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Catching Up With Jeff Lewis


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.

Do you think it's healthy to date your supervisor?
I wouldn't say that I'm Gage's boss, per se. I think the only reason this works is that we have two completely different jobs. What my responsibilities are and what his responsibilities are are two completely different things. We're not together, side-by-side, all day long. He's in the office, he's on the phone all day, he's meeting with people, as well. And I'm gone most of the day. Jenni and I are basically stuck to each other's sides all day long. But then Jenni goes home at 8:00. So Gage and I aren't stuck to each other all day long. When I get home, we can spend time together, and it's not like we've been together all day long. And I think that's how it works. I don't understand how these spouses or people who have significant others that are working with them, I don't see how they do it -- being in an office side-by-side all day long and then going home and spending the evening together. That's just too much togetherness for me.

There's been a lot of baby talk on the past in the show. Have you and Gage thought about having kids?
Absolutely, we've discussed it in depth. I don't think I would be with someone who didn't want to ultimately have children because that is something that I want to do. It's funny, in my mind I have this mental checklist that's like, Relationship? Check. Home? Check. And then there's some business things I want to do, and then I believe children are next. I would say, two, three years, that's going to happen. Somebody's going to give me a kid, hopefully. I just hope to God they don't see the show because I think that would blow my chances. I don't necessarily want to do the surrogacy thing. A lot of my friends have, but I just really am focused on adoption. I think there are a lot of children who need homes, and that's really what I want to do. I'm not such an egomaniac that I need to procreate, that I need to spread my genes. I don't even know if that's a good idea. Can you imagine the list of disorders that this child could potentially have? If I were to do it, I'd probably rather use Gage's genetics. Gage would probably be the natural father, but I'm hoping I don't have to go that route because I really prefer to adopt.

In one of the previews for the new season, there's mention of Zoila, your housekeeper, and breast implants. Please tell me that's a joke.
Well, for Zoila's birthday I really wanted to trump what I gave her last year, which was the Mini Cooper. So I gave her the elective plastic surgery of her choice. It ended up being seven procedures. She got Botox, collagen, laser, a chemical peel, a neck-lift, a full face lift, and an upper and lower eye lift. She looks amazing.

Did it change her life?
It totally changed her life. I kept asking her over and over, and I showed her horrible pictures on the internet of face lifts gone wrong. I said to her, 'You sure you want to do this? This is a major, major surgery.' And she said, 'I absolutely want to do this.' A couple of weeks later, she said to me, 'Jeffrey, every morning I look at my face in the mirror, and I thank you so much for my new face.'

Sounds like she's 'more lucky.'
I think she's more lucky. That's our whole argument that we don't even want to go into.

Is Jenni destined to become an old maid?
I really don't want to jinx it, but Jenni is dating someone really seriously, and it could potentially be a marriage situation. I'm really hoping she doesn't screw it up. She can sometimes tend to be a little needy. I've given her the book The Rules, and I've asked her to read it. She won't read it. She doesn't want to play games. But you know, I think it's important to be a little bit unavailable because guys like that challenge. I think she's sometimes a little too available. She's a little too, God, I hate to say it, but, desperate. She really wants someone in her life, and she really wants to get married, so I hope it works out for her. Thank God the guy is in Chicago, so there's a little bit of mystery to it. They travel back and forth, which I think is exciting and romantic. I just really hope it works.

Are there any developments with [your ex] Ryan Brown this season?
I haven't heard from him since the season three reunion. I sent him a few emails, in which I kind of requested we get together, but it just never happened. When I sent over the second or third email, I just kind of knew that that was it. I got the hint that he wasn't interested in reconciling or having any talks. I just kind of mourned and moved on. I have to say, it took me a good year to get over it. And I'm still not over it, but at least I don't cry anymore. It would always be like on a plane, where I'm forced to be by myself, think about things. It's fortunate that I have a really busy, fast-paced life that allows me to avoid a lot of emotional pain. So when you keep moving, running, running, running, you never really have to address anything. I'm doing a lot of flying around the country doing design consults -- and the unfortunate part is I sit on these planes for five hours and I'm forced to think about my life. I think it's a good thing long term, but it's painful short term. Was that too much information?

No, of course not.
I think it was. I think I just went too far.

It seems like you and Andy Cohen have a really flirty kind of banter whenever you're on Watch What Happens Live. What's that about?
Andy and I are good friends. I see him every time I'm in New York. I see him every time he's in L.A. There's nothing romantic. We really, really like each other. We certainly have a mutual respect for each other. We have a very similar sense of humor. We laugh about the exact same random crazy things. We have a connection. It is kind of -- we tease each other, we jab at each other, but it's fun. It's all in good fun.

How much longer do you think you'll keep doing this show?
Gosh, I have no idea. I have people at the network who say you can do this as long as you want. And I have other people who say as long as you rate, we'll continue to pick you up. Who knows? It's been a successful show for Bravo and for me. I hope it continues. I've really grown to love the show. I love doing the show. They really work well around my schedule. They allow me to run my business while they just observe. It's another stream of income, which I appreciate. That said, I might not live much longer. My liver, I think, any day, is going to quit on me.

Once the show ends, will you keep all these employees around? Or will you fire off all the people who seem like they have a personality for TV, like Sarah and Trace?
Well, Sarah and Trace have contributed immensely to my business, not even just the show. Look, I'm naturally drawn to personalities. These people weren't cast. They were hired to work for Jeff Lewis Design. For whatever reason, I love personalities. I love over-the-top, funny people. I'm always going to end up hiring those kind of people. Let's remember, this business was in place before the show. I have a real job. These are my real employees. I think I'll always have a crazy, kooky band of people around me. That's who I'm drawn to. I'm kind of a crazy magnet.

The fifth season of Flipping Out premieres Wednesday, July 6 at 9 p.m. EST on Bravo. For more info, visit the show's official website and follow Jeff Lewis on Twitter.

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