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Why the Queen of Versailles is on Flipping Out with Jeff Lewis

Why the Queen of Versailles is on Flipping Out with Jeff Lewis
Queen of Versailles Jackie Siegel appears in the season preview of Flipping Out, with, from left, Gage Edward, Jeff Lewis, and Jenni Pulos.

Driving through the gate and walking through the doors of Jackie and David Siegel’s home in Orlando is like entering the brilliant, must-see 2012 documentary The Queen of Versailles, which was filmed there over several years.

Walking down the long hallway, or standing in the kitchen as Jackie’s kids talked about the approaching hurricane, Irma, and whether or not their house might be susceptible to flooding, felt like being inside the kinds of moments and conversations the documentary’s cameras eavesdropped on.

While film usually makes spaces appear bigger, this 26,000 square foot mansion felt significantly bigger, like the film hadn’t been able to capture its size, like the height of the ceilings. But that pales in comparison to the massive house they’re still building, which will be almost four times the size.

I went to the Siegels’ current home to find out why Jackie Siegel was appearing on Flipping Out, in tonight’s episode, which finds Jeff Lewis and Gage Edward traveling to Orlando to tour the Siegels’ future home: the mansion nicknamed Versailles and modeled after the upper floors of the Paris Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.

It’s still under construction but now further along than it was in the documentary, which began as a project to chronicle construction of the 90,000-square foot mansion, the largest home in the United States.

Its construction was halted during the 2008 recession, which became the subject of the documentary, and turned its subject, Jackie Siegel, into a celebrity.

Jeff Lewis consults for the Queen of Versailles

In the Siegels’ current home, the passage of time since the 2012 documentary was filmed there became immediately clear as I walked in the door: At the top of the sweeping double staircase, there was a piece of art with an image of the Siegels’ daughter Victoria, who died of an overdose in 2015, and a flag commemorating Donald Trump’s inauguration.

Jackie and I sat on couches in Jackie’s office/room, where one of her dogs, Bear, sat next to her. (Two other dogs shown in the movie, the ones that were taxidermied after their deaths, were nearby, one stretched across the piano and another, Chanel, on the floor next to me.) There, she explained how she ended up on a Bravo series.

“I became friends with Lea Black, one of the [Real] Housewives of Miami,” Jackie told me. “Just a few months ago, she says, ‘You really should think about doing the show Flipping Out with Jeff and Gage, because they’re great designers.'”

“It’s such a big house—it might be fun to do a show with Versailles,” Jackie said. “We met with them, I loved them.”

“Those guys are just so amazing and witty. We had so much fun. When we were filming out in L.A., and it was at Lea Black’s house, I didn’t even feel like we were filming. I knew we were mic-ed up and everything, but it was more just like fun—it was like a party. We were all just having a big grand old time, [we] weren’t even paying attention that there were cameras around. Do you know what I mean? It was just a nice, carefree production. That was kind of refreshing,” she said.

After that, about a month later, Jeff, Gage, and Jenni came to Orlando. Jeff and Gage “had just recently had the baby,” Jackie said.

If that seems incongruous—Jeff’s design aesthetic and the more avant-garde tastes of the Siegels—Jeff is not aboard as interior designer for Versailles. “Basically, they gave me a bunch of tips and everything—it’s just such a big undertaking. It’s just so much,” Jackie said, calling it “more like consulting.”

She pointed out that it’d also be a lot of Jeff to take her on as a client: “It would be good to have him to come on board, but I think he’d want the whole project, and he’s so busy with his TV show and stuff, too. He’s got a good thing going and making babies, and I’m happy for him.”

Jackie isn’t sure what tonight’s episode will focus on. “I don’t know exactly what the show’s going to be about,” she said. “I can’t wait to see it. I wonder what they’re—I’m nervous how I’m going to come across and stuff. Because it is all just drywall. There are some magnificent things going on in the house. We have a dome that’s like half a million dollars that was all custom-made; it looks like it could be in the Vatican. When we look at it on the show, you can see that, but there’s not much else. It’s a clean slate; a lot of the decorations haven’t been done yet. I think Jeff is concerned—he hopes that the interior decorators we’re working with are as good as him.”

I asked if she’d continue to have a relationship with Jeff Lewis in the future. In other words, was this just an TV appearance for Jackie, and a scene for Flipping Out, or would Jeff continue to work with her as the new house is completed?

Jackie said, “I’d like to possibly continue with the relationship. Definitely as friends, but as far as doing more of the show, I don’t know yet. I guess they’ll see how the ratings go.”

After Victoria’s death, Jackie Siegel found new priorities

The Siegels plan to move in to Versailles by December 2018, before Christmas. “That’s our goal,” Jackie said.

Although construction resumed a few years ago, after Victoria died, Jackie said, “We kind of lost interest in the house. It didn’t mean anything to us anymore. We would have given up Versailles if we could just get our daughter back, which we can’t. So we didn’t really go over there too much. The workers were still working and moving along, but we just took a back seat and just focused on other things, like getting through our tragedy.”

They’ve also focused on preventing addiction and overdoses, such as supporting efforts to distribute naloxone to first responders. It’s a drug that can effectively bring someone back from an opioid overdose.

Flipping Out’s cameras aren’t the only ones that have been in the Siegels’ lives.

Starting tomorrow, Jackie will be competing for the third year in Fireball Run, a week-long cross-country race that is also a series on Amazon. (Along the way, each team distributes 1,000 flyers that calls attention to a different missing child.)

A crew member she met on the show has since been filming her for a follow-up documentary, The Queen of Versailles and Victoria’s Voice, which they’re producing.

Victoria’s Voice is also the name of the foundation the Siegels established to address “a national crisis” and an “epidemic that is robbing America of an entire generation,” as its web site says.

“A lot of [the new film’s footage] is following us around getting educated about the drugs,” Jackie told me. “We’ve got this mission in life to save lives, and this other mission to finish Versailles. So they’re kind of parallel—a parallel story.”

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About the author

  • Andy Dehnart is the creator of reality blurred and a writer and teacher who obsessively and critically covers reality TV and unscripted entertainment, focusing on how it’s made and what it means.

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