We are flipping out over Jenni Pulos. As the eternally optimistic (and utterly likeable) assistant to the uniquely fabulous Jeff Lewis on the hit Bravo shows Flipping Out and Interior Therapy, Jenni inspires us with her can-do attitude and ability to make us laugh. Oh, and the momma-to-be raps, too. We spoke exclusively with Jenni about conquering life’s adversities, her pregnancy and why it’s all Greek to her–mixed with a little Latina telenovela.
Hair: Helen Kenny
Makeup: Yana Gorcheva
Photos: Gabbeli Photography
Your first album, Old School Kids Beats, is so much fun! Obviously rap music is something that you love. What kinds of songs did you listen to growing up?
I loved “Bust A Move,” Will Smith—all those old school raps that told a story. I loved Digital Underground’s “Humpty Dance.” I loved rap that told a story through music.
How did your own rap career begin?
I went to see a friend who performed in a band. When she had to leave the band, they asked me to fill in. That was right after college. I loved performing, it was a comedy rap band that I did for several years. I was performing raps at people’s parties and weddings. And then, I wrote a song when we went on Andy Cohen’s show, Watch What Happens Live. At that time, his show was the little engine that could, and now it’s a massive train! He ended up playing it five nights a week as the theme song for his show. Now I get to do the bumpers, too, and add tag lines from the Bravo shows.
So for Old School Kids Beats, I wanted to do something fantastic for kids but that would be cool for parents, too. As you know, I had performed a rap dressed as a lizard on Flipping Out and people loved it.
That’s very true. As a parent, you have to love the music because you’ll hear it all the time.
Right, I wanted them to have an enjoyable dance music experience, too. I was working on this long before I was a parent, so it’s special that it’s coming out right on the cusp of me embarking on parenthood.
And the response to the album has been amazing!
It’s number 8 on iTunes. Sorry Disney Princesses! [laughs]
Let’s talk about Flipping Out. It’s going into its 7th season.
Jeff and I have discussed this many times. We never thought it was going to be this successful, and now we’re here in our 7th year. We are grateful people have come along on this ride with us. Zoila, America’s favorite housekeeper, is right there with us and is like a second mother for me. She’s an amazing woman—you could have searched the world and not cast someone better than Zoila Chavez.
I have to say that my husband absolutely loves you. He admires your optimism and being a happy-go-lucky person, especially with everything that you’ve gone through.
I went through something that forced me to be optimistic when I wasn’t feeling that way. I learned that; I didn’t come into this whole situation as optimistic as I am now. We’ve all learned so much, as you do in any life experience. The failures were necessary for the successes I’ve had and for things to go right. Jeff and I have a complex relationship but we really care for each other. And with Zoila we are a family. Jeff is amazing at what he does, and I respect his work ethic. We’ve had ups and downs, and the viewers have gone through this with us.
And on a personal level, strangers were so supportive of me at a time when I was lost. I was really down and out. I thought that I would never have the things I wanted. But you have to keep trudging ahead. You have to believe and then you will shift your thinking. Rather than change things around me, I focused on changing myself.
The way Season 6 ended was a little sad because things were a bit rough between you and Jeff.
Jeff and I went through a rough year. We had a break up and part of that was me going off and starting a new life. There was a lot of stress involving the wedding, a 400-person wedding outside of a city that I didn’t live in. And Jeff was moving into a home he wanted to get into. It was rough but that’s life, full of rough moments. We’re in a good place now and in a new chapter. I think that’s why our show is so relatable because we’ve had rough patches like any relationship but we are always going to try to work through it. Our friendship is really important to both of us.
Now that you’re pregnant with your first baby, how has Uncle Jeff been?
Uncle Jeff has been great. He’s excited; he and Zoila are being very protective of me. It’s very sweet and touching. They’ve walked me through 13 years of my life, so I am excited for their new accomplishments and they are happy for me.
How has the pregnancy been?
I’ve been so fortunate. I was sick in the first trimester but I worked so it was a blessing to not have the time to focus on that. And I had no cravings; what’s up with that, girl? [laughs] I haven’t been a fan of seafood which you’re not supposed to have, anyway. But other than that this baby is a go! Already did Andy Cohen’s Clubhouse and Summer by Bravo. Now, I’m feeling movement, which is so exciting.
