From Godparents to Parting Ways: Inside Jeff Lewis and Jenni Pulos' Volatile Friendship
A Nearly 20-Year Friendship
Jenni Pulos has been at Jeff Lewis's side since long before the beginning of their Bravo series Flipping Out in 2007. The pair have been friends for "fifteen-plus" years, Lewis told Bethenny Frankel on her talk show in 2014. Pulos' ex-husband, Chris Elwood, worked for Lewis first, and Pulos came to fill in for an employee who was on leave while she and Elwood were still married. "She was great," Lewis recalls. "I said, ‘You have to come work for me. You’re so great, you’re so amazing.' Plus, we just really enjoyed each other and have so much fun. And that evolved into a very long working relationship."
Professional and Personal Life
On Flipping Out, Pulos is featured as Lewis's executive assistant and serves as a producer of the series. Their relationship, on and off screen, has been tumultuous through the years, but both have been outspoken about their tight friendship, often referring to one another as their best friend.
In 2012, Lewis filed a lawsuit against Pulos when he learned she was writing a book without his knowledge. Lewis claimed the book, which was set to be titled Hang in There, Baby — What One of the World’s Most Difficult Bosses Taught Me About Life, Work and Love, violated their nondisclosure agreement. "It was the last resort," he told Andy Cohen of the lawsuit on Watch What Happens Live, "Any opportunities outside of my show and outside of my office, I support that. But I can't have her hurting me in the process."
"I love Jenni dearly," Lewis continued. "We have undeniable chemistry. I think we were married in a past life. I think we were brother and sister in a past life. It is such a strong bond that even this, I don't think, can break us."
Lewis shut down speculation that their friendship was just for show. "We are family," he told Frankel on her talk show in 2014. "We’re like brother and sister. So of course, we argue and we have fights but ultimately, what’s very interesting is, whenever we’re in a bad place, something will happen. Like, no one messes with her — I can mess with her but you can’t mess with her. Something will always happen where she’ll come to my defense or I’ll come to her defense. And it’s like, ‘Alright, we’re good.’ It’s almost like it’s healing for us."
During season 6 of Flipping Out, which aired in 2012, Pulos accepted a free trip to a potential client's house in Los Cabos, Mexico, for her honeymoon without Lewis's knowledge. After learning of the vacation, Lewis began calling Pulos a "freeloader," and the pair threw down in what was arguably their biggest fight, current split aside.
To repair their relationship, the longtime friends went to joint therapy at Doctor Donna's office, and ultimately resolved their problems for season 7.
In 2015, after Lewis was fired for speaking ill of Living Spaces, a furniture company he had been serving as creative director of for nearly two years, Pulos stuck by his side. "Thank you," he wrote on Instagram. "We are overwhelmed by all of your support."
Throughout their friendship, the pair have been chummy on social media, with Lewis joking they were "codependent" in a 2015 Instagram post.
Managing Lewis' Temper
Pulos always said the secret to her success as Lewis's executive assistant (and friend) was that she wasn't afraid to stand up to him. "I think maybe why Zoila and I have a good longstanding relationships with him is because when he’s wrong, we tell him,” she told PEOPLE in August 2016. “Sometimes you have to be the bad guy. And that means you actually care about them, but you’re not going to let them get away with something that you don’t think is right.”
Supporting Pulos' Pregnancy
After speaking out about her struggles to concieve using IVF, Pulos revealed Lewis was right by her side while she was trying to have her second baby. "Jeff was championing us during this entire process; he and [his partner] Gage [Edward] have been very supportive," Pulos told Bravo in January 2017. "Early on I had some complications and Jeff was always concerned about my health. They are great dads and I can't wait for our girls to become lifelong friends who will share everything from dresses to Mama/Aunt Jenni's favorite raps."
In the season 10 finale of Flipping Out in 2017, Lewis asked Pulos to be the godmother of his daughter, Monroe, whom he shares with Edward. "Jenni’s one of my closest friends," Lewis said. "She’s also very religious, so I think she will take the job very seriously."
Sticking Together Through the Rough Patches
When Lewis and Edward went through a tough time as they worked to become parents, Pulos was one of the first to help them through it, acting as a sounding board for Lewis and a true friend during hard times in his relationship. "I've never been closer to him," Pulos said on Watch What Happens Live in October 2017. "He's softer and he's still feisty but he loves something more than himself, and isn't that a wonderful thing? They went through a very hard time. They were very honest about their journey with parenthood. They're on the other side of that and I think things are really great for him. So I couldn't be happier."
Although Pulos is no stranger to Lewis's notoriously hot temper, she was often on the recieving end of his worst blow-ups, including when in the season 11 trailer, released in July 2018, he screamed at her, "I’m going to f–ing lose it. So you’re either going to help me, or you’re going to get out. . . If I miss this flight, Jenni… I’m blaming it all the f— on you.”
In September 2018, PEOPLE broke the news that Lewis and Pulos were no longer working together and haven't spoken in a few months since she parted ways with Jeff Lewis Design. “It’s sad,” one source says. “They used to be inseparable, but their differences just got too big to overcome.”
“They found fame together so there was always this thought that nothing could tear them apart, but that hasn’t been the case,” the source adds. “They’ll never come back from this. It’s over.”