Queen Of Versailles Reigns Again's Jackie Siegel On Her Home And Passions - Exclusive Interview

Anyone who's seen the 2012 documentary "Queen of Versailles" knows that Jackie Siegel doesn't do things by half measures. The documentary follows Siegel and her husband, Westgate Resorts mogul David Siegel, as they attempt to build their dream home in central Florida. Overseeing the construction of even a simple home can be complicated and stressful, but the Siegels' vision for their home took the project's difficulty level to the stratosphere. 

When completed, their dream home, dubbed Versailles, would cover 90,000 square feet and include five kitchens, a ballroom, a dining room seating up to 150 guests, and a 35-car garage. Like many home construction projects, Versailles came against an unexpected roadblock; in this case, it was the real estate crash of 2008, which forced to Siegels to put the project on hiatus.

While the Siegels put Versailles on the back burner, they hadn't forgotten it. Now, construction has resumed yet again, and it's happening on camera: The new Discovery series "Queen of Versailles Reigns Again" follows Jackie Siegel as she takes charge of the completion of their palatial home. A lot has changed for the Siegels since 2008 — their children have matured, and so have their plans for Versailles. In addition, a family tragedy forced the Siegels to take a hard look at their priorities. In this exclusive interview, Jackie Siegel shares her latest plans for Versailles and the hard lessons she's learned in the last few years.

Versailles was inspired by the Siegels' honeymoon in France

We'll start off with your return to Versailles. The original Palace of Versailles was clearly your inspiration. Tell me about why that spoke to you.

My husband's dream was to build this home. We went on our honeymoon in France and had a very romantic time. We took a tour of Versailles, and I actually got pregnant on our honeymoon with one of our kids. On the way flying back, my husband [said] he wanted a bigger family. I didn't realize he wanted this many kids. He designed Versailles on the back of a napkin and he said, "This is our home or what I want to build for our family when we get back to Orlando. I'm going to name it Versailles." I was like, "Who names a house?" Where I grew up, you don't name a house — maybe a neighborhood. In fact, where I grew up, we didn't even have neighborhoods. There's no such thing as an HOA or gated communities.

You bought a piece of land and built your shack on it or whatever. That's how we grew up, but it was his inspiration. Because of the big family, he wasn't trying to make a number, trying to build the biggest home in America. With having so many kids, and by the time I wanted a house spa, he wanted a bowling alley and a pub and all this stuff. The square footage kept growing. It's still growing now that I'm getting so many friends, because they all want to come and stay at Versailles, so I have to add on some extra, like a guest house. I have a security guard house now, and it's a lot ... we have a helicopter pad, but I need to put one on top of our dock, I guess.

I know that the project was on hiatus for a while. What were you doing during this time?

That's one of the big questions. Everyone wants to know what happened to Versailles. Why is it taking so long? Discovery+ really shows the balancing act that I have to do as a mother. I was thrown onto this project this past year, like a year ago [in] January, and my husband and his team were building it. What happened [was] the crash of 2008. The bankers made us put the house up for sale, so we stopped construction if we're not going to own it anymore. No one bought it. We kept the house, and then we started building again in 2015, after my husband made his money back after the real estate market/financial crash. Westgate's doing great again, we have a casino in Las Vegas, and I think we're the largest privately owned casino on the strip.

Everything else is ... What do you call it? Not commercial, but stock market — they're all public companies, but we're privately owned. He also made my own Versailles in the sky, in Las Vegas. [It was Elvis Presley's] apartment or penthouse, I guess.

The death of a daughter made Jackie Siegel an advocate for opioid awareness and treatment

In 2015, we started construction again, my husband and his team. I was in the background raising the kids, but then our [18-year-old] daughter passed away of a drug overdose. At that point, with all the money in the world, we couldn't bring her back to life. It wasn't fulfilling to be building this house. It was a really a traumatic time for the two of us.

Since then, we started Victoria's Voice, which is about educating people and other parents and saving them from going through the same trauma that we went through from losing a child from a drug overdose, which is totally preventable. 

I know this is something that's been important to you and you've learned a lot from your own lived experience. What do you think that parents and teens could do to prevent addiction?

We've [talked about] Narcan. If you're a parent or a head of a dormitory, like in a college or something, there should always be Narcan available. Narcan is like an antidote for opioids or for fentanyl, and there's fentanyl everywhere on the streets now. Since my daughter passed away, the drug epidemic has gotten worse, and it's really bad. We're losing our next generation.

After our daughter passed away, we slowed down on construction again. After [what] we were doing with Victoria's Voice ... we've saved over a thousand lives already, but I know we've saved much more. These are ones that I can quantify;, we actually use Narcan, but we want to educate parents that this can happen to their children, too.

