Jacqueline Siegel, wife of time share mogul/billionaire David Siegel, took us on a tour of their almost complete “Palace of Versailles”.
By Jacob Engels & Jason Jack Underwood
In 2012, the world was introduced to the Jacqueline Siegel and her family through the lens of the documentary “Queen of Versailles” by filmmaker Lauren Greenfield. The film turned Jacqueline and her family into pop-culture icons and earned rave reviews and had a successful festival run, earning numerous awards – including Best Directing at Sundance.
Since the conclusion of filming and a subsequent legal battle with the filmmaker over their life rights, Jacqueline has placed an increased focus on managing the Mrs. Florida America pageant, her charity work and managing several of her own entrepreneurial ventures.
After months of trying to get our schedules in line, myself and filmmaker/photographer Jason Jack Underwood ventured to the Lake Butler Sound neighborhood in Windemere, home to the almost complete Versailles, for our one hour with Mrs. Siegel. Arriving in her silver Bentley, Jacqueline came bearing gifts. Following our introductions, she gave us t-shirts with her “Queen of Versailles” logo and playing cards. Then the tour began.
The entryway to Versailles, with an intricate circular shaped stained glass carefully placed above.
The castle, which is the largest home in America, is 90,000 total square feet, the exterior adorned with one of a kind marble, harvested from an Italian quarry that the Siegel’s purchased for the construction of their dream home. Coming in through the front entrance, we entered the grand ballroom.
“You can fit a 4-story building in our grand ballroom,” Siegel explained.
The grand staircase, one of many in the palace – scaffolding abound.
Scaffolding ruled the house. Jacqueline said that they are in the process of putting up the ceiling. She said that her boys often try to scale the structures and have put up several skateboard ramps to stay occupied when visiting the property. “It’s too dangerous for them,” she said of the scaffolding, expressing her preference for the skateboard ramps.
When we asked Siegel about the 2012 documentary and what it got wrong, she told us that the film made it seem like all of her husband’s company was in crisis, when in actuality, problems were almost entirely centered on the Las Vegas property that cost over $600 million dollars to construct.
“We have since bounced back and David just recently bought the Las Vegas Hilton, which is now Westgate Las Vegas. He just bought the Orlando Predators and a new Gulfstream. He’s on a shopping spree, and he calls me a shopaholic.”
David Siegel at a news conference announcing his purchase of the Orlando Predators arena football team.
In addition to the Orlando Predators, Siegel recently added the Cocoa Beach Pier to his extensive portfolio. Forbes has even labeled his rebound one of the biggest comebacks ever according to his wife.
“He was never down. I don’t know how much he is worth, but Forbes said over $4 billion dollars I think.” During the 2008 financial crisis, Siegel said that her husband came to her with a decision to make about the house: stop construction and save thousands of jobs at Westgate, or continue.
“Of course I said stop construction. We got through it and he raised minimum wage to $10 an hour and hired thousands more people. All good news.”
In response to a question about what motivates her drive and entrepreneurial spirit, Jacqueline told us about several rental properties she owns, being a partner in Travel Host magazine, and beauty pageants including the launch of Beautiful People Productions next year. This pageant’s focus will be to search for the most beautiful people in the world and is open to male and female contestants of all age groups. Managing the Thriftmart, a reselling outfit, is another continuing priority of Mrs. Siegel.
“I like to do things to make money and making my own money is important to me. I don’t like asking for money. Being able to provide jobs for people is rewarding as well”
Pivoting from her business efforts, Mrs. Siegel shared that she recently shot an episode for celebrity Chef Eddie Huang’s new show. Huang’s life is the inspiration for the new ABC show “Fresh Off The Boat”, set in East Orlando where he grew up. Siegel was interviewed by Huang, who asked her and several other prominent community members what the American Dream meant to them.
“A lot of people want to see what has happened since the movie, and I like to keep relevant…so we don’t leave people hanging.”
Jacqueline confided that her family had also just wrapped up shooting an episode of the ABC show Celebrity Wife Swap, but demurred when we asked who she traded places with.
“You will have to wait and see. I’ll get in trouble if I share it early, but I think it airs in May.”
Mrs. Siegel outside the Thriftmart store in Ocoee she founded. Photo credit – Orlando Sentinel.
Helping those less fortunate and in need is another hallmark of Mrs. Siegel’s daily life, explaining that she still runs Thriftmart out of an old warehouse and recently donated along with the Westgate Foundation, the playground at Harbor House of Central Florida – which provides shelter for battered women.
Mrs. Florida America, which Jacqueline won over 20 years ago, has been under her management immediately following her victory.
“When I won, they kind of passed the baton to me…and I have helped manage it ever since. We are actually planning to host Mrs. America at the Westgate Vegas property, and that is very exciting. If you know anyone who wants to participate, send them my way.”
Looking out on Lake Butler with Jackie, who told us about a potential lighthouse and 1,500 feet of sandy beach.
