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Flipping Out's Jeff Lewis: An interview with Bravo's OCD realtor

by Allison Waldman, posted Oct 20th 2009 11:02AM
Flipping_Out_Jeff_LewisBravo's resident house flipper, real estate guru and OCD interior designer, Jeff Lewis, is a very complicated guy. When I spoke to him recently, I was actually a little concerned. If you've seen Jeff on Bravo's Flipping Out, you've seen him lose it on occasion. Would he yell at me on the phone if I asked the wrong question?

In fact, Jeff Lewis was extremely friendly and funny. We had a great talk and he couldn't have been nicer. He was also really forthcoming about the past seasons of Flipping Out, including this one that's concluding tonight.

What has it been like to be turned into a reality TV star?
Because of the reaction of the show, some people see me as a villain and that could be the way I do business. I handle my employees in a rather non-traditional way. I was concerned about how people would react in public, but it's actually been pretty positive. Overall, it's been a very positive experience. Many people are very nice and complimentary and supportive.

Are you ever offended that your OCD is depicted as part of the drama?
The only thing that bothers me sometimes is that when I react, I feel it's not properly explained. I remember in the beginning of season one, right out of the gate, I fired someone. We had started shooting and that first week I happened to fire an employee. Most people didn't know that it really wasn't about him being on the side of the road making a personal call. He was fired for the 14 other things he'd done wrong. I believe if people had all the details, they would have had a better understanding of why I reacted the way I did.

Have you been angry by what makes it in the final cut and what doesn't?
Sometimes. There are times I wish the background of a story could have been shown, but it happened off camera. I don't get angry or frustrated. I get embarrassed at times. I think I've made a fool of myself on multiple occasions. I keep saying to people, if you had a camera crew following you around for five months, I guarantee you there will be a moment when you don't look good or you'll have a meltdown. But it's part of the commitment I made to the show. I wanted to show all sides of me. This show shows everything.

Does it?
Oh yes, it shows my mood swings, my temper, you know, all the things I don't like about myself. But that's who I am. I'm a very layered person, just like everybody else.

When you're evaluating a home, a space, do you see it in your mind as a finished project?
For me, the first thing I do is figure out the floor plan. There have been homes that have been so bastardized over the years that they are beyond repair. There are times when I've passed on homes because I simply can't fix the floor plan. A lot of times I can't do that until a place is demolished. That's why demo day is my favorite day. That's when I can see a blank canvas.

Is your best client the person who just trusts you and steps aside?
Yes, how amazing is it when I can just create and implement my vision on someone else's dime. That happens about 25% of the time. But most people want to be really involved. This one client, Chaz, there's nothing I can choose without him. Everything has to be approved by him. It's actually been a really fun experience because we now enjoy working together. I'm learning to take orders. I'm learning to really listen to what people really want.

Do you think you're intimidating to work for?

No, I really don't. Look, I'm really hard on myself. I'm my own biggest critic. There's nothing you can say about me that I don't already know. That in turn makes me very hard on my employees. I expect a lot from them. I want to see them realize their potential. I'm trying to help them and in return, of course, I get a more productive employee. What I've stopped doing is hire people simply because they need work. Now I only hire people that want to be in this business long term.

What about Jenni; she's an aspiring actress, isn't she?
Jenni has a free pass because she's been with me for six years.

Jenni and Zoila and Ryan are like your family, aren't they?

Well, we are. My feelings are definitely skewed when it comes to those three people. Ryan and I dated years ago. We've been business partners and best friends for ten years. Zoila's been with me for nine years. She's become a member of the family. She's kind of my surrogate mother. And then Jenni is my best friend.

Did Bravo put you up to installing the nanny-cam last season when you caught Chris going through your stuff?
It does seem theatrical, but I didn't do it for me and I didn't do it for the cameras. I did it because Chris had been fired between five times for messing up. I figured out that he was behind a lot of nonsense going on, but I didn't realize how bad it was until I put in the camera. I knew if I let Chris go, Jenni would have quit. If I hadn't put up that camera and showed her what was happening, she would have believed her husband.

Were you surprised by what happened after that?

She was devastated, but she finally saw her husband for who he was. He was a liar. It wasn't something that I enjoyed doing and she's not at the point where she's thanking me, but she understands. She still is wounded and that is something that I regret. But I don't regret the camera, I don't regret catching him. I regret what happened afterward. I had no idea he was going to leave her. Who could have foreseen that? It was never my intent. That's my one major regret in the history of Flipping Out.

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I really love this show. Jeff is great! The whole cast is superb.

After watching the episodes of the breakup, I feel that Jeff is right. Ryan appears to be hiding something and show a deceptive behavior.

November 23 2009 at 11:01 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Richard Lynes

The viewers of this show should be ashamed to watch it. Jeff or his character is a maniacal, egomaniac, displaying psychosomatic manifestations for which most well educated people would consider a vulgar misdirected valueless behavior. His alter ego reflects a persona for which there is no empathy or respect for those around him, and more than not they are the reason for his success. If one even wishes to suggest that this is a viable measure of success. Once things come full-circle Jeff, the monster in the mirror will bite you in the ass, and you will grow old and alone without serious behavior modifcation. Once again TV or reality shows have taken this medium and viewer content to a new low.

October 28 2009 at 12:50 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Kelsey Heriot

Ryan Brown will be doing a Live Chat on September 29th on LiveCloud.com!

October 27 2009 at 5:59 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Jeff Lewis is my favorite reality show. I love the family like feeling that he has going and I love his sense of humor. Jenni and Zoila are both hysterical and I love them so much. I can't wait for each new episode. Plus I love Jeff's taste and sense of style. His homes are beautiful. I would love to have a Jeff Lewis Home.

Shirley Hill

October 25 2009 at 9:23 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jan Crump

I love "Flipping Out" and watch every season. It is such a photo of many families today made up of non-traditional members. I especially love when Zoila stands up to Jeff and he knows hes been wrong and acts like a petulant 2 year! I also agree if we all had cameras following us for 5 months, all of our sides would be exposed as well. I hope they continue to keep it "real".

October 20 2009 at 1:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Joyce N.

My first impression of Jeff that first season was, what an overbearing fruitcake! I've come to actually like the guy a lot. His reaction to Jenni's heartbreak after firing Chris was touching. His relationship with her and Zoila IS like family. His relationship with Ryan is complicated and I can see why he's so hurt over this latest snag in it. Mostly, I love his sense of humor. Hope to see him "flipping out" for many more seasons. Rock on, Jeff!

October 20 2009 at 12:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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