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September 3, 2015

Jeff Lewis Talks Finding Love, Having Babies, Jenni, Zoila & Still 'Flipping Out'

by Maggie Furlong, posted Aug 10th 2010 2:40PM
Jeff Lewis, 'Flipping Out'He's brutally honest, nitpicky to a fault and, oftentimes, straight up insufferable, but I can't get enough of Jeff Lewis.

Bravo's 'Flipping Out' returns for a fourth season (premieres Tues., Aug. 10, 9PM ET), and Lewis is finally embracing the new interior design direction his business has taken in the rough economy. With a restaurant renovation and a trip to New York to design House Beautiful's Kitchen of the Year, you'd think there'd be no time for a personal life, but Lewis tells me that he and Jenni -- now his Chief Operations Officer -- have both found love.

I caught up with the obsessive-compulsive reality star to hear all about their new relationships, what's up with Zoila and the gang, having babies, the Ryan situation and how his series should end.

Is it a great day at Jeff Lewis' office?
Business is really good -- I can't complain. You know, a year ago I was singing such a different tune ... it really kind of turned around for me.

So it's business as usual again?
Well, I'm still not flipping -- I'm still not doing what I used to do -- but the business is better. Because we have more people interested in hiring us, I'm able to be a little more selective when I'm choosing clients. I try to trust my intuition ... most of the time I'm right, but sometimes you just don't know. You start working with them and all of a sudden they turn out to be awful. There's only so much you can do.

But we'll still see some interesting clients this season, right?
Yeah, this season is interesting because I feel like we're getting to know the clients a little more. One in particular -- this one I'm still working with -- she's redoing her family's restaurant. It's like she's been filmed her whole life. She was so vulnerable -- I've never seen anyone so unaware of the cameras. Normally, people are really conscious of the cameras and it takes them a few weeks to warm up, but she was instantly open and available which was really cool.

And a restaurant, huh? That's exciting ...
Yeah, it's very different for us. This is forcing me to deal with change. I have my regimented little life and I like to control as much as I can ... I like going to the same restaurants, ordering the same thing, living in the same neighborhood. I wasn't always that way, but I guess I got kind of in a rut and very comfortable. But what's happened with my business has really changed me a lot. I think that although it's been a very difficult two years, I've learned a lot.

And doing the show has probably changed you too ...
Yeah, a little of both. I think they've been both kind of a humbling experience for me.

What's the most common thing people say when they see you on the street?
I think that most people relate to some of the things I might do or say. I've had people come up to me and say, "I'm just as freaked out by clowns as you are."Or I've had people say, "I line up the food in my pantry just like you do." And then there's a lot of people that don't relate, that just think I'm this freak show or a horrible person. [Laughs]

But then you always have Jenni to make you look better.
It's funny that you say that -- Jenni does make me look better because she understands me, and I feel like she explains me to people. She's had nine years to kind of figure me out ... you're the only person that's ever said that, but you're right. She makes me look good. I certainly have a lot of respect for her. She stands up to me and tells me when I'm wrong. Sometimes when you pay people, they think they're being paid to tell you you're right, and I don't really like that.

What's the deal with Jenni still wanting to be an actress -- doesn't she realize she's already famous?
You know this is what I tell her: It's really important that you're grateful for what you have. I do believe that Jenni's capable of doing a lot more, but I think when you walk around and you want more, want more, want more ... trust me, I went down this road ... I think that the universe or God or whatever you believe in kind of thwarts your progress and success. I think Jenni needs to realize that she does have it good. She's in a good place. I think this is what she always wanted to do -- she wanted to be on a hit show, and she wanted to make money -- but I don't know if it's exactly the way she pictured it.

Well I just want her to find love again.
She found someone! I don't know if it's true love, but she's been spending some time with this guy that she really likes and he likes her. He's an orthopedic surgeon. This is the problem: he was out here in L.A. doing a fellowship program. His practice is in Chicago. He's moving back next month. It's such a bummer because he's such a great guy. I think they've talked about her going there, but she doesn't want to go. I think she's silly for not going with him. If it meant that she married a great guy and had a shot at having a family and a great life, I would ... it's not like I'd encourage her, but I'd certainly understand. Even though selfishly I'd want her to stay.

