If anyone knows how to handle tough, stressful situations, it's Jeff Lewis' trusty sidekick Jenni Pulos. And in her hilarious, genuinely touching new book, Grin and Bear It, the Flipping Out star opens up about her wild ride, from growing up in a drama-filled Greek household to pursuing her dreams as a comedian to welcoming her newborn baby girl Alianna last year. The subtitle of the book is "How to Be Happy No Matter What Reality Throws Your Way"—and it's a neat summation of how this self-described "me-aholic" learned to find peace and joy in her life.
"When I was writing this, my goal was to have people read this and to help them," says Jenni, who opens up about her struggle with an eating disorder in college as well as the demise of her first marriage. "I think people who struggle with eating disorders, or relationships, or careers, or other people will get something out of this book."
We caught up with Jenni to talk about the experience writing the Grin and Bear It, her struggles with an eating disorder, her worst job as an up-and-coming actress is Los Angeles, and more.
What made you want to write a book?
I mean, I didn't! But then I thought about the things I wanted didn't come so quickly and easily, and so I thought I'm going to write a "How Not To..." book, and maybe you can walk down a road and not hit as many dead ends as I did.
Was the experience cathartic?
It was a long process. It took a while. I have two co-authors and they were a big part in helping me finish it. My life changed as I was writing the book. We didn't start writing until later, but then I had been pregnant so when I actually finished it I had my daughter. The book morphed. Having a baby changes your life and the book became something different as we were writing.
You open up about the demise of your first marriage and your struggles with an eating disorder in college. Were there things you wanted to leave out?
Definitely. I guess a lot of my struggle has been owning the truth. When I wrote this, I thought, 'Am I going to be honest? What am I doing this for. My divorce is on sale at Target! Let's go for it!' But with things like my eating disorder, I thought I know there are girls out there dealing with that too. And I think this whole book can help people.
You detail a lot of jobs you had while trying to get your acting career off the ground. What's the worst one?
I would say Captain Coconut. I had to dress up as a coconut and wear moon shoes so I could bounce on the street in these Jams shorts with a pink wig. People would walk by and I would say, 'I'm Captain Coconut, come on in!' I would also spray them with a voice-activated squirter. One day, I sprayed a lady and her gold lame top. She chased me through the whole store. And, of course, people would always yell out 'Loser!' while walking by. 'You didn't go to college, lame-o!'
You mention how you're often mistaken for Julia Louis-Dreyfus. What's the weirdest fan interaction you've had?
There was one guy, when I was registering for my wedding, he continued to follow us around Bloomingdale's. We'd turn around and he'd pop out and wave and then go back to hiding. That was really bizarre. And once when I was with Jeff [Lewis] in an elevator, this woman got on, saw us, and screamed at the top of her lungs. She was so excited!
What's your secret to dealing with Jeff over the years?
You have to put yourself in the other person's position. For me, the best way that I've learned to cope is to do that with him. Why is he reacting the way he is? I think you can be more productive putting yourself in their shoes.
You've also recorded rap albums for children. What's your
street creed like among other hip-hoppers? Have you hung with any
Snoop Dogg! And I've rapped for P. Diddy. I did a song with Lil Jon. And Warren G. I haven't heard any feedback about my skills from the rap community, but I'm really excited about doing it.
You also write in your book about your dream of becoming a cast member of Saturday Night Live. Would you still want to join the cast?
I would. But I'd really love to host it one day. That's definitely my dream.