Catching Up With Jeff Lewis
By Gregory Miller
While some design-themed forays into reality television have been less than stellar, Flipping Out remains strong, returning this week for a fifth season. The show's star, Jeff Lewis, is just as well known for his OCD tendencies as he is for his stunning transformations, both of which make for some excellent television. This season, the whole gang returns -- plus a special new addition to the team -- to face the trials and tribulations of working for Jeff Lewis Design. We caught up with Lewis to talk about his boyfriend's new job and debut on the series, his maid Zoila's plastic surgery, and when we can expect some OCD babies to join the fun.
Out: Flipping Out has been on for a few of seasons now. How is this season going to be different?
Jeff Lewis: First of all, this is our fifth season, just so you know. I was on George Lopez two days ago, and he said he was really excited for season four, but that was the last season. That was last year. If you look at the beginning there have been some pretty drastic, dramatic changes from when we started the show. It's not really something, of course, that I expected. I think Jenni and I both have been on this really insane journey together. We didn't expect the dissolution of her marriage. We didn't expect the dissolution of my business. I didn't expect the dissolution of my business partnership. I think we're in a very different space than we were in a couple of seasons ago, and now it's a completely different business, working for other people. So I'm now kind of an employee versus an employer which was a really challenging position.
That must be humbling.
It was real humbling. Not to say it wasn't good for me. It was definitely nothing I expected. I think when you have as many years of success as I had, you certainly build an ego. I definitely had an ego. I still have one, but I think it's a little different. I'm a little bit more in touch with reality. It's a little harder to make a dollar now. I appreciate everything I have much more. I think I took things for granted five years ago. I think that it changed my perspective on things.
When we talked last time, just as season four was premiering, you told us that you were dating, but that he didn't want to do the show.
That's Gage. That's the same person I'm with now. I know it's shocking to you, but we have been together over two years. I think to most people to think that I could maintain that -- actually it's shocking to me, too -- that I could maintain a relationship for that period of time. But I'm really working on myself. I wouldn't say I'm likable, but I'm tolerable. How about that? I'm much more tolerable.
What changed? What made him decide he wanted be on the show?
What happened was that I brought him into this business. I really needed someone to chase down all these inquiries and opportunities that were coming into my office. The problem was that I was running around ragged, meeting with clients, going to job sites, and by the time I got home and was finished with my work, it was now 9:30 at night. I didn't have the time or the energy to return these emails, to reach out to these opportunities. I really needed somebody to represent me and represent my office. I didn't have time to book the next consult. So I just needed someone to put the consults together, to put the clients in front of me, to organize the speaking engagements, to work on a product line. Here was someone that I completely trusted that has a vested interest in building this business. It just really worked out great, timing-wise. I'm such a workaholic that it was really hard for me dating in the past. Where it's now 7:00, I'm sitting at dinner, and I want to talk about my day and my business. I think that people's eyes would roll into the backs of their heads because they were sick of talking about the business. What's nice about this is that I don't have to shut this off at any particular time because Gage and I, we're now in this business together. We certainly don't talk about business all the time. I mean if we're hooking up, we should totally not talk about business. So there are limits.
Were you worried about taking your relationship public?
I was. I was very worried about it. It's not something I ever wanted to do. But we were in a position here, though. How are you going to film this show for five months and cut around Gage, who is in the office? Who everyone is talking to, who I'm talking to 16,000 times a day? How are you going to shoot a show? So it really came down to, do I want to continue shooting the show? If I do, Gage needs to be involved. I kind of got on that train, and I said, 'OK, this needs to happen.' But then it took some convincing with Gage. But the show has been so beneficial to my business and my career that we really needed to proceed.