Jenni Pulos is just leaving a last-minute audition.
It's fitting that it popped up, given that the actress, mom, and co-star of Bravo reality shows Interior Therapy with Jeff Lewis and Flipping Out recently released a book about embracing the unexpected. Her memoir, Grin and Bear It: How to Be Happy No Matter What Reality Throws Your Way, hashes out the many roadblocks Pulos, who grew up in Scottsdale, encountered both professionally and in her personal life -- and how she learned to get over them.
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Pulos has a pair of Valley book signings coming up. One takes place Friday, May 16, at Old Spaghetti Factory, which her father founded and her mother runs. Another signing will take place at Changing Hands Bookstore on Monday, May 19.
Before trekking to Phoenix from LA, Pulos talked with Jackalope Ranch about her book, what it's really like working as executive assistant to the notoriously high maintenance (and hilarious) interior decorator and house flipper Jeff Lewis, and how Bravo fans know her better than some of her real-life friends.
"We've had such a loyal following, Jeff and I and Zoila," she says of her reality TV career with her boss and his fan-favorite housekeeper. "People say they feel like they know us, and they do. They've gone on a crazy journey with us."
A lot has changed for Pulos since she met Lewis, and that includes her first marriage falling apart on TV. Pulos had been married to fellow actor and Flipping Out cast member Chris Elwood before the show started, but Lewis fired him for slacking off during the show's second season. Their divorce followed shortly after.
"I didn't watch the episode where my ex-husband and I separated," she says, adding, "There's definitely cringe moments and there's happy moments."
The idea for writing a book came from an offhand remark from Lewis, who has known Pulos for more than 10 years. And when she genuinely considered the idea, she realized that she had a wealth of material to draw on -- including auditioning to be UCLA's mascot, performing rap for a not-so-receptive audience at the Apollo Theater, and working to become the second coming of Gilda Radner on Saturday Night Live. Her plans didn't exactly pan out.
"I had suffered a lot of disappointments, and things did not go my way," she says. "I wanted to write a how-not-to guide to help people."
Looking back she can see where she went wrong. She spent too much time worrying when, she says, she should've been more focused on working, listening to constructive criticism, and embracing her failures.
"It was hard," she says of writing the book. "I had to expose a lot of my life -- a lot of it that I didn't want to. It wasn't easy. but today I can say I'm glad I did it. I'm being raw and truthful.
"I didn't really want to write a book, to be honest. But I think that that's the message for people: Sometimes the things that you dont want to do that are really hard are the things that you're supposed to be doing."
She means it when she says the book is a "how-not-to." It includes a list of surefire ways to fail and what it's like being a recovering "me-aholic."
Her advice? She says people should "embrace rejection. Embrace failure. Don't give up. If you have to work a different job, learn from that. You have to come at it from the right mindset. Then put in that work everyday."
Of course, that's easier said than done. "i had to change my thinking," she says. "Dont' go to worst case scenario. Don't go to 'why me?' Go to things you can control."
Pulos says that she hopes the book will help people who want to make it in show business avoid the land mines she stepped right into because her priorities were out of whack. " I was very much about the fame," she says. "Now I just want to do my work. Being famous is not all its cracked up to be."
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By accepting criticism and working with the opportunities she found, Pulos says she's in a really happy place right now. She has remarried and has a daughter who's almost 1. And, fittingly, her favorite song right now is Pharrell's "Happy."
"I would enjoy that song at my funeral, I think. I would want everyone dancing."
Jenni Pulos will discuss and sign Grin and Bear It at Old Spaghetti Factory at 6 p.m. on Friday, May 16. Pulos will also sign her book at Changing Hands Bookstore at 7p.m. on Monday, May 19. Her book is available in hardback for $24.99.