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When socialite Jackie Siegel and her billionaire husband, Westgate Resorts founder David Siegel, began work on their dream home, they certainly didn’t envision the project taking over 20 years to complete. The house gained great notoriety worldwide following the 2012 documentary The Queen of Versailles. Currently, Siegel and her family can be seen on Queen of Versailles Reigns Again on Discovery+. The new docuseries follows Siegel as construction continues on the 90,000-square-foot Central Florida mansion.
Now, as they near the finish line on Versailles, Siegel reflects on all that has happened in the couple’s lives over the past two decades, including the devastating loss of their 18-year-old daughter Victoria to a drug overdose. Through their heartache, the Siegels have mustered up the strength to help other families dealing with addiction through their foundation, Victoria’s Voice, as well as their book of the same name, which offers readers a gripping glimpse into the life of their late daughter through her own journal entries.
Their commitment to the cause has resulted in getting Narcan, the antidote to an opioid overdose, into the hands of thousands of first responders as well as providing support and education through their outreach and prevention programs. Siegel has used her celebrity status to increase awareness of the drug epidemic through countless fundraisers, events and speaking engagements nationwide.
Orlando Family Magazine recently spoke with the passionate philanthropist about the status of Versailles, her family and the future goals of her foundation.
How did you and your husband David first meet?
Well, I’m originally from New York. However, I moved to Miami with my ex-husband and I hated it! Moving from Wall Street to the Everglades was not for me. Then one day I saw an ad in the newspaper for the Mrs. Florida America Pageant, which I entered and won. Later on, I began producing the pageant. One year, the winner of that year’s pageant invited me to a birthday party at her home here in Orlando. It was at that party that I met David. Both of us were recently divorced. He says for him it was love at first sight but for me it took a little longer because I wasn’t quite ready for a relationship, but he waited for me to be ready and that was that.
When did you originally begin work on Versailles?
We bought the land over 20 years ago and broke ground a few years after that. We are now seeing the light at the end of the tunnel and we’re finally going to finish the house.
Is there a set completion date?
My goal is to have the house finished by May 3 of 2023, which is my husband’s birthday. There has been talk that we may be able to finish it earlier, possibly for New Year’s Day of 2023. However, I’m not sure if it’s that far along but it’s certainly getting there. We are kind of on warp speed right now.
What was the inspiration for the home?
My husband and I actually visited the Palace of Versailles in France on our honeymoon. David was very inspired by it and on the flight back home he took out his pen and drew a layout of this dream home he imagined us one day living in, on the back of a cocktail napkin. He said, “Honey, when we get home, I want to buy some land and build this house for our family.” His dream was for us to have a big family and a big house to go with that. Then he said he was going to name it Versailles, and I said, “You’re going to name the house?” (Laughing) I’m a small-town girl and where I come from you don’t name a house but sure enough, that became the name of our dream home.
Of all the places you could have built Versailles, what made you and David choose the Orlando area?
Well, the Westgate headquarters are here, and David wanted to have a big family and where better to raise a family than Orlando? I mean, here, we all have Disney, Universal, and SeaWorld practically in our backyards. Between the weather and all the fun things there are to do, Orlando is the perfect place to raise a family.
Coming from such humble beginnings, did you ever imagine living in a house like Versailles? And can you give us a few stats on the house?
Never in a million years did I imagine living in a home like Versailles. When completed, it will have 12 kitchens, about 18 bedrooms, a formal library, a movie theater, a bowling alley, a night club and a grand ballroom. The ballroom floor is going to be spectacular. I wanted it to be made with semi-precious stones such as amethyst, rose quartz, turquoise and lapis, just to name a few. We sourced the stones from 22 different countries and shipped them to Indonesia where they built a warehouse the size of a football stadium to lay out the floor. I will soon travel to approve the floor. I’m very excited to see this floor—it will be priceless.
Have you had a lot of input in the design process over the years?
Yes, I have had a lot of input as far as choosing what type of rooms we should have. Over the years it has really evolved because our kids have grown up and so our wants and needs have changed quite a bit. Our youngest kids are in high school so obviously we no longer need nannies’ rooms, diaper-changing areas, or a zero-entry pool for toddlers. We originally planned on having an ice-skating rink but now that will be a night club. The original bedrooms were designed for little kids so those rooms have now grown to be more apartment-like.
