Jackie Siegel is determined to finish building the largest single-family home in America – no matter the cost.
The Florida mom and her family, whose lives were the subject of the 2012 documentary "The Queen of Versailles," is back for the Discovery+ docuseries "The Queen of Versailles Reigns Again." The show explores the challenges the 56-year-old and her husband David Siegel have endured in finishing the construction of their home, a project that has been more than 20 years in the making.
The 90,000-square-foot mega-mansion, inspired by the Versailles palace in France, features six kitchens, a 35-car garage, a 150-person dining room, a grand ballroom with gemstone-encrusted floors and a British pub. Siegel also has big dreams to have a Benihana hibachi grill installed and an aviary with toucans and flamingos. When done, the mother of eight suspects the home could be worth $200 million.
The Siegels have faced numerous obstacles over the years. After buying the land for the home in 2000, construction was halted during an economic downturn that impacted patriarch David Siegel, founder of Orlando-based Westgates Resorts. The family also endured a personal tragedy when their 18-year-old daughter, Victoria Siegel, passed away in 2015 from an overdose of methadone and antidepressants.
Today, Siegel is feeling hopeful about the future of her family – and home. And she’s inviting cameras to follow her along for the ride. Siegel spoke to FOX Business about when the home will finally be completed, how she coped with the public scrutiny following her daughter’s death and the challenges she’s currently facing.
FOX Business: What compelled you to share your story in "Queen of Versailles Reigns Again"?
Jackie Siegel: It’s been a rough road since the original documentary came out. A lot of offers came to us over the years, but we were very wary of how we were going to be portrayed. And then we lost our daughter. My world just crumbled down from there. It felt like nothing mattered anymore. I felt such sadness. I had lost my passion to do anything. It was a sad, dark time in my life.
But then, my husband and I started our foundation because we felt we could make a difference. We felt we were in a position to help others. I felt ready. When we were approached this time around, I felt the timing was right. The foundation had become a big part of our lives… And the truth is, everywhere I go, people always approach me and ask me the same question – whatever happened to the house? So this is my answer. It covers everything people have been wanting to know.
FOX Business: The show chronicles the challenges of building a house as large as yours. Why continue to create the largest single-family home in the country?
Siegel: The thing is we’ve already got over $50 million into the house. No one is going to buy it as is. And it’s my husband’s passion. We’re not getting any younger and our kids are growing up. I want to do this for him. And the house certainly has the queen’s touch. I want to live here as a family and the structure is already there. Right now we live on a private island in the middle of the lake that we bought in the meantime. Had we gotten this property first, we probably wouldn’t have built this other house. But it’s already under construction.
Also, my kids are getting involved. They’re really excited about this project. I’m also thinking about the possibilities. I’m going to have a grand ballroom that could hold 500 people. I could do a lot of events there to raise awareness and save lives from the drug epidemic. I can use the house to gain the attention that we need to raise awareness. I could host fundraisers, do a retreat or just invite people for a charity event where I can educate them. It will also be good for our kids, our grandkids and loved ones. We already have the home and own it. Why not see it through? I've got to find a way.
FOX Business: When do you believe the house will finally be finished?
Siegel: My goal is to have the house finished by May 3, 2023. That’s my husband’s 80th birthday. He almost missed his birthday last year because he was getting back surgery and was at the hospital. He caught pneumonia and at his age, that’s really scary. He deserves to see his dream come true and I’m going to do it for him.
FOX Business: What do you believe has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced recently in getting the house completed?
Siegel: The biggest problem is that there’s more than one problem *laughs*. The house was dormant for many years and wasn’t maintained. So I have issues with the natural aging of the house. The marble was falling off the exterior, and other areas were exposed and rusty. I had to structurally fix a lot of things, which I wasn’t anticipating. So it’s almost like it was under renovation at the same time we're constructing it.
We had to knock down walls and things like that because I’m redesigning the kids’ bedrooms. They no longer need a nanny’s room connected to their room. They rather have a large closet. And with the COVID pandemic, a lot of things slowed down in terms of the supply chain. For example, the floor of my grand ballroom is going to be made with semi-precious stones. These are beautiful stones from 22 different countries all over the world. And then we had to ship them to Indonesia. I went to Indonesia to check on the floor and do some quality control, which I’m glad I did because we still had to make changes.
There’s so much to oversee. Like the library, it’s going to have one of the most ornate wooden floors you’ve ever seen. We’re going to have an artist create something for us and this is his last project before he retires. He’s out in the country outside of Paris making our floor for us. We have to come up with the design for everything – and everything is a piece of art. This is more than a home. This is a palace.
FOX Business: Your home is even going to have a British pub among its many features. Did you originally have an idea for something that just didn’t work out?
Siegel: I needed a larger closet… but I couldn’t have two stories. I want to have a closet with an elevator so I can go up or down from my house. That’s a challenge. I originally wanted to find a way to connect the house to the island where you can do some zip-lining. But there are lots of high restrictions and things need to be approved. There are code issues as well. But if the sprinklers go off, for example, the artwork would be ruined. I had to put a fireproof stairwell that’s so ugly and takes up space, but it was necessary.
FOX Business: A big dream of yours, among many, is to have a Benihana built inside the home. How’s that going?
Siegel: That’s a good example. We have to take it out… But my husband really wants it. And our family is so picky when it comes to food, but one thing they all love is Benihana. They will all show up for that. We can all sit at the table together and everybody’s happy *laughs*. That’s the main reason he wants it.
FOX Business: What’s a misconception you feel the press or the public still has about you?
Siegel: … People that I’ve never met, of course, think that I married for money. But then when they see me, they’re the first ones to go, "Oh my God, we love you." *laughs*. My life isn’t about flashing money around and showing off. We’re doing all of this for us. We’re private people, except our story is exposed to the media.
… But the truth is, my family and our future come first. I’m still a small hometown girl at heart. My boys told me, "Since we’re building a house like this one, we should really have a family crest." If you would have asked me what a family crest was, I would pull out a tube of toothpaste! I’ve always been the same.
FOX Business: What kept you going after losing your daughter?
Siegel: … It was difficult, losing your child and then having the headlines bash family… Meanwhile, you’re mourning and wondering, "What did I do wrong?" But you can’t live with guilt your whole life. And those newspapers actually did us a favor because they pushed me and gave me the strength to speak about our experience publicly so that other parents are spared from going through a similar pain.
This notoriety puts me in a position where my voice can be heard. And it helps me to know that my daughter didn’t die in vain, that her story is, in some way, saving so many other lives. That so many people are learning about the impact of the opioid crisis. It helps with my healing process.