For a long time, Jenni's life and attitude centered on what I call comparison:"Whatever you've got sad/wrong in your life that you have; I'll match you." Focusing on the negativity of her life rather than the positive.
Jenni was born in Portland, OR on 1-3-1973. Her sister, Krisann, 12 years her senior was ELATED to have a baby sister. Their father used humor and being funny in stressful situations, something Jenni's inherited. Jenni grew up using humor in the same way. When she was 2, they left the big family security and moved to Scottsdale, AZ. Jenni's father wanted to be his own boss. He was one of the original owners of The Old Spaghetti Factory restaurant chains. He was the face of the always packed restaurant. Jenni's dad was a functioning drinker. When he was sober and and kind, Jenni took after him. It was untalked about when he was belligerent. One person by day. Another by night. These outbursts were ignored due to success & being well liked in the community. Jenni's bond w/ her mom over Looney Tunes voices would come alive in the living room. Mimicking and using wacky Warner Bros., her mom taught her the lessons she would use in life. Being a worry wort was an adaption from her mother. Jenni was a dream child until the age of 13, then came the "teenage terror". Jenni was defied as a "juvenile delinquent". Once Jenni got a taste of being social, all she wanted was to do was be with friends. Her mom thought her daughter had too many friends. Too many that Jenni & her mom paid for. She used her friends to escape her father's drinking. Looking back, Jenni was a teenage Bitch.
In 8TH grade, Jenni DEFIED the term "teenage REBEL". In high school, Jenni reversed her energy from a rebel into tennis. She was connecting. Her coach used Jenni's angst as fuel for a better tennis player. Turning negativity into positivity. She would later see that it was a talent you could get/be paid for. Playing competitively and "flipping the switch" on her life. Using her energy to better her game. Due to Greek eating habits, Jenni was fluffy. She used humor to deflect from her weight. Laughter made her feel safe. Everything was OKAY! Jenni was involved w/ school activities from drama club and cheer leading. She was the school mascot which was more fun. Even though she was picked on, being tortured made Jenni feel they cared. In addition to family/friends, Jenni enjoyed being with her older sister, who had just graduated from UCLA.
|Jenni and Chris Elwood|
Although coming from divorced parents, Jenni believed in the sanctity of marriage and strong partnerships. Commitment and the sacrament itself are important. At the time when they met, Chris was living with his ex-wife. He sort of proposed to Jenni during a flight they were on from LA to New York. A question sort of "out there and can't be taken out of the air". Not really the best, but it was good enough. Jenni thought she TRULY loved Chris and very much wanted to marry him. They were both flat broke. Jenni purchased her own ring on her own credit card. Her mom was paying for their big fat Greek wedding. After they were engaged, Jenni wrote and produced her first one-woman show; All About Me that ran for a couple of months and sold out. After the show closed, Jenni & Chris were married in Palm Desert near her mom and sister. A honeymoon that presided in Greece. Chris KNEW he married the right girl. After the honeymoon, Chris' career began taking off which made Jenni jealous. She wanted to be the successful one.
Jenni would be working and auditioning for minor roles here and there; not even getting them. Once in a while, a small role came up. A role in the movie The Bachelor paid for Jenni's chest reduction. If not working odd jobs, Jenni spent her time at B-list Hollywood premieres, A way to feel she belonged. Although on the outside looking in, Jenni was GRATEFUL! She was okay being a sidekick for awhile. It became tiring. Jenni wanted to be sexy, stunning, sophisticated & special. She wanted to start at the top. Jenny & Chris would develop scripts involving characters they performed at local comedy clubs. They wrote a love story that could work as either a feature film or a TV series. In 2004, while trying to get people interested in their script, they developed a pilot presentation with a friend who believed in their project - enough to put up his own money for production costs. They began shooting in the fall of 2005. Even though their act got interest from The Farrelly Bros. (Dumb & Dumber and Stuck On You) they couldn't seem to get anything off the ground. In 2006, Reality TV was in its infancy. The interest sparked another idea for the show The Wannabes. Jenni KNEW they were onto something. The plot was based on them trying to make it as actors. For Jenni, it was an opportunity as a rapper too!
