Photo by: Tommy Garcia/Bravo
Love him or hate him, Flipping Out’s Jeff Lewis makes for good TV. Personally, we love him. Sure, he’s a little high maintenance. Granted, we wouldn’t want to be one of his employees (our skin will never be that thick). But we respect his talent as a house flipper and designer. And, frankly, he just cracks us up.
We also love his loyal sidekick, Jenni Pulos. With the patience of a saint and an unparalleled dedication to her demanding boss, Jenni is the calming force in the chaotic world of Jeff Lewis.
But true fans will have to agree, the real star of the show is Jenni’s tough talking alter ego Deb.
In a recent interview with Jeff and Jenni, we talked about whether or not Jeff is misunderstood, what’s in store for Season 4, and if Deb will return to keep contractors in line once again.
Catch all new episodes of Flipping Out every Tuesday at 9:00 pm on Bravo.
Q: Last season there were a lot of economic problems and you had to deal with that a lot. Is that on the new season or are things better now in your opinion as far as real estate?
JEFF: Things are a little better for my business. I think the main thing is that last year we were concerned about drumming up business and… I was certainly concerned about money, and I think that was underlying stress of last season.
This season’s a little different. It’s kind of the opposite. It’s not that I have so much money, but that I have a lot of work coming in and I want to take on as much as I can, but… we’re a small office and we can only handle so much.
So… it’s another problem, but… it’s a different kind of problem. It’s certainly a better problem to have.
Q: Jeff, do you think that you are misunderstood or is what we see really what you get?
JEFF: Well, I think that there’s a lot of different sides and the different facets to my personality… I don’t think I’m misunderstood, I just think that we see… one side of me. It certainly would be nice to see more of the softer side, because there is a softer side once in a while.
But, I don’t… know if I’m necessarily misunderstood. I just think that I’m a certain personality during the day. That’s where we do most of our filming. So, we’re… filming mostly between nine and six every single day. And I think that I’m very different outside of work and on weekends, wouldn’t you say, Jenni?
JEFF: Okay, that didn’t sound too convincing though, Jenni.
JENNI: No. No. I… listen… you’re an intense person at work. That’s the deal. And there is another side, and I think that… when we film is from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm Monday through Friday, so...
JEFF: Yeah. I said that, yeah.
JENNI: Oh, thank you. Well, I’ll repeat it for you. But listen you are intense and there is other sides to him, and I think that you see that this season actually with Zoila. And there’s definitely moments. But… what I will say is I think that you are as intense as you are. I think sometimes people think it’s turned up for the camera and you are that intense. I’ve known you for a long time, but that’s also why you’re the best at what you do—passionate, intense.
But, when he’s in work mode he’s in work mode and I think he is… definitely a perfectionist and wants things done a certain way. And that’s where I think the conflict comes, is when he’s feeling like it’s not done the way he wants it to be done.
JEFF: But also too, Jenni, is that we have a lot to do in a very short amount of time. And remember that now that we’re in the client business we’ve got people breathing down our necks wanting to move back in their homes.
JENNI: Yeah, absolutely.
JEFF: And a lot of times there’s construction delays that have nothing to do with us that are completely out of our control. And you know these clients get upset and...
JENNI: And I think when you were working for yourself there was a certain amount of flexibility...
JENNI: Yeah, leeway, and now that doesn’t exist. So, that causes a whole new set of dramas and interesting twists this season.
Q: Jeff, where do things stand with you and Ryan and will we see him on the show this year?
JEFF: No, you will not see him on the show. I haven’t seen Ryan since the Reunion Episode. We’ve emailed a few times with the intention of getting together and maybe clearing the air, but I’ve kind of pushed it as much as I can and I put it out there and I wanted to meet with him, and he was out of town for about five months.
He moved back and he’s relocating to Santa Barbara and he’s been back for, I think about six weeks. And I’m not going to call him again. I’m not going to email him again. If he wants to get together and talk then I’m here, but I kind of feel like I’ve done what I can do. And as sad as it is, I just think that for the first time, maybe a couple of weeks ago, I realized that there is a very strong possibility that we won’t be friends in the future; that we won’t be able to work this out.
Q: Is there a line in your personal life that you did not want the show to cross?
JEFF: Jenni, you should go there first, because this was a very different season for you.
JENNI: I don’t know if you saw Season 2, but I went through a divorce and so now last year was a [lot of] joking of my dating life… And now I’m with someone and we both chose that he’s not on the show and so yeah, I guess I was done with that side for myself.
JEFF: She didn’t want to get dumped again on camera, I think, right Jenni?
JENNI: I love how you’re so sensitive today. Yeah, I guess that’s what it was. I didn’t want to get dumped on camera.
JENNI: No, I respect this person that I’m dating immensely and whatever happens it will be meant to be, but I didn’t want to put him on the show.
JEFF: And he’s a doctor, so we don’t want to screw this up.
JENNI: My mom’s real happy, let’s put it that way.
JEFF: We’re all happy.
Q: Jeff, what about you?
