Flipping Out stars Jeff Lewis and Gage Edward are “devastated” after news broke that the surrogate mother of their 1½-year-old daughter, Monroe Christine, is suing Bravo, claiming she never consented that the network could film her delivering the baby for the show.
Alexandra Trent filed a lawsuit on Tuesday, claiming that Flipping Out producers filmed her vagina without permission and that Lewis and Edward had personally humiliated her by making “disgusting” comments on the show, according to a complaint obtained by PEOPLE.
Bravo, Authentic Entertainment, Lewis and Edward are all named in the suit, which was first reported by Variety.
She is seeking damages for unlawful recording, invasion of privacy and fraud.
Though reps for Bravo did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment, Lewis, 48, told PEOPLE that the news took he and Edward by surprise.
“This is like a blow to the head. We are completely blindsided by this,” Lewis said, via phone. “We are just devastated. I thought we had a nice relationship, a friendship. We treated her like an extended member of the family. So you can imagine this is pretty stunning.”
“And this is where I’m so upset. Because, on one hand, I don’t want to tarnish this most amazing experience of my life,” he continued. “We couldn’t be more grateful to this woman for birthing our child. We are indebted to her… we are so completely grateful to her, because without her, we wouldn’t have Monroe. But on the other hand, these are fabricated claims and are completely bogus and without merit. This smells to me like a financial shakedown.”
Trent was seen on multiple episodes over two seasons of Flipping Out, after Lewis and Edward hired her to carry Monroe. A season 10 episode (filmed on Oct. 25 and aired Aug. 31) documented Trent’s delivery, with Lewis and Edward — and the Flipping Out cameras — in the hospital room as it happened.
The show even captured the first moments Monroe was placed in Lewis and Edward’s arms, for skin-to-skin contact, seconds after her birth.
During interview setups filmed afterwards and spliced into the episode, Lewis makes an off-color joke about Trent, saying, “If I was a surrogate, and I had known there was going to be an audience, I probably would have waxed. And that was the shocking part for Gage. I don’t think Gage had ever seen a vagina, let alone one that big.”
The comment — and the fact that producers had filmed her delivery — “deeply damaged Trent” and “caused incredible anguish, self-loathing, contempt and depression,” according to the legal documents.
Lewis said that he didn’t remember making the comment, but when he saw the show, he recognized it as “a poor attempt at humor” and “an off-color joke.”
When Trent reached out to their surrogacy attorney and said she was upset about what had been said, Lewis sent her flowers and an apology letter.
“I thought all was good,” he said, adding that he and Edward stayed in touch with Trent well after the episode aired. “We spoke to her for months and months! She sent gifts. We were reaching out and giving her updates and pictures. I’m telling you, this was an amazing experience. We were friends. She was a part of our family. We bought her a beautiful push gift. That’s what’s so insane to me. I thought this was over.”
Trent claims in her suit that she had no interest in being on Flipping Out and did not know she would be on a reality show when she responded to Lewis and Edward. A desire to help promote the option of surrogacy, she said, led her to agree to filming ultrasound appointments, but claims she drew the line at filming the birth.
Her suit alleges that camera operators secretly filmed from behind a curtain, despite telling her they wouldn’t. They also noted, doctors were unaware cameras were rolling and her blurred-out vagina was shown on screen.
Weeks after it aired, a business associated informed Trent of what was on television. She was “humiliated and distraught” and has been unable to get Bravo to take down the clips from their website. She also canceled another surrogacy contract out of “embarrassment.”
Lewis balked at claims that Flipping Out filmed Trent without her permission.
“That, to me, is insanity, because we were upfront and honest from the beginning, to the point where her appearance release was a part of the surrogacy agreement because the whole idea was to document this journey,” he said. “It was part of her agreement, it was all tied in. So how do you now say that you didn’t know you were being filmed? It’s a broad appearance release!”
“And not only did she sign an appearance release as part of our surrogacy contract, I believe she signed it as a separate appearance release with the production company. And she signed a nondisclosure agreement, which she now violated. So what’s the point of legal agreements if you’re just going to disregard them all?”
He added: “Flipping Out is not a hidden camera show. There were moments where there were two, three, four cameras. Everybody was mic-ed. There was a boom, there was a producer. There were production assistants. I remember filming at lunch with her family, and that was a big crew there that day. So how do you now say you didn’t know you were being filmed? It’s unbelievable.”
In the end, Lewis didn’t see any reason he or Edward would use Trent again for baby no. 2.
“Shame on her for mudding such a beautiful experience,” Lewis said. “I personally believe she will have to answer to God one day for what she’s done. And if I were her, I’d start drafting my apology now.”