Jenni's rapping career was born back at UCLA when she was in a comedy rap group called Juicy. NOTHING was off-limits. In 2002, Jenni entered at the Showtime At The Apollo as a rap duo w/ Todd Lewis. KNOWING the environment, Todd & Jenny went for it. They were the 2ND-to-last group. EVERYONE loved who had performed prior to them. Then, it was their turn. Chris & Todd's girlfriend, Carrie, were in the audience. The minute they stepped onstage. They wanted to be SEEN and they were! What was expected to bomb - they were a SUCCESS! They tied for first place. The crowd went NUTS! After breaking the tie, they lost. They may have lost, but it was an incredible moment. Jenni felt SEEN for the first time in her career. After hearing the negative points from her mom, Jenni heard what would count as support from her mom. She thought The Wannabes might be something her mom could be proud of. Jenni put her mom in the pilot episode.
Jeff's "discovery" instantly spun Jenni & Chris' show towards his story and the world of real estate. Bravo soon came calling wanting to meet. The real estate portion for Bravo was already covered w/ Million Dollar Listing. The executives believed in Flipping Out and were willing to go the extra mile for them. Next thing you know came a green light for a 6 episode start. Jenni was bittersweet. She wanted to be taken SERIOUSLY as an actress and wasn't SURE if reality TV was a way to go. After the success they had pursued, if Chris & Jenni took on Flipping Out, they were afraid to be seen just as what was on-screen. For Chris, it was a step-down to what was accomplished before. He didn't want himself or Jenni humiliated on public television. Next came Jenni's situation of Sophie's Choice. Jumping headfirst into unknown territory. Being given an opportunity if Jenni was willing to do the work. For Jenni, looking back, she didn't know it was the beginning of the end of her marriage. Chris was so angry that the networks were gravitating towards Jeff. Jenni struggled to be happy for him at first, but she wanted him to go for it. Chris wanted her to walk away and pursue The Wannabees - but Jenni couldn't do it.
Instead of crumbling in defeat, Jenni did her best to embrace this new opportunity. The people who worked the HARDEST often got the BEST results. That's exactly why the networks LOVED Jeff. He walked the walk/talked the talk while Jenni walked around making people believe who she wasn't. She needed to SEE herself. Flipping Out allotted that opportunity. Once the show was off the ground, the rest is history.
When it comes to the dynamic duo of Jeff & Jenni, they are the yin-to-the-yang. It works! Jenni does have tremendous love for Jeff Lewis. She is forever GRATEFUL to Jeff for the opportunity they have shared on reality TV. It has taught Jenni ALOT! Working with Jeff and reality TV has forced Jenni to be more self-aware. Jeff is NOT scared to LITERALLY say-it-like-you-mean-it. After getting used to him, Jenni found herself appreciating that Jeff cared. Working w/ Jeff has taught Jenni ALOT about PATIENCE & RESILIENCE! You may not like who you work for. but you do have to be respectful. Growing up w/ her mom taught Jenni what she would encounter in her life. Surviving her mom prepared Jenni for her life. As of this book's publication, Flipping Out is in its 7TH season. Jenni's mom is proud of her daughter. She just wished Jenni could be seen more.
|Lizard at a kids' party|
One IMPORTANT factor is that things may be friendly, but they're still your boss who has a job to do, just the same as you. Looking back, if Jenni gave it more, she would've gotten it rather than wingin' it. She expected it to be given to her. Jenni spent years running instead of blooming where she was planted. Good things come to those who are patient and wait.
Jeff had some suspicions aout Chris and his commitment to work. Zoila, Jeff's faithful housekeeper, had taken Jeff's side and privately told him she caught Chris going into Jeff's office when he wasn't there. NOTHING in his job alotted Chris on Jeff's PRIVATE computer. NO ONE was to touch Jeff's PRIVATE computer for ANY reason WHATSOEVER! Something was in the air to cause suspiciousness. Jenni didn't know what. Chris had begun asking to leave work early more than usual. Jeff was becoming suspicious that Chris wasn't going to auditions, During this time, Jenni gave Jeff her WORD that Chris wasn't a liar. When being confronted in their own home, Jenni believed Chris. Zoila is the eyes/ears of EVERYTHING in Jeff's absense. Chris thought she wouldn't say anything to Jeff. He was wrong.
Zoila felt that Chris was neglecting his responsibilities and taking advantage of his position. To confirm Zoila's accusations, Jeff installed a hidden security camera, so he could see for himself. Jeff never said anything. Cameras were used to due to the show, no one noticed a difference. Jeff had collected weeks of film before showing Jenni. He broke the news to her in private. When he took her aside, Jeff could no longer keep what he knew to himself. He did keep Bravo camera crews outside while they privately spoke. Since it hadn't been done before, it made Jenni nervous.
