The love of the craft is my driving force. I was born with the love and passion to do this, and God put that in my soul. I want to show my girls how to persevere against odds. Ultimately, I want to make them proud and when they see something I’ve done, whether as an actor, musician, writer, or producer, say, “good job, Mom.” As for what I’d like to see change in this industry going forward that’s duo fold. On the one hand there is the content itself. It should have empathy, vulnerability and a real sense of incredible storytelling with purpose and depth. It should unite and ignite people of all race and backgrounds… enough polarization.
As a part of our series about Inspirational Women In Hollywood, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Jenni Pulos.
Jenni Pulos continues to make her mark in entertainment as an actress, producer, author, host, and musician with an impressively diverse body of work both on and off-camera.
Pulos has never been one to sit idle. Currently she has parlayed her talent for juggling multiple responsibilities as she continues to perform, produce and develop both scripted and reality shows, as well as working on her second children’s album and animated children’s series. Her latest venture culls together talent from across the media spectrum, where she and her team are adapting and producing original content for film, television and digital, with a children’s YouTube channel set to launch this Fall.
Most notably, Pulos starred in and was an Executive Producer on Bravo’s Flipping Out. Through eleven seasons, Pulos and interior designer, Jeff Lewis, flipped properties and focused on his design consulting business. In 2014, the series was nominated for a Primetime Emmy® Award in the category of Outstanding Unstructured Reality Program. During the run of the series, Lewis and Pulos also starred in two seasons of the series spin-off, Interior Therapy, where they would visit the homes of clients and stayed with them while renovations took place.
Prior acting credits include Steve Becker’s Manhattan Minutiae; Chad Darnell’s Birthday Cake; Ron Carlson’s Tom Cool; Rob Lundsgaard’s Dog Gone Love; John Woodward’s Vice; Lamar Card’s Flamingo Dreams; Jamie Babbit’s But I’m a Cheerleader; Gary Sinyor’s The Bachelor; Dean Paraskevopoulos’ Too Smooth; Andrew Osborne’s Apocalypse Bop; David Paymer’s short Candor City Hospital; USA Network’s Monk; Telemundo’s Mia Mundo. Pulos has also lent her voice to roles in Kyung Ho Lee’s Outback; Allan A. Goldstein’s Jungle Boy; Howard E. Baker and Arish Fyzee’s Unstable Fables: The Goldilocks and the 3 Bears Show and Unstable Fables: Tortoise vs. Hare.
Off-screen, Pulos’ work includes a comedy memoir-advice book, Grin and Bear It: How to Be Happy No Matter What Reality Throws Your Way. The novel discusses her earliest memories of her desire to be an entertainer told as a collection of anecdotes from her life and career. Throughout the book, Pulos candidly writes how readers can go from victim to victor… most of the time.
Pulos is also a musician at heart, where she most recently released her original song, “Bad Dream” to raise money during the COVID-19 pandemic for No Kid Hungry and Feeding America. Prior to that, she released her popular children’s rap album Old School Kids Beats was released in April 2014 in partnership with Toys ‘R Us. Pulos is also most notably known as the voice behind the intro song for Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen. She began her music career performing at the famed Showtime at the Apollo.
Beyond being a talented artist, Pulos is an active member of the philanthropic community. Pulos maintains a strong connection to her philanthropic work supporting the American Cancer Society, Lupus LA as well as a focus on supporting girls and women with special needs. For the past nine years, she also volunteers her time as the emcee at the Miss You Can Do It Pageant, while championing her nephew, artist Nicholas Kontaxis, who was diagnosed with a brain tumor at 18 months. Over two decades later, he is an established international contemporary artist. Seeing the transformative power of art, Pulos and her family are developing philanthropy to encourage and support other differently-abled artists to find their own voice and craft.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I grew up in Scottsdale, Arizona as a second daughter of a Greek family in the Italian restaurant business. My YiaYia (Grandmother in Greek) lived with us when I was young. We were very close. Members of my family founded the Old Spaghetti Factory in 1969. We celebrated our 50 year anniversary last year and are still part of the business with 42 locations nationwide.
My Greek family is filled with tradition, love, zaniness, and incredible Greek cooking thanks to my Mom and YiaYia. My Greek Orthodox faith was always an important part of my life as well. These traditions and memories have shaped my life. Even though my parents divorced when I was 18, they remain very close friends today and just recently my Dad informed me when he met my Mom he got a 6 pack and took her in the car hoping to get lucky, but she put him in his place saying “no way” and that’s when he fell in love with her. My parents both valued humor and were “comedians on the side”.
My Dad was a big sports enthusiast and a former basketball player so I spent my childhood either on a tennis or basketball court. I enjoyed being a ball girl for the Phoenix Suns as well as becoming a very good tennis player.
My sister went to college when I entered first grade, we are 12 years apart, so we have remained incredibly close even though we did not grow up together.
