Queen of Versailles Jackie Siegel wants a reality show: bad idea

The star of The Queen of Versailles wants to star in her own reality series, and although the film is incredible, that’s an incredibly bad idea

Jackie Siegel discusses this in an interview with The Orlando Sentinel that’s just as sad as parts of the film. She’s defensive about everything from her husband’s disposition to his business, even insisting that “he was joking” when, in the film, David Siegel says their story is a “rags-to-riches-to-rags story.”

Last year, David Siegel sued Greenfield and Sundance for defamation over the suggestion that his business was in trouble, and the last anyone has reported on that lawsuit was in January when a judge sided with Greenfield over the issue of the legality of their contracts with her. The Orlando Sentinel’s story adds only that “The Siegels are in a legal dispute with ‘Versailles’ director Lauren Greenfield over rights to the couple’s life story, an issue that needs to be resolved before any other entertainment ventures can be launched.”

I loved the film and called it “must-see reality TV,” because it was an example of the best kind of reality TV. But I think a reality series is a terrible idea, and the reason is in Jackie’s answer to a question from the paper:

“I would like to do a reality show. I think it would be a lot of fun, where I would have more control over the situation. When I shot the movie Queen of Versailles, I didn’t know I was shooting a movie. None of us knew. We were told it was probably going to be an episode on HBO. It sounds, like, crazy to not know you’re being a star of a movie. But I think that’s how they got some of the behind-the-scenes stuff. Had I known I was being shot, I would have put more makeup on or hired a hairstylist if I knew millions and millions of people were going to see me.”

Ignoring the incomprehensible nonsense (“episode on HBO”), that explains exactly why the film was so great, because it captured reality over two years, allowing Greenfield to observe moments that would never take place on a Housewives show because the cameras are scheduled into their lives like manicures.

It also illustrates why a series would be a bad idea: because Jackie wants editorial control. She admits she would have changed her behavior had she known how successful the film would have been, and of course, directing how she’s presented to the world makes it significantly less likely that it’ll show a complete picture. The reason the film was a hit–and that she actually came off sympathetically, to some degree–was because it captured her without her makeup, literally and metaphorically.

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.