Forget Jeff Lewis, the terrifically prickly centerpiece of Bravo’ real estate saga Flipping Out, which returns tonight for Season 3. I like the guy, though it seems like it would be hard to be him. And I envy the camaraderie of his crew—Ryan, Jenni (!) , Chris, Monkey and Stewie. But my heart belongs to Zoila Chavez, Jeff’s unflappable Nicaraguan live-in maid. She went to work for him 10 years ago. “I feel like he’s the son I don’t have before,” says Chavez. “But when I start to work with him I feel like ‘Oh my god, he’s sooo mean. So mean.’ But he’s changed. I’m not scared of Jeffrey now.” The grandmother of 7 called from Jeff’s Los Angeles home to give us a sense of her pop culture tastes.
What music do you like to listen while you clean the house?
Jeffrey won’t always let me listen to music when he’s here. But when he’s away I listen to “Hotel Motel Holiday Inn” by the rapper Pitbull. I love it. Or “Rehab” by Amy Winehouse.
What Hollywood star would you love to go on a date with?
Oh, Antonio Banderas. I know he’s married, but sorry, I love him. He’s very sexy—the dark eyes, I love him.
If there was a movie based on Flipping Out, who do you think should play the cast?
Okay, for me, maybe Charo. You know, hoochie coochie? Maybe J.Lo could be Jenni. And for Ryan, maybe Enrique Inglesias because he’s so pretty. And for Jeff? Maybe Barack Obama.
You’re saying that the President should play Jeff?
Because he’s the boss.
What’s your favorite movie?
I love E.T. because E.T. made me cry. When E.T. had to go away! Or when E.T. was going to die and it made the little boy sad.
Do you ever have movie nights with Jeff, where the two of you just hang around on the couch and eat popcorn?
Normally we see shows. I like to see Real Housewives of Atlanta. That’s my favorite. I love NeNe. I met her here in Los Angeles last year and she was very nice. I was at Bravo for a photograph. She walked up to me and said ‘Hi Zoila!.’ She’s sweet.
Do you have a television in your room?
Oh yes! My guilty pleasure is watching telenovelas in the afternoon when I’m supposed to be working. [Giggles] Channel 52. Sometimes my bell will ring and Jeff will call me and say ‘You’re supposed to be working and you’re watching telenovelas again!’ I say ‘Be quiet, get lost!’
After two seasons on the air do you ever get approached by fans?
Sometimes when I go into the supermarket or go walking in the mall. I feel nervous because I’m not an actress. I don’t feel like a celebrity. I’m Zoila. People have started asking me ‘How do I know you—are you in telenovelas?’ No! I’m Jeffrey Lewis’ housekeeper.