What It Feels Like to Get Your Own TV Show

3 June 2019

Something insanely exciting is happening this week. I’m getting my own TV show! Unspouse My House airs this Thursday, June 6th on HGTV! This is something I’ve worked toward my whole life, without really knowing I was doing so. I’ve had a wild, winding career that was at most times scrappy and trying, at rare times glamorous and rewarding. And now I’m on the precipice of this huge benchmark. The number one question I’m getting from friends right now is “Are you excited!?!” And the answer is absolutely YES. But the pre-show emotional journey has been a lot more complicated than that. I live in a world where many of my friends have created their own TV shows, where being on TV and being paid for your creative work is commonplace, but I realize this isn’t everyone’s experience. So I thought it would be kind of interesting to explore what it actually feels like to have your very own TV show come out.

It’s probably important to note that my show is unique in a lot of ways. Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, this show is deeply personal. It came from my own personal experience of getting dumped by a man I loved very much. A few years ago, my boyfriend told me he didn’t want to be together anymore. I spent the followings months being depressed, but the one thing that got my mind off the loneliness (and the overwhelming hopelessness I was feeling about life and relationships) was redesigning my new apartment. It sounds SO CHEESY AND CONTRIVED to say, but during this time I really learned the healing power of interior design. It gets your mind out of the gutter of the past and gets you thinking about what you’re going to do in the future. It’s a way of inventing a new life for yourself. It’s the most tangible way of restarting.

The second thing that makes my show unique is that it’s really a brave departure for HGTV. They’ve been known for years for their beautiful, exciting home renovation content but they’ve made an active, strategic move with my show to insert even more personality and story into their lineup. I’m a gamble for them because they know what their audience loves and they’ve been delivering it for years. Whether they’ll respond to my brand of playful wildness is yet to be determined.

Thirdly, Unspouse My House tells real stories about real people going through a difficult time in their lives, attempting to emerge from the loss of someone they loved, attempting to move on and figure out how to live their lives. This is uncharted territory for HGTV and I’ve recognized from the beginning that this is potentially very dark subject matter. The way I remedied that is by focusing the show completely on positivity. This is a feel-good show about me meeting people and just doing nice things for them. I come into their lives and befriend them and fill their time with jokes and good deeds. It’s not complicated, it’s just really nice to see people doing nice things for each other on TV. And I love doing it quite a bit.

The genesis of this show took a very long time, I’ve been trying to get a show off the ground for years. In fact, Emily and I even met with producers right after Secrets from a Stylist went off the air almost ten years ago to chat about show ideas. Nothing ever took hold, and Emily continued to create the most important daily interiors blog while I developed my own blog and social media outlets. Years later, a woman named Jen Rettig reached out to me via Instagram and we began chatting about show ideas. Jen and I immediately loved each other, just kindred spirits, the same sense of humor where you never have to explain your joke because the other person just gets it. We started working together a long time ago, shooting a presentation at Orcondo in 2015 for a crazy ass show called “Dear Design Disaster” which was crazy and fun (and maybe will be made someday) but never got off the ground.

Eventually all my Insta storying led to a TON of producers and production companies reaching out to me. There were weeks when I got reach out from new producers every single day about a show. The reason being, producers are always looking for new talent to connect with projects or to base new projects around. And, quite frankly, there are a ton of interior designers in LA but not a lot with the on-camera and content creation experience I have.

The actual process of “Unspouse” going from sizzle reel presentation to pilot to actual TV show took less than a year, which is something incredibly rare in Hollywood. HGTV was massively supportive from the beginning. They were the network that responded first to our pitch, they paid for the pilot, and they greenlit the show from a very rough edit before even seeing the glossy final version which airs this Thursday. In short, I could not have asked for a better outcome from the process of creating this show.

I’m not gonna lie, the process of shooting this show was GRUELING. My days began at 5 AM, the locations were all about 2 hours driving each way, and my day usually ended around 9 PM when I got home. I would scarf down a hastily-made Frankenstein salad from Whole Foods and then go to sleep twenty minutes later. And being on-camera five days a week is rough. It’s exhausting to have your every move, word, gesture captured by a camera, worrying constantly about what you look like, if what you said sounded stupid, trying to be as articulate as you can be, sometimes on just a few hours of sleep.