We were totally [blindsided]. We didn't know our daughter was on drugs, but they're everywhere. I have twins in the ninth grade and one of their classmates went out on a date with a boy, took a pill, thought it was ecstasy, but it was laced with fentanyl, and she died, in 9th grade, 14 years old. It happens that quick. I really can't stress to other parents the importance of educating your kids. You can't trust anyone. You don't buy anything off the street and put it in your body — not even a vaping cigarette. On the street, they take empty nicotine vapes, [and] they'll fill it with some other chemical, lie to the kids, tell them it's marijuana, but it's not. It's like these other toxins.

My hairdresser had one son, 15 years old. All he liked was marijuana, and marijuana off a plant is safe. You're not going to die from it. The only way I think you can really die from marijuana is if you're walking down the street in Manhattan and a thousand-pound bag falls on you, like someone tosses it off the roof. Her son took one puff, and now he is in a mental institution for the rest of his life, locked up.

Jackie Siegel plans to open Versailles for wellness retreats

It's totally messed up. I don't know if they know what was in that vape. I really want to stress the importance to parents to please tell their kids to stay away from anything you buy off the street. Don't trust a stranger.

It's getting that bad out there. Unfortunately, since my daughter passed away, the drug epidemic has gotten even worse. That's another reason we decided to finish Versailles. We're back on track, even more fast paced, because I really feel that since Versailles already has the fame, — it's already in Wikipedia — I can use the house as a tool to bring out the awareness about the drug epidemic and saving lives through our foundation. What's really important in life is to give back to the world. I feel like I can do that to the world. Even if some people can't come to some of our events and travel across the world, I can open up my life and show them on the TV show.

I just watched Episode 5 earlier this morning, and it shows the side of me, a little glimpse of the pain that I'm still going through. It's almost six years after my daughter passed away. I feel I can make a difference through that, but we're also going to be doing things in our house. I'm going to be doing retreats, since I have a 10,000-square foot house spa in the house, healthy retreats. Through Victoria's Voice, I've made connections with people that are reaching out for help. They want to stay drug-free and alcohol-free, substance abuse-free. I want to do retreats at Versailles that they can come in and have their committee meetings or mini conventions and stuff, and have a safe place to be.

We have a dance club, and there doesn't have to be drugs and alcohol. ... there may be alcohol, but on those days we would not, we would have a juice bar, and I'm going to have a fresh juice bar in my club. I've got a yoga room, like a Zen garden. We've got massage and facials and a wet room, a self-tanning booth, the indoor swimming pool [and] outdoor swimming pool. It's really going to be a retreat, like a spa. We've got a grotto with three jacuzzis, but it's all one huge thing ... we're still debating. Do we want the tennis court or do we want to make a croquet field and soccer field? We're trying to decide on that. 

We'll have outdoor activities as well, and also a [one mile] nature walk around the whole perimeter of the property. We've got 1700 feet on the lake. People can go boating. There's a little island out in the middle of the lake that I want to hopefully work out a deal with the county. I want to buy [it], but donate [it] as a little park in memory of my late daughter, Victoria, maybe a lighthouse in a picnic dock, because the lake, sometimes it's above water and sometimes it's below water. That's why no one bought it, but if I could make it like a little monument for my daughter and have it be a park dedicated to the county, I would like to do that.

Jackie Siegel explains why opioid addiction is so devastating

Circling a bit back to your foundation and some of your advocacy, what are some of the ways that we could recognize opioid abuse? You said you were blindsided about your daughter. Since then, I'm sure you've learned a lot. You've educated yourself a lot.

It's really crazy. I was watching the news this morning, and there's Johnny Depp and his ex-wife suing each other ... it's all like drug and opioid related.

The drugs cause so much addiction, [and it's] a really horrible thing. If someone gets an injury and they get addicted to opioids, they don't realize they're going to get addicted because a few years ago, no one knew how addictive it was, but it's so bad that you can go into seizures when you come off. Johnny Depp was mentioning about when he tried to not take the painkillers, you get this tingling of the receptors and stuff in your body. It's not so much about getting high, but it's to stop that pain of the withdrawal.

They say that your body wants to go crazy because your body needs more. It's a true addiction, and it's not [only] a mental addiction. I had my appendix out once and they gave me morphine in the emergency room, and it's like, "Oh my God, this is the best day ever." I wish I had more appendix to take out because I'd keep going back, but then to come off of it is the hard thing.

Jackie Siegel sees the opioid crisis growing even worse

What kind of drug policy changes do you think are needed to combat this?

My husband is against medical marijuana. I'm actually for it. It's like Democrats and Republicans being married together, that type of thing. For medical marijuana to be legal is a great thing because it's not going to be laced with fentanyl and ... there's a whole group of people out there that love marijuana versus drinking. Now, they have edibles and stuff, and for me, it's safe. If they buy anything off of the street, the problem is that fentanyl is now out there. We have a problem with open borders with fentanyl coming in. I've heard of drug busts — they found a thing of fentanyl that could kill the entire city.

