Their working relationship and friendship may be on the rocks, but Jeff Lewis will always owe his Flipping Out fame to Jenni Pulos.
When the hit Bravo series was coming together, it was actually Pulos and her now ex-husband Chris Elwood who brought the reality TV cameras to Lewis.
Pulos opened up about how it all came together in her 2014 memoir, Grin and Bear It: How to Be Happy No Matter What Reality Throws Your Way.
As she explained, the former couple were shopping a reality series called The Wannabes that would follow them as they took odd jobs between acting auditions.
At the time, Elwood and Pulos were both working as Lewis’ assistants — a job Elwood had first and Pulos got after filling in for her then-husband one day.
When Pulos and Elwood pitched The Wannabes pilot to major networks, she begged Lewis to be a part of her new show.
“Initially, Jeff was only supposed to have a small role — and even that was a tough sell to him,” Pulos wrote in her book. “Convinced I needed him for authenticity and a little drama, I pleaded with Jeff to participate.”
Lewis finally agreed to be in the show the night before they filmed their sizzle reel. “Jeff was amazing and hilarious in the sizzle reel and was as unfiltered then as he is today,” she said.
Though Lewis wasn’t the main focus of the show, his knack for being his unapologetic self on camera drew people in — just not in the way Pulos and Elwood had imagined.
Network executives who saw the reel were smitten with Lewis’s personality and on-screen charm. They fell in love with him and thought he and his business might be a better fit to build a reality show around.
“Jeff’s ‘discovery’ instantly spun our show about two actors pursuing fame toward his story and the world of real estate,” Pulos shared.
Bravo called soon after, offering to purchase Flipping Out with Lewis as the star. They green-lit six episodes for a trial run.
That put Pulos in a precarious situation. On one side, it was a great opportunity. But on the other, appearing on the show in as Lewis’s assistant would take her further away from her acting career — and might pigeonhole her.
Even worse, there was a chance that Elwood would only been seen as “the guy hauling Jeff’s trash out every day,” Pulos quipped.
WATCH THIS: Flipping Out Star Jeff Lewis Shows Off His Gorgeous Home
After what she called “my show business version of Sophie’s Choice,” Pulos agreed to it.
“If I sound bitter, I was…for about two days. I struggled to be happy for Jeff and encouraged him to go for it,” she admitted in her novel. “Instead of crumbling in defeat that The Wannabes wasn’t picked up, I did my best to embrace this new, unexpected opportunity.”
Elwood wanted her to step away from the project and pursue their own show, but, she wrote, “I couldn’t do it.” The former pair divorced in 2008.
The first season of Flipping Out would premiere on Bravo on July 31, 2007. It’s since aired ten seasons. Season 11 premieres Sept. 11.
On September 6, PEOPLE exclusively reported that Lewis and Pulos were no longer working together and had ended their nearly 20-year friendship.
According to multiple sources, Pulos parted ways with Lewis’s house flipping company Jeff Lewis Design. Sources say the emotional moment was filmed for the upcoming eleventh season.
The two longtime collaborators and friends reportedly haven’t spoken in months. “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.”