And you’re going to have a delivery surprise?
Yes, we’re going to wait. It’s so funny when people have different opinions as to what the baby is. They so believe it’s going to be a boy or that it’s definitely going to be a girl. Either way, Zoila said for me to not suck in my stomach because then the baby’s nose is going to be flat. [laughs]
Do you have plans for the nursery?
We’re keeping it pretty neutral. We’ll accent it with pillows, sheets, and rugs—Jeff Lewis style. He’ll definitely help. He has a new paint line that’s beautiful so we want to use that. We don’t want to get too much right now because we want to acquire things after the baby comes.
Since you and Jonathan are both Greek, what types of Greek traditions will you raise the baby with?
Well, we’re keeping the name a surprise, too, but it will be a family name, so there’s a Greek influence there. We’ll baptize the baby in the Greek Orthodox Church and we will try to obey the 40-day rule of not leaving the house with the baby before 40 days. I think that’s a good idea anyway for health reasons. And of course instead of breast milk we’ll serve the baby feta cheese! [laughs] And an instant mustache—girl or boy. We’ll teach him or her about the Greek culture; I’m very proud of being Greek. My Mom was thrilled that Jonathan is Greek.
In addition to Flipping Out, you and Jeff star on Interior Therapy. It’s going into its second season this summer.
Yes, Interior Therapy comes back June 6. We have some crazy interesting couples and dynamics. The episodes stand alone—they have great designs as well as talking about relationship issues. We changed some things from the first year which I think were beneficial. If you enjoy the design aspect of the show you will really love this season because in every episode there is a complete and total transformation. We also transformed people’s dynamics, to help them change the issues in their relationships. Not that we were qualified to do this, mind you! [laughs]
What have you learned along the way doing Interior Therapy?
I learned that it’s therapeutic when you clear out a space. We would see couples where one person had overpowered the space, which made the relationship unhealthy. Jeff and I would go home after every episode, after everything we had learned that day, and tried to make our own relationships better. In my own home, I would give things away. Sometimes we were in a very cluttered home and having been exposed to that, I would go home thinking, “I have too many things.” I’m proud of Interior Therapy; I really think it’s a fantastic show.
We see so much of Jeff’s design aesthetic, but what’s yours?
I would say that I own more pieces that mean something to me, little pieces that that are more kitschy or odd. For example, I have a vintage card holder for playing cards. I also have a lot of pug paraphernalia that’s cool or interesting. I love Jeff’s aesthetic; he’s taught me a lot about streamlining, cleaning and finishing touches. He does lean towards more simple designs but that’s because when he started as a flipper, he was creating a canvas for people to come in and make the home their own. I love how he sets a beautiful template and then you make it your own. So I would have to say that my design style is traditional, a little bit of warm modern and also eclectic, if that makes sense. [laughs]
Earlier during our cover shoot, I showed you a picture of my pug, Emma, which you immediately texted to your hubby Jonathan.
I have two dogs; Janet is the pug. Lulu is my demure, sophisticated lady and then Janet is a lot like my alter ego Deb. She’s a tough girl! She just doesn’t care. She’s like Honey Badger. She’s started acting out though; I think she knows the baby is coming. She’s getting into things. But I am a huge dog lover.
I think only pug owners get each other.
Yes, we’re crazy pug people. My husband has gone off the deep end for the pugs too. Janet is a fawn, so we’re going to get a black pug. But of course we want to have the baby first. We have to inject only one person at a time into this family.
And lastly, we should mention that you are starring on a telenovela, too!
Yes! I’m on the telenovela, Mia Mundo, in May. It’s an amazing cast. I speak a little bad Spanish on it. My character was so much fun to play. She is working at a magazine, and she wants to fit in with everything Latino. It was fun to work on the show and be a part of it. But there you have it: A Greek playing a Latina, rapping, and pregnant. There you go. You can do anything you want. Don’t let anyone tell you no. Just follow your dreams! [laughs]