The untold truth of Flipping Out

There are plenty of shows out there that focus on home improvement, taking a rough-looking house or space and totally transforming it into an oasis. Those shows are fun to watch, but picture those people who help create the transformation. What if they themselves were just as interesting, if not more so, than the design work? That's where you get shows like Bravo's home design hit, Flipping Out, which just finished airing its ninth season during the fall of 2016. With a cast of characters including designer Jeff Lewis, his right-hand-woman Jenni Pulos, and the always-fabulous Zoila Chavez, it's easy to see why the show is a hit. And with nine seasons of material, there is always more going on behind the scenes we don't see when the episodes air. So, it's time to read up on some of those untold truths and flip out (sorry, we had to!) even more about this fantastic show.

What's never allowed in Jeff's home

When we think of Jeff Lewis, the perfect home designs come to mind. So how can we be more like the expert? The answer may not be what you think. When speaking with House Beautiful back in 2010, Pulos described what will never be found in Lewis' home — clutter and…condiments? You got it. Pulos said, "He's taught me to reduce clutter. I'm never going to be Jeff Lewis. I want my house to have layers of coziness, but I do see his points about things. We can always be more organized." Okay, yes, the lack of clutter makes total sense and can be clearly seen in any house Lewis has flipped or his overall designs.

Pulos continued to say, "I find the no-condiments thing funny. He likes all the labels facing the same way. He doesn't like smell; he's very sensitive to smell, so no leftovers. Zoila hides things in her room, and he manages to find those things as well…All the frozen food needs to be lined up perfectly straight. If anything is like even a half of an inch off, you're going to hear about it." Lewis may take organization to new levels, but no one can argue with the end product. As Pulos said, "He has designed over 50 kitchens, and he knows what people want, whether they're a single guy or a large family."

Jeff and Jenni have been friends for years

When Flipping Out first aired in July of 2007, it was clear that everyone on the show had already built relationships and seemed comfortable with each other. We later learned in 2014 when Lewis was on the Bethenny talk show, that there was a reason for that. He and Pulos had been friends and coworkers for years before the show began. He told Bethenny, "We've been friends for about 15 years."

He continued on to say that her ex-husband worked for him first, and Pulos ended up filling in a few days at some point for someone on leave. Lewis said, "She was great. I said, 'You have to come work for me. You're so amazing. You're so organized.' Plus we really enjoyed each other and had so much fun. That evolved into a very long working relationship." We hope Lewis and Pulos keep working together for another 15 years!

Behind those on-TV firings

Flipping Out is one show that definitely falls under the category of reality TV. The show follows the entire flipping house and design work process. With each episode giving a closer look into the business operations, the day-to-day isn't always fun. A clear example goes back to 2011, when Lewis fired two of his employees, one of whom was his sister-in-law, Sarah Berkman. After the tough situation, Lewis described the firing to Xfinity, saying, "I think people who watch the show know it wasn't an easy thing for me to do. These kids that were working for me, we were close, we traveled together, we do a lot of out-of-state consults. We spent a lot of time together."

So why did Lewis choose when he did to take action? He was actually trying to help. "I waited as long as I could, and…. I'm trying to… how do I say this? Obviously people are paid to be on the show. I wanted them to get as much of those cast fees as they could. I actually delayed firing them, especially with Sarah, because I knew she needed that money, that additional income supplement. So I got her as far through that season as I could. But really, it was starting to affect our relationship. I was resentful, I was angry, I was tough to be around because I was so frustrated."

Way more than an executive assistant

When Pulos first started on the show, she was seen as Lewis' executive assistant. However, quickly it was realized that she was way more than that. As Lewis' right-hand woman, Pulos has always shown her intelligence and how fast she can manage a crazy situation. Those skills have been put to work outside of the Flipping Out world as well.

Bravo describes Pulos as someone who "has worn many hats," and her resume shows this. Pulos is a co-executive producer on Lewis' newer show that launched in 2012, called Interior Therapy with Jeff Lewis. And she has also helped Bravo in other ways, as she co-wrote the theme song for Andy Cohen's show Watch What Happens Live. And speaking of music, Pulos is known for her rapping. Aside from the bits seen on Flipping Out, Pulos released a children's rap album, which includes songs such as "Brush Your Teeth" and the "ABC Jam." She described the songs on The Better Show, saying, "The beats on this album are very throwback to old school rap but with great messages for kids."

And to top if off now that we've covered TV and music, why not add in literature as well. Pulos wrote a memoir entitled Grin and Bear It: How to Be Happy No Matter What Reality Throws Your Way, which was released in March, 2014. Seriously, is there anything Pulos can't do?

Jeff Lewis has been fired before

Even though Lewis is often working for clients on Flipping Out, he always has seemed to be his own boss. He's had the confidence and team to get things done. But as seen in August 2015, this wasn't always the case. He was also the employee and knew the feeling of losing a job. Lewis worked as the creative director for Living Spaces, a retail furniture company for almost two years until late 2015 when there was a split.

