted the original rumor — that Chase is not her husband's child — she says she was upset that Dillard was privy to the alleged plan to change the rumor and didn't tell her. "You were entertaining the conversation, but you wanted to make sure whatever was said made sense. Candiace never called me about the discussions about the rumor," Samuels explains.
Samuels also says she was disappointed that Dillard would then invite Jackson Jordan to an on-camera event (her anniversary party), knowing that Jackson Jordan had intentions of revealing the rumor.
"She's trying to get on camera. She's trying to come on with whatever lies and use me as a storyline to get back on the show. How is that Candiace is my friend and I didn't even know that she'd invite Jackson Jordan around cameras when you know what she's trying to do behind the scenes? I couldn't recover from that," Samuels says.
In a previous interview with PEOPLE, Dillard said she was not involved in spreading the gossip, or spin, and asserted that she is still "traumatized" and "confused" as to what led up to the physical altercation. Dillard also said that Samuels never asked her about her part in altering the rumors or made it known that she was upset about Jackson Jordan being invited to her event.
Dillard even said Jackson Jordan and Samuels were friendly to each other. Dillard added that she felt as though Samuels created fake drama and slammed her for expressing remorse after the fact. "I don't want people to believe her lies," Dillard said of Samuels. "You weren't saying that after the fight. All of a sudden you're sorry?"
Both women, however, agree that their friendship is over and have no plans to talk to each other until the reunion.
"She's been doing a lot of talking," Samuels tells PEOPLE of Dillard. "She's done so much after the fight that it's shown me that you were never a friend. We had an altercation, it got physical, that doesn't mean I have to be her enemy. She takes no accountability. What I have to say to her will wait until the reunion and then I will say it directly to her face."
Dillard told PEOPLE last week: "[The reunion] will be the only time I ever speak with her or allow myself to be around someone like her again. It's only because I want to hear how she's finally going to put the last spin on the lies she's created over the last year."
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