UPDATE 5/24/23, 11 a.m. ET: Ali Rafiq was buried in St. Louis one day after his death due to religious beliefs, so Tom Sandoval and Ariana Madix were not able to attend in person, Rabia Rafiq told TMZ on Wednesday, May 24. Sandoval’s parents attended and FaceTimed him from the funeral, Rabia confirmed, while Madix sent flowers to the family.
“The love I have for you is way beyond words I will carry u forever in my heart,” the TomTom cofounder, 40, captioned an Instagram slideshow on Saturday, May 20, reflecting on some of his fondest moments with his pal. “Always cherishing the beautiful memories, uncontrollable laughter, and epic experiences we had together. You were My best friend, my brother. I’ll catch u on the next sunrise… 5min/5hour 5or500.”
Sandoval appeared to disable comments on his social media upload, which showed several photos of him and his friend throughout the years.
The Florida native, 37, issued her own thoughtful statement in honor of Rafiq, whom she met through her former boyfriend. “I keep wanting to text you. it feels like this can’t even be real,” she wrote via her Instagram Story alongside a black-and-white selfie of the duo. “We were just planning your trip to LA. talking about our futures and all the things we were looking forward to. i miss our talks about life. i miss sending each other cat memes. i miss geeking out over food. or dj videos. i miss you bringing your turntables over. i miss us both wanting to go home but still staying out and having fun. i miss cut copy and chromeo songs.”
Madix continued: “I miss you @alispacerafiq and while you won’t be seeing this, i’m hoping somehow this makes it to you. i love you always and forever.”
The Bravo personality noted how “grateful” she felt “for the love and friendship” she shared with Rafiq. “You are so loved and you are so missed. i am proud to be able to say i know ali the great. because you ARE and will always be the greatest,” she concluded.
Days before his passing, Rafiq shared the same black-and-white throwback snap via Instagram. “Started from the bottom now we here @arianamadix #pumprules #2014,” read the caption.
A funeral service was held for the photographer on Saturday. According to his sister, Rabia, his cause of death has not yet been determined.
“It’s human nature to ask, what happened, how did he die? The truth is, we don’t know how he died, we just found him and he was already gone,” she told her social media followers. “We won’t have any answers from his tests for weeks, so we don’t know.”
The heartbreaking loss comes shortly after the bombshell season 10 finale of Vanderpump Rules, which aired on Wednesday, May 17. The episode showed the aftermath of Sandoval’s affair with Raquel Leviss and his subsequent split from Madix after nine years of dating.
Us Weekly confirmed the pair’s breakup in March, and cameras were picked back up soon after to capture new footage for season 10. Madix and the Schwartz and Sandy’s co-owner faced off in a heated confrontation during the emotional final episode.
“I have been with you for nine years. Back when you lived with [Tom] Schwartz, we became friends. When you were wearing combat boots and skinny jeans and didn’t have a f–king dime to your name driving a 1997 Honda Civic. I loved you then — when you had nothing,” she said. “You got a little bit of money, a bar, a little band and now this girl is going to act like she’s enamored with you? Because that is what you want. You want someone just to gas you up.”
The drama is set to continue in a three-part reunion special kicking off this week. While details about season 11 aren’t set in stone, Madix told The New York Times she has no interest in appearing with her ex or Leviss, 28, on camera.
“No. I have nothing to say to either of them,” she explained in a Thursday, May 18, profile. “Our show is very real and follows a real group of friends, and neither of them are in the group of friends, so, good luck.”