And the on-camera stuff, though it took up the full day, was only part of it. We were also transforming peoples’ homes. I was making a million design decisions between takes and troubleshooting the millions of things that came up during these renovations. These renovations were like regular renovations on steroids, projects that should have taken six months and cost $100,000 took three weeks and cost $40,000. They were literally TV magic. And it’s not necessarily easy to pull that magic off. It requires VERY long hours, a lot of people (most notably my incredible Design Producer Lee Tosca), and the ability to make decisions very quickly (which luckily I’m quite good at).

I’m not saying all this stuff to complain about how hard it was to make my show. I’m saying it for two reasons. Firstly, because I think it’s important to note the hard work that goes into these shows, from executive producers at the top trying to determine which shots will work for the final edit to the entry level PA’s working their asses off to get all the supplies and logistics together so that everything runs smoothly. I was blessed with the most amazingly hardworking crew, everyone KILLED it and worked just as hard as I did. And quite frankly it was EXHAUSTING.

The second reason I’m talking about this toil is that it explains a little bit why post-show I went into a little bit of a hole. I went directly from months of prep, shooting, and an insane schedule to a New York marketing trip to finally getting back to LA and having some time to prep for the show last week. And when I had a moment to breathe, I kind of collapsed. It has been an amazing, challenging year.

This show has been the greatest gift I’ve ever been given, the most important opportunity that has arrived at my doorstep. And while I am filled with gratitude for it, I cannot believe I’ve been honored in this way, I also had an incredible amount of fear and performance anxiety about it. Would I be engaging enough as a host? Would I come across as too silly? Too boring? Too gay? Would I look fat and gross and shiny on camera? Having your every move scrutinized by a camera and microphone (and hopefully by millions of viewers) is a terrifying thing to do. You have to kind of say goodbye to curating how you are seen. On Instagram, I can choose the lighting, angles, and spaces where I’m shot. On TV, all bets are off. You have to kind of be okay with angles that are unflattering, with lighting that makes you look old, being shot in spaces that aren’t always beautiful (many of the the homes on “Unspouse My House” were rough to begin with).

I think I really rose to the occasion of hosting my own TV show. Watching it, you probably wouldn’t be able to guess how nervous I am in certain scenes, how stressed I was about what was going on with the design off camera, how anxiety riddled I became when scenes didn’t pan out quite like producers and I though they would. Again, I’m not trying to complain about this amazing opportunity, I just want to be fully real about the fact that it was WORK for me, I was doing my very best to be fun and engaging on camera, often when I was tired and anxious and fretting about the final design looking PERFECT for our homeowners, who I felt a tremendous amount of love and gratitude for and for whom I really wanted to pull off a magical transformation to help them restart and heal from their breakups.

When the announcement for our air date (June 6th on HGTV and the HGTV App!), I entered into the first freakout. Some people call what I went through at that point a Vulnerability Hangover. It’s the feeling of shame people get when they’ve been very vulnerable in a public way. I’d been so anxious to use my experience getting dumped for good that I hadn’t stopped to think, “Hey, I’m basically branding myself as a loser, someone who gets left.” There are many ways I could have processed my breakup, I could have moved on and said it was a mutual decision like many people do. But I thought the more helpful thing to do, the thing that might actually help other people, was to take a moment and talk about what it feels like to be rejected, so that other people going through the same thing might see themselves in me and feel less alone.

That didn’t come without a cost to me. While I’d healed from my breakup, doing the show forced me to relive it over and over, in order to relate to the homeowners who so graciously shared their own stories with me. I wouldn’t have done this if I didn’t think it was worth doing, if I didn’t think it was the right thing to do. But just because something is worth doing doesn’t mean it’s easy. The process of reliving my grief dragged out my own healing process a little bit. So much so that when I came up for air as we announced our air date I thought JESUS WHAT HAVE I DONE? IS THIS WHO I AM NOW? IS THIS MY BRAND?

I got over this because ultimately I don’t care if I seem powerful and desired. I’d rather be seen as helpful and empathetic. Humility and kindness are the traits I value most in other people and I strive to exhibit them in my personal life and in the content I create. So my boyfriend dumped me for getting fat. So what! Moving on.