And what about you -- when are you going to marry a good guy?
Well I'm dating a great guy. Whether or not I marry him is another question, but I think that it's going well. I mean, when do you actually know? I think it's kind of a young relationship and we haven't made any long-term plans yet, but it's going really well.

Is he on the show this season?
He is not.

Is that a conscious decision to keep your personal life a little more private?
For Jenni -- and I totally understand this -- I think after what happened to her in season 2, where her husband just suddenly walked out on her, she was so humiliated. I think she's afraid that if anything goes wrong again, it's like double jeopardy. I don't know if she could recover from that. But for me, when we first started the show, I was in a long-term relationship, but he didn't want anything to do with the show. So what happened was we ended up making a show about the workplace, which is really what it's about. So when that relationship ended and a new one began, Bravo wasn't really pushing me because it works. They don't really want to mess with the formula.

What's Zoila up to? Hear Jeff's hilarious housekeeper predicament here:

Maybe you can keep Mighty Mouse backup housekeeper to clean, and Zoila can just be your live-in buddy ...
[Laughs] Honestly I've thought about it -- if I have kids, Zoila would be their nanny. She'd be the best.

Are you thinking about kids?
I'm thinking about kids. Not this year, but I think next year I would start kind of researching. I think by next year I would know 100 percent if this relationship is gonna happen. Right now it's good, but I want to know where we're going with it. I just don't want to be that kind of needy, "what are we doing with this," "where are we going" person. I'm cool, and I'm just gonna see where it takes us. Look, I read 'The Rules,' OK? [Laughs]

I know it's a touchy subject, but everyone got to know Ryan and his family on the show. Are you all out of each other's lives forever?
I don't know if it's forever. It's certainly for now. I haven't seen him since the reunion. We've emailed twice with the intention of getting together and talking, but we haven't done that yet. It's been more him than me -- he was in Argentina for five months, he's now moved to Santa Barbara. I would expect that we would eventually talk. Where that ends up, I don't know. For me, I'm going to have to make some decisions -- I don't know if I will ever get an apology from him, or an admission of guilt, and that's a little bit of a problem for me. It's really kind of uncertain at this point. It's hard. You know, this is my best friend in the whole world, and I never thought in a million years we wouldn't be best friends. I didn't see it coming. You watched my heart break on TV, and it was not pretty.

No it wasn't -- you're kind of an ugly crier.
I'm a really ugly crier! [Laughs]

I'm always curious about how many celebrities live in Jeff Lewis homes. Is that something you try to keep secret?
I will tell you I sold a house in Los Feliz to Steven Soderbergh and Jules Asner, and I ran into them recently and Steven beams when he talks about that house. Like he loves, loves, loves that house. He's in New York most of the time and only in L.A. part-time, but it's just like a resort for him. It really was one of my favorites. It's a very modern house -- I kind of built the house for me, and I just pulled out all the stops. It was crazy. It has all the bells and whistles, and he loves it. That's really rewarding not to just make a nice paycheck on a property, but it's been five years since I sold him that house, and he's as in love with it as the day he bought it.

Is there a celebrity home you'd love to get your hands on?
It used to be Kathy Griffin's, but she's really done a lot to re-do her house. Hers is a work in progress, she's almost there ... she's got a few more rooms to do.

Why didn't you do the job for her?
Oh I was there two weeks ago consulting. I've been over to her house probably like five times, and so I've been kind of guiding her. When I have time and she's in town, I'll go over there and we'll kind of bounce ideas off each other.

You should do a little crossover!
She asked me to do it, but the problem was she was filming the exact same time I was filming. So I said great -- you've got your crew, I've got my crew, who uses the footage? So then she asked Lara Spencer to help her. And actually Lara has good taste -- she's doing a good job. I went over there and checked on her work ... I had to edit a few things, but I was really impressed.

Oh the life of a Bravo celebrity! So how many seasons do you think you have left in you?
One maybe? I think one more. I would be surprised if I did a sixth ... I kind of feel like one more of these then maybe I'll do something else with Bravo. Andy [Cohen] and I have been talking, so I think we're thinking one more season.

Well one more season gives you time to settle into your relationship, have that baby ...
And we kind of wrap it up in a nice bow? I don't think my life really works that way. [Laughs] It would kind of end like 'The Sopranos' where you just don't know what happened. Did he die? Did he live? Is he happy? Is he not happy? [Laughs]

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