I always loved performing, singing Annie songs standing on the table from the age of three.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
In 5th grade, I was cast as “Happy” the lead role in the school play, The Most Amazing Snowman. As they say, the rest is history.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
Performing at Showtime at the Apollo, dressed as a Girl Scout. That was an experience. It’s such a historic place with an equally historic crowd, so of course, I was terrified. When we first started performing, we were booed and hissed, but the energy somehow shifted and as we found our groove, we ended up with the entire crowd on their feet for a standing ovation. We finished the night as runner up and the clip went on to become one of the best moments in the show’s illustrious history.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I’m not sure it gets more embarrassing than this, but I was once at an audition for a kid’s show, Beakman’s World. I brought props with me to enliven a chicken limbo dance routine. I was into it, fully confident I got the job, or a callback. Come to field a call from my agent a few hours later with feedback; they suggested I look for a new career. I’d like to think I’ve since refined my brand of eccentricity.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
It’s not one, rather two people, my mother and sister. As a fierce, lovely and incredibly artistic women, I take my inspiration from them. My Mom, both a Kindergarten and Art teacher, was formative in opening and designing the decor of her family’s restaurant chain, The Old Spaghetti Factory. She’s always been a risk-taker and trailblazer and instilled those traits in me. She also taught me to be resilient, non-judgmental and to value my Greek Orthodox faith, and to never underestimate the power of a sense of humor. My sister is the best mother I know, helping her children pursue their passions relentlessly. While her own artistic talent is limitless, her pursuit on behalf of her children inspires me daily to pursue excellence in my craft and to instill that passion in my own two girls.
You have been blessed with great success in a career path that can be challenging. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path, but seem daunted by the prospect of failure?
Really, just taking a minute to be present and remembering to always start from and return to a place of gratitude.
What drives you to get up everyday and work in TV and Film? What change do you want to see in the industry going forward?
The love of the craft is my driving force. I was born with the love and passion to do this, and God put that in my soul. I want to show my girls how to persevere against odds. Ultimately, I want to make them proud and when they see something I’ve done, whether as an actor, musician, writer, or producer, say, “good job, Mom.” As for what I’d like to see change in this industry going forward that’s duo fold. On the one hand, there is the content itself. It should have empathy, vulnerability and a real sense of incredible storytelling with purpose and depth. It should unite and ignite people of all races and backgrounds… enough polarization.
And of course, there’s equity — in both representation and pay. Especially for Women and People of Color.
You have such impressive work. What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? Where do you see yourself heading from here?
Thank you! I’ve spent the last several years developing content as a producer, actor, and writer and I’m starting to see the fruits of that labor bear fruit. I’m in the process of launching a production company, a talented group of women with whom I’m creating uplifting content. We’re focused on telling impactful stories across all genres. We’re making our mark in the digital space with the launch of two YouTube channels in the fall, one of which is focused on content for children. Stay tuned.
We are very interested in looking at diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture and our youth growing up today?
We are currently witnessing a turning point, the emergence of a new industry order doing away with bullying and mistreatment; instead of leaning into representation, equity and inclusion. In a field with such a public and global impact, we have a responsibility to model progression on these fronts, so that other industries can also enact change. Representation plays a crucial role in this. Our storytelling must reflect the diversity of our viewers, they must represent the full experience and spectrum of life. As Oprah Winfrey so eloquently states, “People share one thing in common. They all want to be seen.”
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
I don’t have five specific things, but overall I think some of the most important things I’ve learned along the way, which would have been nice to know from the get-go are: listen and really hear feedback. Take it as constructive criticism, and understand that everybody may not like you and that is OK. There is no shortcut to success. Empathy and vulnerability are vital to success in this craft; get comfortable with them, avoid negativity.
I think the greatest thing I wish I knew was that fame is a word and executing wonderful work in your chosen field is the true definition of the term. Not the accolades, or the goodies, or the perks, but the work.
Can you share with our readers any self care routines, practices or treatments that you do to help your body, mind or heart to thrive? Please share a story for each one if you can.
Oh gosh, there’s so many. I go to Greek church with my family, date nights with my husband, appreciating the moments I get with my girls, my very few, but amazingly close girlfriends, my love of playing tennis. Taking a minute to be present with my family and again, remembering to always start from and return to a place of gratitude.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
As Winston Churchill, or Thomas the Tank Engine, whomever you prefer to take advice from said, “Never never never give up.”
You are a person of huge influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
It would for sure be a Kindness Movement wherein everyone must lead and support each other with kindness and empathy. We would operate from a place of understanding that everyone has a story, to tell and that all stories deserve to be heard. Also, there would be a Miracle element to the movement to remind people that they do, in fact, exist.
Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why?
I would Love lunch with Lucy. Lucille Ball. She was unabashedly herself in a world that had other expectations for women in comedy or the business in general. And she was a success on her own terms. She was a woman after my own heart, a trailblazer and a changemaker.
Are you on social media? How can our readers follow you online?
@jennipulos Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, TikTok, call me, write me, be my pen pal.