"I cleaned houses my day and hustled beer and wings by night," the Rehab Addict host tells PEOPLE

By Mackenzie Schmidt
June 07, 2019 05:15 PM
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Nicole Curtis is getting back to her roots.

The Rehab Addict star will serve as a judge for the 2019 Miss Hooters International pageant, a competition for servers at the chain restaurant.

Curtis is a Hooters alum herself, having worked at a location in Tampa before she made it big on HGTV and DIY Network.

“I cleaned houses my day and hustled beer and wings at Hooters by night. Within a year, I had the down payment for my first house,” she tells PEOPLE of her experience. “I’m super excited to be coming full circle. The women I worked with are still in my inner circle of friends today.”

She’s not shy about her path to success and neither is her adult son, Ethan, who she says often uses his mom’s former job “to just randomly throw out in conversation with new people.”

Credit: Lauren Noess

Curtis opened up about her unconventional road to TV fame in her 2016 memoir, Better Than New: Lessons I’ve Learned from Saving Old Homes (And How They Saved Me).

In the book, she reveals that after high school, she decided to forgo higher education, instead leaving her home town of Detroit, and moving to the Florida city with a boyfriend. Over several months, she worked as a house cleaner, cellphone salesperson, and a Hooters waitress, before eventually moving back to Michigan to take classes at a community college.

She applied to Hooters on a friend’s advice and still stays in touch with some of her former coworkers there, with whom she became close friends.

“I just had lunch with one of my original Hooters girls from Tampa,” she told PEOPLE in 2016. “She just laughed and said, ‘You were always the responsible one. We’d all be out and you’d be up at 8 in the morning cleaning houses, always making the most of your time.’”


She later became a realtor — a first step on the road to landing her own home renovation show. Although a production company originally reached out to her to film segments as a real estate agent, Curtis went into the meeting determined to convince them that she should have a series. “I used to be a waitress, and here I am now,” she says.

Curtis recently parted ways with DIY Network, which will be replaced by Chip and Joanna Gaines’s forthcoming TV channel in summer of 2020, and tells PEOPLE she is working on developing a new show for HGTV.

Curtis will be joined in her pageant judging duties by NASCAR driver Chase Elliott and Lynne Austin, the original Hooters Girl. The 23rd annual event will take place on June 20 at Lake Tahoe Outdoor Arena at Harveys in Nevada. The festivities will also include a performance by country artist Lee Brice and the famous Hooters wing eating competition, which offers a $10,000 grand prize.

Credit: Hooters

Eighty Miss Hooters pageant entrants from across the country will participate in women’s empowerment seminars and community outreach through the Boys and Girls Club of Lake Tahoe and League to save Lake Tahoe, according to a press release acquired by PEOPLE.

In the competition, they will be judged on responses to interview questions, personality, swimwear and hometown costume attire. The winner will receive $30,000 and serve as the new face of the brand.