Back when Victoria passed away, [the issue was more about] the opioids and trying to combat that battle, opioids and heroin. Now, it's fentanyl. Looking back, heroin and cocaine and all that, that was a walk in the park compared to the fentanyl problem that we're dealing with right now.

It's really close to every week I'm hearing about someone else passing away that didn't mean to. Maybe their doctor stopped their prescription of Percocet so they go to the internet or on social media — they're selling the drugs and it's fentanyl and it's not even what they think that they're going to take. I was on a show with Captain Lee in "Below Deck." That's what happened to his son.

His son had chronic back pain or something, and he was addicted to Percocet. Me and my husband were on the show "Below Deck" with Captain Lee, and his son bought Percocet off the street because he couldn't get it from the doctor anymore because the doctor was limited by the law, and it was pure fentanyl. I know there was such a tragedy for him, but being on the show "Below Deck," my husband met him and they bonded as man to man, being both two successful men and having a child die from drugs. It's hard to accept, but it's happening everywhere.

Here's how the plans for Versailles have changed

You hinted at this before, but how has your vision for Versailles changed since the project first started?

Our kids have grown older. The twins are 15. My oldest son is 21 and we have my niece that's 28 and they no longer want nannies' rooms. They don't want an ice skating rink. They don't need the swing set or the merry-go-round, all that stuff. We took out the nannies' rooms. They're getting bigger closets in their bedrooms. We got the whole second floor. So we're redoing, like re-laying out all of their bedrooms. They carousel's gone, but I might put it back in when we have grandchildren. It's in the warehouse right now. The ice-skating rink is converted to a dance club, like a teenage club. They put a workout room in there, like a hardcore muscle-building workout. 

We have the British pub from the 1800s. That was shipped over from England. I found out [that I'm related to] King Edward III and King Edward II. My mom did the genealogy, so I have royalty in my blood. Maybe that's why Versailles landed in the right hands of the right person. It was destiny, I think.

What did it feel like to restart construction? You took a break from it and then got back to it.

This is the first time I'm in charge of Versailles now, and I'm on a roll. I really want to finish it. I've learned a lot this year. I've learned about quality control. I've learned about containers, shipping supplies from overseas. It's not just about picking out a color of paint or marble. I'm picking up semiprecious stones for my floors. I just got back from Indonesia, and there's so much. You have to worry about weight-bearing walls or if the ceiling's made to support a chandelier. It's really quite intense. Even with my Benihana kitchen, I took it out because we couldn't get the right ventilation. The ceilings are too tall, but my husband put it back in. We're going to have that battle maybe on Season 2.

Versailles is just one of Jackie Siegel's many projects

How did the new show come about? How did you get back into that?

My husband and I have had a lot of offers over the years to do shows, and emotionally, after losing my daughter, I wasn't ready. My husband didn't like the way he was portrayed on the original "Queen of Versailles," the documentary. He wanted to shy away from the cameras, and I was married to him. I couldn't bring the cameras so much to my house, but time has passed, and we're doing great. We have our mission in life of saving lives. Discovery, they're are not a tabloid. They're more true to life and do a nice showcase of the challenges of me trying to finish Versailles and balancing my other life besides Versailles.

I've got my family life and the Versailles. My other life is taking care of my husband, being a wife. I don't think women really get enough credit for how difficult it is to be a career woman, because [aside from] having a job, you also have to manage being a great wife, the household bills and things like that.

Your kids going to soccer practice or lacrosse, or doctor's appointments — it's crazy to say it, but even my dogs or the animals [have] their own schedules too, because they go to the doctors, get their shots, get groomed. And you got to do meal planning.

As a mother, this is so much [what] it seems like most of the time. Most husbands, from what I've seen, they go to work and they come home [asking] "What's for dinner?" and then they pop on the couch. The women's job is never done. It's been an incredible task to take on this project in my already busy life, because we had Victoria's Voice and everything I mentioned, but I also produced beauty pageants because that's how I got my start in life. Besides having my engineering degree, the beauty pageants really catapulted me to the next level, and I want to give other women the opportunity.

It's more charitable — I don't get paid to do it. I do it out of the goodness of my heart, and I try to do as much in the community as I can. I have a thrift mart [where] we donate a lot to a battered women's safe house. I really enjoy giving back to the community. That really makes a person whole, to be a productive member of society. Too many people in this world... I find the more they need to know the more good you do to other people, the better your life will be. It's really true.

What are you most looking forward to when you move into Versailles?

Walking in there, seeing the grand ballroom completely finished, and having the palace be a home, and being able to be a mom. I want to be a mom and a wife and get it done. I plan [on] the house being done around a year from now, May 3rd, 2023. It's my goal because that's going to be my husband's 88th birthday.

"Queen of Versailles Reigns Again" is now streaming on Discovery+.