Flipping Out is the latest addition to Bravo's stable of gay-friendly reality shows, which includes Blow Out and Work Out (not to mention the competition reality shows like Project Runway, Top Chef, Top Design and Shear Genius). The star of Flipping Out is Jeff Lewis, an obsessive compulsive, high-stakes real estate speculator. He buys million dollar homes in and around Los Angeles, lavishly and loving renovates them and then sells them for a huge profit.
The show focuses as much on Jeff's quirky bunch of friends and employees — which includes executive assistant Jenni, her husband Chris (both actors), his business partner and ex-boyfriend Ryan, and his loyal, unflappable housekeeper Zoila — as it does his business deals. Add to the mix Jeff's cadre of therapists, psychics and spiritual advisers, and you've got an extremely entertaining bunch. Oh, and we can't forget the two cats and two dogs!
We recently had the chance to chat with Jeff about the show, living with OCD, and pet integrators.
AfterElton.com: Thanks so much for talking to us.
JL: Absolutely. I'm familiar with the website, by the way.
AE: That's great. We're all big fans of the show. Speaking of the show, congratulations. How did that come about?
Jeff Lewis: The two assistants that work for me — two of the four assistants presently — Jenni and Chris, they were working on a project with a production company, and basically they made the introduction. They were working on this promo about their relentless pursuit for fame and success in Hollywood. It was called The Wannabes.
They wanted to film me because they're here working at my house five days a week. I was a big part of their life so the producers wanted to shoot their work life. I actually wasn't going to do it. I told them no initially, but they kept pushing and pushing and pushing until about three days before I reluctantly let them into my house to film. After they got the footage back to the production company, they noticed me, and they called and asked if I would be willing to be filmed and shoot a promo for a show around my life.
From then, it happened so fast. They were in my house within fourteen days. Two weeks later, they had edited the promo, and two weeks after that, they were shopping it. Within seven days, we had three different networks interested. It literally happened that quickly. I didn't even have time to second guess.
AE: Bravo seems to be a good fit for you.
JL: It is. I think it ultimately ended up being the best home for me. There was another network that wanted to order twelve episodes, and that of course was a little bit tempting, but I thought Bravo was the best home.
AE: Do you think you'll be back for a second season?
JL: I don't really know that. We haven't discussed it yet.
AE: Would you be interested if Bravo asked?
JL: I think so. I'm really enjoying the break. I mean, it was really a tough time. They followed me for three full months. And we're not talking about just two people. There were two different crews and each crew was comprised of seven people. There were a ton of people in my house at any given time.
AE: How did you get into real estate speculation? What drew you to the field?
JL: Well, my dad. Although he was never doing real estate full time, he was just supplementing his income. So I kind of picked it up by osmosis. I watched him. He owned commercial property and buildings, and I was just a little kid sitting in the passenger seat following him around as he visited his different properties. It was always interesting to me, but there was always a component that was missing. I've always been creative, and the segment of real estate that my dad was involved in really didn't quite interest me. He was all about the buy and sell, just the numbers and the money.
It took me until I was in my late twenties to understand and get my purpose. I liked the facet of real estate that I ultimately went into because it is ultimately very creative. I have that balance, because I really do feel like I have a strong interest in business, but I also want to be creative at the same time.