Jeff had explained to Jenni that Chris had been spending hours on Jeff's personal computer for things unrelated to work. To this day, Jeff had spared Jenni of the FULL details. What she does know, Zoila was right. Chris was NOT being TRUTHFULLY HONEST! Jenni refused to accept that Chris would ever betray Jeff in that way, swearing on her life of a misunderstanding. It wasn't! Jeff told her about the hidden camera and of its direction. Jenni fell to the floor in total disbelief. Making Jenni an emotional wreck. Zoila held Jenni as she let it out. Jenni pleaded w/ Jeff NOT to ruin Chris' life. She COULD NOT believe what was happening. Jeff felt EXTREMELY BAD for this ENTIRE situation. There was NO denying the evidence. Out of respect for Jenni, he told her first of Chris' firing beforehand. This was an UNFORGETTABLE DARK MOMENT where REALity comes insanity. Making Jenni doubt herself. The bottom fell out between her feet. Jenni NEVER saw it coming.
|Chris & Jenni|
When the day had come to watch this infamous episode, Jenni was w/ Jeff and his ex-partner, Ryan Brown. They were at their best showing care & compassion, but it didn't make viewing it any easier. Jenni ran out bawling after the first few minutes. Understandably, it's an episode in which Jenni CAN'T watch TO THIS DAY! Jeff is the one who told Jenni that she needed to face it rather than fill the void. The show OPENED her eyes to finally see what she was blind to for so long.
There was a moment before the unfolding of Jenni's marriage on public television. In 2004, about 4 years into the marriage, Chris came to Jenni and confessed that "he couldn't be married anymore". Jenni's relationship w/ Chris seemed fine. Both of these confessions threw/felt they were coming out of left field. For Chris, it was a build-up of things to come. For Jenni, she wondered why he would pull away if nothing was wrong. After letting a few days go by, Jenni decided to fight as hard as she could to salvage their relationship. She begged Chris to go to counseling. He agreed on the condition it was from someone outside of their church. Through the therapy, it could be summed up as "taping up a glass plate that was broken that can't really be fixed." Anything that could be done would be grasping at straws. For Chris, it was like playing in an already lost game.
Less than a month after he left, Jenni seen Chris walking down the street as she was in her car. When he waved, Jenni pulled over to say hi and asked him if he wanted to talk. He did. He had admitted to making a mistake by leaving her. In that moment, Jenni felt she had dodged a bullet. As time went on, they were back to their existence. Jenni was deaf to any bells of WARNING! It was around this time that Jenni was cast in Jewtopia, sharing a role with an actress already on-board. Once added to the roster, Jenni took over the role full-time while her partner left to do other acting jobs. About a year later, the role was headed to Broadway. Jenni was so excited! She quickly found an apartment that they would utilize during the run. It was the perfect fresh start they needed. Jenni thought this would be her BIG break - NO! A rising star career never coming to pass. When the other actress heard of the show relocations to New York, she took the role and wasn't interested in sharing. Jenni was down, but got back up. After that loss, life went back to normal.
Jenni & Chris were both cast in a movie called Manhattan Minutiae. Chris was the lead and Jenni was his best girl "friend". It was like old times. Only for temporary elation - just a few years. Their reconciliation would only last a few years and the same problems would resurface on national TV. Jenni wasn't "NEW!" The TRUTH HIT her when it was exposed on Flipping Out. After the INFAMOUS Nanny-Cam episode aired, Jenni received LOADS of love, support & hope. These letters, support & encounters w/ unconditional love helped Jenni through a HORRIFIC time. Bravo & NBC had actually sent Jenni to see a therapist before the show aired to UNDERSTAND how others can/could have a reaction from her experience. How can strangers have a reaction from Jenni's life without knowing her? But, in many ways they do. She GETS what Jeff did wasn't cruel. He was OPENING her eyes to the TRUTH. She was happy it was done. Just NOT the method in which it was. For that, Jenni will be FOREVER GRATEFUL!
|This too shall pass|
In the darkest of times, you see who IS THERE for you. Watching how everyone responded when Chris left was an uncomfortable beginning. Jenni's ah-ha moment that she OFFICIALLY moved on came when the day arrived she no longer missed Chris. There is great power in thinking through the things you REALLY want. Jenni discovered that she was the real roadblock to stop herself from achieving her dreams. NOTHING truly stopped her -but her. Allowing her faith to carry her and being her a place where embracing over and beginning are the same. Through her breakup w/ Chris, Jenni seen what she didn't want in the future.