Breaking briefly on the back patio of Versailles, which overlooks the pristine Lake Butler, Siegel called back her mother to check in. To the left, a diamond shaped glass structure, an exact replica of the Louvre’s pyramid – caught demanded the sunlight, which was unabridged by cloud cover. It serves as the main light source for the reception area for the full service on site spa, which is located in the basement. When finished, Siegel wants it to be have a Moroccan design.
“It’s actually not the basement, it’s the ground level. But you are not allowed to build a home that has the appearance of more than two stories, so it feels like the basement…but it’s ground level. We had to put a whole bunch of dirt out front to make it look like two stories.”
The Lourvre inspired structure that illuminates the spa reception area.
Being an avid politico, I asked Mrs. Siegel where she stood politically, interested to find out if she differed from her husband, who is a top-level GOP donor.
“I’m a Republican, but I don’t like to talk politics around friends. I prefer to laugh and have fun. I vote for the person, that is what is most important to me.”
Talking of ordinances and the process of building the home, Jaqueline explained that the 90,000 square foot residence had to be built like a commercial property to meet fire code, etc.
“We even had to get a variance for the height restrictions.”
Jackie before a recent interview.
Pointing to a small piece of land out on Lake Butler, Siegel reminisced about wanting to purchase that island and construct a lighthouse on it so the boaters wouldn’t get grounded, and they are still trying to make that possible.
“Lake Butler is one of the most pristine lakes in Florida. Beyond the trees we have 1,500 feet of waterfront.”
Re-entering the home, she lead us to through the commercial kitchen and down the staff stairwell to head towards the 10,000 square foot spa. Inquiring about how they have made sure to preserve the marble and wood against the elements, Jacqueline said that the home is in a constant state on renovation and construction.
Now down in the “basement” or staff quarters, Mrs. Siegel showed us to the spa area, but not before passing by what will become an indoor ice-rink/roller-rink, bowling alley, and game-room.
“I think we’ll need about 50 people to run this house once we move in.”
While we were discussing a potential family vacation road trip, we finally entered the spa receiving area that was full of natural light from the Lourve-esque Pyramid from above.
“We’re going to have a grotto that is going to be a lot bigger than Hugh Heffner’s. I want this spa area to be real colorful, not like the beige and cream that everyone else seems to do”
Her favorite areas at the residence are ever-changing, with Siegel reasoning that the over 2,000 sq ft closet may now be too small following an expansion of her current closet at their other residence. We passed the pipes for the plumbing, which looked about 10 times the size of normal household plumbing.
“I think your friend is going to lose us,” Siegel warned as we ascended another set of stairs entering the movie theater that is equipped with a viewing balcony, flanked by a gold platted elevator.
Even absent walls, Versailles is stunning…just waiting to truly shine once complete.
Overwhelmed by the saws and construction team working to complete her dream home, we were reunited with our photographer who had been mesmerized with the architecture in another wing of the house.
“You are lucky the walls aren’t up yet. Once they are, it will be very hard to find people in here,” quipped Jacqueline.
Powering through several flights of the fire escape stairway, we all joked about the amazing exercise one could get from traipsing up and down – before walking past the balcony that will allow the Siegel’s to view the Disney fireworks show from the comfort of their home.
Front row seats. The viewing balcony is directly above the entrance to the Siegel’s dream home.
Fireplaces in nearly every room and around each corner, we eventually ended up in the master bedroom or “bed chamber” as Siegel described it. The ceiling of the cone like roofing hosted a glass point that ushered in more skylight. It resembled the moon-door from the Eyrie in Game of Thrones, except on the ceiling.
“How do I find a curtain for that?”
Getting increasingly closer the end of Mrs. Siegel’s availability, we encountered an opening near the master bedroom that she is still unsure of what to do with.
“It could be a spiral staircase and it reaches all the way down into the lowest level,” she explained, allowing Siegel and her husband to quickly travel to and fro – a short cut to the health spa.
After pausing for a few minutes and talking with her new property manager, who said he was moving as quickly and carefully as possible to complete the project.
“We have to get Jackie into her beautiful home…it’s been to long,” he remarked.
Siegel in front of her palace, ready to assume the throne.
Moving back towards the front entrance, Mrs. Siegel paused for a few minutes, allowing us to photograph her in front of Versailles, still photographing with ease – not missing a beat from her days as a highly sought after supermodel and onetime Miss Florida.
Inviting us to come back to document the progress on the home, Jacqueline returned to her silver Bentley and pulled away…
Jacob Engels, is the Founder of East Orlando Post & Seminole County Post. He is a seasoned political operative who has led numerous statewide political groups and has worked on several high-profile local, statewide, and national races. Jacob has been interviewed on national television & radio programs, with his work having been featured in the Orlando Sentinel, New York Times, Washington Post, Miami Herald and other publications nationwide. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org