How have you evolved since you first started Versailles?
I’ve grown up a lot since then. I would say losing a daughter changed me more than anything. Back then, I wanted to have a big house for our family to enjoy and to have parties in but now we see it as a house with a mission. I mean, I want to finish the house for my husband, because it is his dream, and for us to all live here as a family, but I’m also really looking forward to using this house as a place to hold fundraisers and raise awareness of the dangers of drugs. That’s one of the best things about this show—the attention that it brings to Versailles allows us to redirect some of that spotlight on the drug epidemic. Through this house, we will be able to get the ears of people that just want to see the house and educate them about the drug epidemic and hopefully they will be so engaged with what we have to say that all of those people will go home and educate their friends and hopefully there will be a ripple effect.
What can viewers expect from your new show Queen of Versailles Reigns Again?
They will see a lot of the challenges of building one of the largest and most expensive homes in America during COVID. The audience will also get a peek at my private life and see that not everything is as perfect as they may think. My husband and our family are very involved in the show as well. We go through our challenges and there’s a lot of laughter and a lot of tears. Unfortunately, my husband had some health ailments during this time. He hurt his back four-wheeling with the boys and ended up having back surgery so I was put in charge of Versailles while he recovered.
Have your children had a great deal of input as well?
Yes, and ever since I have been put in charge, my two oldest sons (David Jr. and Daniel) have become really involved in the whole process. They are like my sidekicks (laughing). They are in the meetings with the construction crew, learning different job responsibilities, helping in the decision-making process and learning how to stay within a budget, although we don’t actually have a budget on the house, which makes it easier for me, but it’s important that we are always respectful of my husband’s money. The main reason my husband and I want our children involved in this whole process is because we want them to enjoy living there and for them to one day enjoy the house with their own families. Being together as a family has always been important to us but ever since the death of our 18-year-old daughter, Victoria, six years ago, it’s the most important thing to us.
Since the loss of Victoria, both you and David have made great strides in the war on drugs and addiction. What have the past six years taught you?
We have learned so much. Just six years ago, when someone passed away from a drug overdose, many people would lie about how their loved one died, saying it was an undiagnosed heart condition or natural causes. When Victoria died, we made a conscious decision to be truthful in the hopes of preventing this from happening to anyone else. Shortly after her death, we learned that she could have possibly been saved if any of the first responders had been equipped with Narcan. Since then, we have worked to get Narcan in the hands of as many first responders as we can. We are now trying to get Narcan emergency medical boxes on every floor of all college dormitories. We started our foundation, Victoria’s Voice, to raise awareness of the often-hidden signs of drug use and have helped mentor and guide parents who are either dealing with an addicted child or who have lost a child to drugs. It’s a disease that can strike anyone. Our ninth-grade twins recently lost a classmate to drugs and a dear friend of ours recently lost his 22-year-old son, his only child, to an overdose. The drug epidemic is just getting worse and worse.
Through your foundation, you have brought a lot of positive change and awareness to this issue.
We are trying our best. That’s why I’m thankful for my sons helping to make decisions on the house because most of the time I’m being called away to speak with parents of drug-addicted children and I can never say no to a grieving parent. I also speak at numerous schools and colleges across the country, sharing Victoria’s story and educating students and parents on the dangers of drugs. We are also working to create more outreach for people who are incarcerated for drugs because once they are released, we want to make sure they don’t return to the same environment and behaviors that put them behind bars. We have also teamed up with other foundations, which is very important because we have more of an outreach by working together.
Given all that you have, how do you stay so grounded?
I just focus on family and try to stay away from negativity. I don’t get involved with all the gossip. Another big reason is because I’m constantly meeting families that have either lost a child or are trying to save a child. I’m more drawn to the people I’ve met through Victoria‘s Voice, positive people that are interested in saving lives. My work through the foundation is very rewarding to me, and my network of friends and I all have a common mission—saving lives.
With an endless budget and a heart of gold, socialite Jackie Siegel is overseeing the final phases of construction on her beloved Versailles, the largest single-family home in America. […]Read More