Anyone who KNOWS Jenni will tell you, Patience is NOT her strong suit. When authorities in position speak, Jenni listens. Whatever they said, Jenni took to heart. Adjusting her behavior to benefit others. While there may be those in your life who are there to help/see you succeed, there are those that secretly wish for you to fail. There are those who ask/need the same scheduled routined day. Jeff has major O.C.D. and a need to be in control, even to the tiniest detail. The KEY to survive at Jeff Lewis Design is to abide by his set of rules. Jenni got a sense of what it was like to boss the day Jeff was out sick w/ food poisioning. It was an EYE OPENING experience. Seeing the office in Jeff's shoes. In a single day, Jenni had become a total "boss-hole".
Jeff scaring someone, Andrew, w/ a spider
Since Jeff can't let mistakes slide by without some sort of response, they make a game out of errors in the office. Jenni's way to cope w/ this particular punishment is to HAVE FUN w/ it. Taking what would be a negative and turning it into a positive.Going towards the hit. To see the smile on Jeff Lewis' face when he has scared someone to the point of heart failure, you know he has an inner child. Things in the office DO become UNprofessional at times. Sometimes being an assistant entails being a sound board. Not to be one to stand there and take it, but to be one your boss can trust and vent to. Don't feed the monster by being/becoming defensive. Address the problem and mitigate the fear. Focus on getting the job done. If all else fails, make them laugh! Break the tension w/ a joke. Dealing w/ office politics is like the show Big Brother: Suriving to win. When you're out w/ co-workers after, gossip can be both a friend & enemy. Becoming a critic & setting up panic! KEEP YOUR mouth SHUT w/ an eye on the prize! The key to speaking up is to protect your boss & the business. Action speaks louder! w/ appreciation!
Jenni inherited a trait from her mom that excelled a worrying gene. Always one to worry and find the worst in a situation. Henny Penny with the sky always falling. It wasn't until she was working w/ Jeff that Jenni truly discovered the true meaning of hard work and dedication. Jeff doesn't worry it, he does it. She is inspired by him; his drive, passion and ability to GETS SHIT DONE! Jenni seen new perspective when her sister, Krisann, was diagnosed w/ Stage 3 Breast Cancer. Her diagnosis wasn't good. Her illness had a seen effect on their mother, silent but strong.The toll it took on family members. Since she lived in Palm Springs, she stayed w/ Jenni while having her treatments. At first, seeing her pain was hard for Jenni to deal with. She was still wrapped in hers. She focused on being busy to escape her sister's suffering. Despite her illness, Krisann was supportive and cared about Jenni's life. Jenni wasn't the same in return. Jenni watched her sister face her biggest fear: getting cancer. What kept Krisann going was wanting to be there for her children. Coming together as a family meant they could face whatever obstacles came their way.
During Krisann's treatments, Jenni had to go to New York for Bravo's "Summer By Bravo" ads. Over the years, Jenni has become friends w/ BIG HITS at Bravo including Tabatha Coffey. Jenni had mentioned Krisann's hair battle w/ cancer. 2 days later, a wig from Tabatha appeared at her sister's door. Krisann's spirits were TRULY lifted by the incredibly kind gesture. Tabatha KNEW what it was like to lose a family member to cancer; her mom. Jenni wanted to be someone who genuinely cared about others and showed it. A necessary reminder that there's always going to be some kind of challenge, we can do ANYTHING if we set our minds to it. When Jenni put together her Old School Kids Beats CD, it had been a passion of her to do for a long time. Everyone told her NOT to do it. It was a terrible idea. Kathleen & Jenni co-wrote the theme song to Watch What Happens Live! Andy is LOYAL to that song. NO change needed. Jenni is FOREVER GRATEFUL & APPRECIATIVE! Even though others said it was a dis, Jenni KNEW it was a HIT! The same focus & discipline is how Jenni acquired and completed her Secret Outlast deodorant ad. NO PAIN. NO GAIN!
It takes EFFORT to be PRESENT where others are zoning out in the world. When you GIVE it your ALL, you have a better outcome. Because you were PRESENT! GETTING the point made Jenni revert back to her days playing tennis and her skill learned of/from the game. NOTHING is EVER PERFECT. ESPECIALLY the outcome! Appreciate that things HAPPEN! Work through the pain and KEEP running. Television that had been her babysitter as a kid turned into a truth telling therapist. Flipping Out at times has served as a GIANT wake-up call for change.
