Jeff Lewis: My Housekeeper Zoila "Tried to Escape!"
Move over, Kathy Griffin.
There's another breakout reality TV star on the Bravo block and after three seasons, Flipping Out's Jeff Lewis is finally coming into his own.
Back with more deliciously over-the-top antics and biting one-liners, the 40-year-old Lewis proves his worth as the star of the best show you're not watching this fall.
UsMagazine.com caught up with the L.A.-based Lewis to dish on his most outrageous home makeover, how to mix his signature cocktail and how he has to keep tabs on his "squirrely" live-in housekeeper, Zoila Chavez.
UsMagazine.com: You've had some pretty outrageous clients. Tell Us about your most difficult makeover.
Jeff Lewis: Probably the most difficult client I've had is recently. I was asked to design and build a state-of-the-art walk-in closet for doll clothes. I mean, I'm talking little wardrobe bars and little drawers and little hangers. She would not sign the release [to be on the show]. I was working on her home for probably about 6 months and I have to say it was a rough road with her and it was a little depressing. I look back at my old life and I went from flipping multi-million dollar homes to building doll closets. I think, 'Wow, I've really kind of fallen.' It's a little depressing. Dolls don't need big walk-in closets, they just don't.
Us: So at the end of the day, you've really earned that cocktail hour we see you indulge in on the show!
JL: We do earn our cocktails, yes. We used to start cocktail hour at 5 p.m. at my office and we've done that probably for a good 6 to 8 months, but some of my employees were not drinking responsibly and they were drinking a little too much too fast, so the problem was that they were less productive. So, now I've officially moved cocktail hour to 6 p.m. Because 5 p.m. they were getting a little too loopy too fast. And when I say "they," I really mean me. My default method is to just blame somebody else, but yeah, it's actually me.
Us: How do you mix the perfect Jeff Lewis cocktail?
JL: I love a dirty martini. I use a little bit of water to dilute it, and I like fresh olive juice. I don't like the prepackaged blue cheese olives, so we buy fresh blue cheese and then I have [my assistant] Jett actually stuff the olives. But we don't bring in food. We don't want the extra calories -- I'm trying to get the whole office to slim down.
Us: Speaking of employees, your longtime executive assistant, Jenni Pulos, is working on a children's rap album. Do you ever offer backup vocals?
JL: She's working on that, but I haven't heard a release date. I don't know if I would call her rap career 'budding' -- she performs at children's birthday parties. Her last birthday party was two weeks ago and she dressed as a whoopie cushion. So, I guess if anyone has been humbled, it's been Jenni. It's painful and embarrassing. Sometimes I feel sorry for myself, but it could be a lot worse. I could be dressed as a whoopie cushion in 100 degree heat rapping to 17 three-year-olds. They're not listening to her by the way, they're not even paying attention to her!
Us: We haven't yet discussed Zoila. Why don't you let her out of the house to run errands anymore?
JL: I have to keep a close eye on her, she's tried to escape a few times. I've spent a lot of money on bounty hunters, finding her and bringing her back. I've spent a lot of time combing bus stations, train stations, airports looking for her and I just don't want to lose any more beauty sleep over it. She's on a very short leash, because I can tell she's getting kind of squirrely, I think she wants to leave. [She's been with me] for like 10 years. We have a very dysfunctional mother-son relationship. Zoila has family in the area, so she leaves Saturday afternoons, she usually goes to one of their homes and then she comes back Sunday evenings. She does have a day off, but she knows she's got to be in by 8:30 on Sunday. The telenovelas start early, then we've got lights out at 9 o'clock. No bedtime story. she usually falls asleep to the television, but she's got to get up early. She's usually a little bit slower is she doesn't get 9 hours of sleep, so that's why I like her in bed by 9.
Flipping Out airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m./ET on Bravo.