Although the audience saw a few details on the show, Lewis opened up about the split on Watch What Happens Live. And just as usual, Lewis wasn't afraid to be blunt. He told Andy Cohen, "I got kicked to the curb. And after the show aired, they did not like how they looked and they fired me. And also the girl that sabotaged, well allegedly sabotaged my shoot, she had gone to HR. From what I gather, she might have threatened a lawsuit as a result. Here's the bottom line, people…I don't want pity, I'm gonna whoop it up!" And that is exactly what he did. Lewis and Pulos posted a variety of social media posts poking fun at the idea of Lewis' unemployment. And with Lewis' continued success in the home design world, it looks like he is doing just fine.

Zoila is a member of Jeff's family

Lewis' housekeeper, Zoila Chavez, has stolen the show in nearly every episode. She's one of the only people, aside from Pulos, who can say exactly what she wants to Lewis, and he doesn't mind. And although Chavez is Lewis' housekeeper, she is a fan favorite for her amazing quotes — and sometimes, her lack of housekeeping. So has this always been for the show or is her employment and relationship with Lewis real? Great news: it's all very true — even the part regarding her lack-of-housekeeping.

When asked about her housekeeping skills on Bethenny in 2014, Lewis said, "She's the worst." But just as usual with Lewis, it's all in good fun. He went on to say, "She takes really good care of me. She's like my surrogate mom. My mom died when I was very young and she's been with me for a very long time. She [Chavez] lives with us — Gage and I — and it's really funny."

So what is Chavez doing each day? She helps around the house and feeds Lewis' dogs and cat. One thing she is absolutely not doing: cooking for Lewis. "She says it was an accident, but it was not an accident. She gave me bad bacon a couple of years ago and and I got very, very bad food poisoning." But food poisoning aside, Chavez is part of Lewis' family. And it was a big moment in season 9 when she moved out of Lewis' home and started working for them just three days a week. Lewis discussed the change with People, saying, "I still have her in my life, she's still involved with our kid…I'm convinced that the three days she comes in to work, she'll be happy. I believe in this and I think that it's right for everybody." Fingers crossed we still have just as much Chavez on future Flipping Out episodes!

What it takes to work for Jeff Lewis

Throughout the years on Flipping Out, we've seen a variety of employees working for Jeff Lewis. Some stuck around for awhile, and others just weren't the right fit. So what does it take to work for Jeff Lewis and be successful? Lewis spoke with Xfinity about the topic, and although home design experience is important, it's way more than that. He said, "We work from my home and we work really long hours. Having a quiet person sitting at a desk 10 feet away from me is uncomfortable. The design business is certainly my first priority, but I have always been drawn to characters and personalities. I enjoy my work and the people I work with." The show throughout the years has been a testament to Lewis' statement, as we've rarely seen anyone without a distinct personality working with him. Should we all submit our resumes now?

An unexpected connection to the Kardashians

It always seems that reality TV stars have connections with each other, so we shouldn't be surprised to know that Lewis and his team have one with the Kardashians. However, it's not one that we'd expect. And let's just say, it's not looking like we'll see Lewis and Kris Jenner hanging out anytime soon. In the summer of 2015, Lewis spoke about his connection with AdWeek, saying, "We recently stole one of her [Jenner's] assistants — and I don't think she's happy…But he is so good. I mean, the way she's training those guys over there! If I have to stand outside Jenner Communications and make offers on the spot, I will."

And even though there's a chance Jenner isn't thrilled with Lewis, he thinks highly of her. He also shared that his nickname for Gage Edward, his partner and coworker, is Kris Jenner. He continued to say, "He's kind of the Kris Jenner behind this whole machine…Gage is very bright, very advanced beyond his [30 years], very mature." Here's to hoping we one day see a friendship between Jenner and Lewis

Friends with other Bravo-lebrities

No worries though. Even though things aren't looking so great for the Kardashians and the Flipping Out team, they still have fun with their fellow Bravo celebrities. So what happens when everyone from the shows is in a room together? Pulos told ET Online that it's a "circus." She went on to say, "It is everything you could think it to be and more when all those Housewives are in one room…It's been fun because we've been there for a long time and we've seen Bravo grow as a brand and a network and a force. And it's been great to be a part of that ride."

And as for Lewis, he does have a great friend in one of the Real Housewives of Orange County wives — Shannon Beador. Beador told Bravo that she was introduced to Lewis through fellow housewife Tamra Judge. She continued on to say, "I think it was friendship at first site. We are similar in a lot of ways. I feel the same way about Jenni and Gage. It was an instant connection for me to all of them and we all have a close friendship today." And just to give us an idea of how crazy the friendship can be, Beador shared even more. "I have a lot of favorite memories with Jeff and all of them include a lot of laughing. Getting driven to a bar with him and he and I sitting in the trunk and having photographers take pictures of our exit with my Spanx showing. Jeff going through my Christmas cards after a few cocktails giving me his comments on the photos. I could go on and on…" Yes please!