Whenever a little ballbusting needs to get done in the office, they call in Deb to get it done. She handles all of the things on one else wants to confront in the office and ALWAYS gets the job done. FOR THOSE OF YOU THAT HAVE SEEN THE SHOW; THEN YOU'VE SEEN AND YOU KNOW DEB.
Jenni has a STRONG appreciation for the benefits of taking a wrong turn along the way. When she was a junior in high school, Jenni ran for student body treasurer and was elected by a landslide. As a way to redeem herself, she ran for senior class president against a kid no one really knew. He was a quiet loner. After upping her gimmicks in her speech, confident but she couldn't lose. She lost. She thought there was a mistake and wanted a recount. Out of desperation, she tried to run for class senator. Most great achievements come from meandering paths of misjudgment and false turns. Our past is what shapes our future. In the end, failure leaves you w/ 2 choices: quit or learn & move forward.
For me personally, when I failed to succeed in one area; I managed to succeed and make an impact in another.
When the real estate market crashed in 2008, Jeff could've panicked but he didn't. He put aside his ego, lowered his prices and got fast, without taking as hard a hit as others did. Although he felt the financial hit, he did the right thing based on the market. His liquidation allowed him the opportunity to move into another area of interest - design. In the end, it worked in his favor because he now has a thriving design business that brings him tremendous satisfaction and an outlet for creativity.
The first real job Jenni landed that made her feel she made it was one that never aired. That didn't deter her. She was determined to prove she could make it. She continued her budding rap career in 2005 by joining a group when a UCLA friend had to drop out. The group morphed into another act called Hot N The Buscuit. They got a little attention for their music videos, released a CD, had an album on iTunes and enjoyed the fun while it lasted.
Jenni loved it, but she wasn't growing/going in the direction she thought it would. This made things hard to be taken seriously as an actress. For years, being an actress was something Jenni thought would HAPPEN to her. Her career would be in the hands of others. She believed a career would be handed to her. NOT FULLY UNDERSTANDING the work that comes behind it. Finally, she decided to GET SERIOUS and FOCUS on what she WANTED. Spending 2 1/2 months working like a SERIOUS professional, doing the work and being prepared.
In her personal life, failing forward also helped Jenni close a chapter w/ Chris. Several years after they divorced, she ran into him. That was the day she KNEW that chapter of her life was OVER! Jenni realized Chris was just really her buddy and someone she loved performing with. Looking back, they had no relationship. They may have had fun, but when the going got tough, Chris ran. After all this time, Jenni felt things had come full circle that day at the dry cleaner. When she seen him, she felt nothing, which was a good thing. No regrets. No remorse. NOTHING. Learning to fail forward became a journey of embracing the unknown. Throughout it ALL, Jenni could HONESTLY say it was all good.
|Jenni & Jeff at her wedding|
Jenni also states that she and her father are in a great place. They now have a relationship they are both happy to share.
When Jenni & Jonathan met, they were only working on Flipping Out. By the time they married, she'd added a new show Interior Therapy With Jeff Lewis. Jenni has NO REGRET. It led to where she is today. These days, there's a clear difference in what it feels like for her & Jeff. She is truly present and engaged in their work together. Jeff can see that Jenni has respected her work w/ him and given it the attention it requires. She is more creative and therefore a better asset to the business. Jenni has true love w/ a man. She was HONEST with Jonathan from the start about wanting to be in Los Angeles for work. Every time she mentioned she wouldn't move to Chicago, he let her know he was clear on that decision and supported it. Jonathan's job training as a physician acquires traits Jenni is NOT known for. Jonathan was THERE for Jenni. He TRULY BELIEVES in her and her dreams. Jonathan moved to Los Angeles in September 2012 w/ the difficult task of rebuilding his life and career from the ground up. His life was now exposed because his wife is in a reality show, still choosing to leave Chicago for them.
Shortly after settling into their married life, they discovered Jenni was pregnant. At the time, they had planned a getaway to Hawaii before filming a second season of Interior Therapy. Sadly, she suffered a miscarriage in Hawaii. Jenni felt very peaceful about it, yet emotional for their loss. At the same time, Jenni was extremely grateful to know she could get pregnant. When they got back to Los Angeles, they decided to try again right away. After going to the doctor for answers, the doctor seen something on the sonogram and suggested a blood test. It was during a filming of Interior Therapy that a client KNEW and sensed she was. After leaving his house that night, she checked her messages from her car. One was from her doctor.