JEFF: I’m dating someone also, but I think when we first started the show I… had been in a relationship for about four years and this person didn’t… want to be on camera at all. So, that kind of established the whole structure of the show and it ended up being almost exclusively about my business life, which is really the majority of my life anyway. And the people that surround me are my employees and that’s kind of my family.
So… the other relationship ended and the new one began, it just kind of felt like the show had already been established and I don’t think that this person wants to be on television either. And I think that it would be a red flag to me if somebody did want to be on the show, because people, as I have found out, will date you for the wrong reasons. Not you, but me.
Q: Does being on the show make it more difficult or easier for you to establish yourself as a brand as a designer?
JEFF: I think that there are certain people that believe that once you have a reality show that you lose credibility. But I think in my case we do have a good following and there are people that believe in my work ethic and my talent, and my business has grown as a result.
So… for me it’s been very positive and… look, I can’t be concerned about the people that criticize. And what’s interesting is that, I was just thinking about this… I get a lot of negative criticism, let’s be honest—I mean, in the press, with blogs, the whole thing. But I think the reason I handle it so well is I was born into a world of criticism and I think that for me I’m a little bit more resilient than most people.
That said, everybody wants to be liked and every now and again there’s some biting criticism that will actually sting a bit. But I just try to move forward and I try to stay focused.
Q: Jenni, how do you think Jeff has changed over the past four seasons of doing the show.
JENNI: I think that Jeff...
JEFF: Has gotten better looking.
JENNI: Definitely. He has a… few more grays. Sorry, Jeff. He’s changed a lot. His business has completely changed and it’s why I think… we find that people that really watch our show, watch our show, and that we have our niche. And I think that’s because they’ve seen Jeff’s journey.
In Season 1 he was obviously flipping and I’ve known him so long and see the dramatic change and drastic change of his business. And therefore he’s had to adjust. I also think he looked at himself and said, “You know, I don’t like a lot of my behavior. I don’t like how I go to blind rage. I don’t like the certain things I do.”
So for him, I think it was therapy edited into now we’re at what, about 30 hours total of his life. So… I know for myself it’s been odd. I think when you see your own life edited into this package I think he has changed a lot.
But, I think that it’s been a good change and I think dealing with clients more and having this now booming design business has helped him because he worked for himself and it’s helped more with relationships and dealing with different personalities, and learning to not have outbursts because now he works for other people.
JEFF: Well, I’ve certainly been humbled, because we eat a lot of s*#t now where we didn’t have to before. So, when you work with clients you’ve got to put up with a lot and I’ve got to bite my tongue but I also feel that I know where people are coming from a little better now. So...
JENNI: And I think it’s been nice because him branching out and working with other people, a lot of people [out there] are burned by contractors and designers, and by his experience of flipping 50 homes. He’s seen a lot, been through a lot, and can counsel people to make the right decisions.
JEFF: I think I had an inflated… sense of self and I think that somebody poked a pin in me. And sometimes I feel a little beaten down and beaten up, but it wasn’t necessarily such a bad thing for me in the long run, even though I hate working so hard for my money now because I work really hard. I work three times as hard for half the money and I’m tired.
But, I think that it’s good in the long-run.
Q: Jenni, we’re wondering if we’ll be seeing more of Deb this season, or now that her cover’s blown, if she’s unfortunately gone away for good?
JENNI: No, Deb’s back I believe, right Jeff?
JEFF: I don’t know. I’ve only seen Episode 1 through 4, so I’m not—I don’t know if Deb—have we seen Deb at all, Jenni?
JENNI: I’m not sure.
JEFF: So far? I hope Deb’s back. I love Deb.
JENNI: I mean Deb actually… she might come through. I know she saved the day a few times. So...
JEFF: She was at Andy Cohen’s show live...
JEFF: ...a couple weeks ago, in the audience.
JENNI: … it’s funny that you ask about Deb because I think a lot of people out there really like Deb more than Jenni, which is totally understandable and...
JEFF: Most people do.
JENNI: Yeah, you do.
JEFF: I like Deb.
JENNI: I know Jeff does. He wished Deb would be full-time.
JEFF: When she speaks her mind and she’s very unedited and she’s tough. She doesn’t put up with any BS. I love that about her.
JENNI: Yeah, Deb’s not a big victim like Jenni. But, hopefully we will… I had this woman in New York come up to me and say, “I use the line all the time, ‘Who am I going to have to ‘uh’ to get something done around here?” You know, so go Deb. Deb for Pres.
Q: Is Deb going to appear on the rap album for kids you have coming out?
JENNI: She will not be. Deb is a little abrasive with children...
JEFF: Can Deb sing? I don’t think Deb can sing.
JENNI: Yeah, Deb’s not really into all the...
JEFF: But neither can Jenni, for that matter.
JENNI: ...performing and Deb actually… she doesn’t like the whole birthday thing. Jenni has [like a] month long birthday celebration, Deb is more low key, you know? Deb likes to have her weekends be low key. And so I don’t know if the whole rap album is for Deb. But I think she is going to get her own Twitter page, so look for that.
Q: Well, we look forward to that.
JENNI: Thank you. I’ll tell her that you said hi.
Q: Please do.