Jenni Pulos is a born entertainer and a master of many mediums. Best known as Jeff Lewis’ executive assistant (and better, saner half) on Bravo’s hit design show Flipping Out, she’s spent the past eight years sharing her life with millions of viewers. In addition, she recently authored a much-lauded book, Grin and Bear It: How To Be Happy No Matter What Reality Throws Your Way, an intimate look at the many ups and downs she’s faced both personally and in her career. She’s even a professional rapper—her album “Old School Kids Beats” came out in 2013.
Recently, Pulos joined forces with Tidy Cats to offer one winner a complete redesign of their cat’s space. We sat down with her to talk about how pet parents can better design their pets’ areas, as well as to learn more about what matters most to her—her dogs, her daughter, and her dreams for the future.
TAILS: How did you get involved with the Tidy Cats Littervention Contest?
Jenni Pulos: I just thought it was an awesome opportunity and a great contest to be a part of. I’ve been an animal lover and pet enthusiast my whole life, and I also love design—so it seemed like a good fit.
What should people keep in mind when designing areas for their pets?
There’s a way to incorporate your own style and make things fit. For instance, whatever holds your pet’s toys, have it be something cool. Have it be a wooden crate or an interesting basket, so it ties in to the style of your space. It’s better to come up with creative ideas to incorporate your pet’s things than to have to hide everything every time someone comes over.
What are some simple ways people can create or update existing pieces?
You can build a space for your cat that is interesting and serves as a focal piece, like shelves that they can rest on but that also look great in the space. With scratching posts, you can go to a fabric store, find the proper material and recover them in something that’s really stylish.
You are a longtime dog parent and lover. Tell us about your dogs.
I have two dogs—Lulu, a Cattle Dog mix who is fourteen, and Janet, a Pug, who is nine. They were both rescues and they are my children with fur (and I don’t have to pay for their college, so they are definitely quite a treat). They hold as much weight in my home as my daughter Alianna; they are equal opportunity children.
Did dog parenting prepare you for parenting your daughter?
Absolutely. I crate-trained my dogs and it’s a similar thing with babies [when you are sleep training them]—you don’t want to leave them, and the first couple nights they cry and you have to stay out of the room. There’s also the challenge, just like with children, of having too many things. I have too many dog beds because I want one in every room just in case they go in there.
I would not trade being a parent—pet or human—for anything. It’s been the best, most joyful experience of my life, and nothing can surpass it.
What else have you learned from your dogs?
That gratitude can always turn into good things. They are grateful for the simple things in life, and I think that’s what we all have to get back to—to be grateful for the simple things, to treat others with respect and kindness. I’ve also learned that I need to take a page from my pets and just shut my mouth sometimes.
In Grin and Bear It, you describe going through a very difficult divorce. How did your dogs help you get through it?
Just by being there. That’s what animals do, they just love and they are warmth and they are positive energy, and I needed that. Isn’t it so ironic that they can’t talk to us but they can provide us with so much feeling? It isn’t always words.
Do you have any other pets?
Alianna has a beta fish named Kiko. This is bad to say, but he’s actually her fourth fish, because for some reason I became a fish killer. We found out that you shouldn’t change their water with Smartwater, which is what we were doing, so I don’t know…hopefully that isn’t what ended their life. We have a whole fish cemetery in the front of our home. We still keep all of them in our prayers, and they definitely went to fish heaven.
When can we expect to see the new season of Flipping Out?
Look for it this summer. It’s going to be a really exciting season; a lot changes, and Jeff is busier than ever with multiple projects. Our loyal long-term viewers should be thrilled because there are so many great things to look for. And if you haven’t ever watched, now is a great time to get on board—we’re featuring so much great design this year.
The show was nominated for an Emmy last year—that must have been crazy.
It was! I couldn’t tell you how shocked we all were, but very grateful. We did lose to those men that catch the stinky fish, but we were honored to be in that company.
You design, write, act, produce, and rap. What else can we expect to see from you?
I’m developing a lot of different things right now, including a children’s program. The focus for me is to keep improving my work in whatever I’m doing. In my book I use the quote, “Bloom where you are planted,” and that is what I’m trying to do.