The second freakout I had relating to the show came with the absolute terror that it might bomb. This happened the week I got back from a pretty intense trip to New York where I met with a lot of journalists and got some training in how to deal with media from HGTV (very valuable, but also very challenging and scary). When you have a show that hasn’t aired yet, you get the sense from a lot of people who you’re dealing with that you’re only as valuable as you are famous. Like that they’d love to cover your show if it’s a hit but are less interested if it’s not. It’s a weird feeling. I kinda get it, people want to cover things that are relevant to their readers. But at the same time, it makes you feel a little bit like a disposable product. Like your only value is how much money you can make for other people. HGTV has been so fully in support of my show and so enthusiastic, so I know there is some genuine collaborative intent on their part. But with major news outlets and journalists it can be tricky, they don’t want to waste their time on people who might not turn out to be “important” enough.

I know intellectually that whether my show is a hit or not is now a bit out of my hands. I also know that no matter what happens having an HGTV show under my belt is going to be a career boost. I know these things, but I’m also ambitious and I want the show to do well. I have always had a Type A personality and have always really pushed myself. So the inner Tracy Flick in me is freaking out that I might not win this one, that my amazing show might not be a hit. WHICH IS SO SCARY.

I got so anxious about whether my show would be a hit that I basically exhausted myself. I had a few weeks where I was so anxious about it that I would wake up, work for a few hours, then have to lay down again because my chemistry was so off that I was completely deflated. I got so worried that something was actually wrong with me that I went to the doctor and demanded blood tests. He basically laughed at me and prescribed a walk on the beach, his nice way of telling me to calm down.

Luckily, I’ve kind of gotten over that anxiety exhaustion hump and have moved onto excitement exhaustion. We shared a streaming episode of the show and PEOPLE LOVE IT. Obviously I know that once it hits the general public the response might not be so generous, but honestly it’s just so satisfying to see something that me and my crew worked so hard on finally go out into the world. I am still in a state where I feel completely exhausted by how enormous this opportunity is for me. So I’ve been laying low a little bit, trying to socialize but getting to bed early because I get tired early from all the excitement about the show and the remaining worry about how well it will perform.

I’m lucky that my mood has generally shifted from Vulnerability Hangover, to Massive Anxiety, to Intense Excitement. Now when people ask me “Are you excited?!?” I can honestly respond “Yes!” without reservations. The show means everything to me, so obviously I want it to do well. But for now I am just trying my best to concentrate on the gratitude I have for being able to make it and for all the people around me who lifted me up and made it possible.

Photo by Zeke Ruelas. A preview episode of Unspouse My House is available now. The show airs Thursday June 6th at 9:30/8:30c.

9 Comment

  1. Marcia says: Reply

    Oh My God! I was on the HGTV app the other day surfing for content to watch as I paint and makeover my bedroom and found your show. I was sooooooo excited that I stopped painting, poured a glass of wine and sat back to enjoy. It is so great and as a person who has also recently gone through a tough divorce and healed a lot through making my new, tiny condo my own, I think the premise of the show is genius. I was also just excited to get to spend more time with you because I’ve been a fan for a loooooooong time. Truly, I am so very excited for you. You should be excited and proud. ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️ (Sorry I’m so cheesy!)

  2. Stephanie says: Reply

    Congrats!!! I am so happy for you. I remember reading your story as I was going through the same thing.Joy does come in the morning. I wish you every happiness and every success.

  3. Cris S. says: Reply

    Just set my dvr to record the whole series! It was weird to see you on the tv screen instead of my laptop – “Hey! I know that guy!” (even though I don’t). Very excited for you and wish this all the best.

  4. beth says: Reply

    I am so excited about your new show. I have been a fan of yours since I first saw you on “Secrets” and I’ve always thought you should have your own show. Best of luck with this endeavor!!!!!

  5. Heather A says: Reply

    I just watched the free streaming episode and I loved it so much! I wish it was an hour long! You’re so fun to watch and your design was beautiful, no surprise there. Congratulations!

  6. Shenley says: Reply

    Congratulations and good luck with the launch. I’m willing the US public to Iove it, and would love to support you by being in the audience but the HGTV app is not available in the UK.

  7. Amanda says: Reply

    Congratulations, Orlando! I can’t wait to watch.

  8. LA says: Reply

    Can we watch it here in Europe? The streaming link does not work 🙁

  9. Colin Neagle says: Reply

    Wow Orlando! I just watched the first episode with the link you provided and it was amazing! Thank you so much for all that you shared on your journey to even greater heights of success!

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