Jillian Harris is relocating from Sundays to Fridays when “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” moves to its new night and time. The former “Bachelorette” says keeping busy designing spaces for others helped her get through her difficult breakup with Ed Swiderski and, now, she loves being a part of a show which makes people smile.
And since she is still single, the Canadian beauty has had plenty of time to devote to her career, especially since she reveals that her breakup a year and a half ago has left her gun shy when it comes to romance.
“I think I have turned into a commitment-phobe right now,” she says. “I feel I have a really good rhythm and a really good handle on my career, I just recently moved to a smaller town where my family is and I decided to devote a little more time and energy into being with them. I think that will slowly transition with me being cool with dating again.”
But first, Harris talks about how love doesn’t necessarily mean a relationship will work, how her priorities have changed and how “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” has taught her an appreciation for what she does have in her life.
When you first started on reality TV, you were looking for love. It seems that instead of finding the man of your dreams, you found your dream job.
I really did think at one point that I had found the man of my dreams. And to this day, I will never know if I was truly, truly in love, or it was just the magic of the show that made me fall in love. But regardless, I was really in love. It gave me a new perspective on relationships and what I am looking for. I don’t know what I expected when I went on “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette” to be honest. I expected nothing to come from it. I fell in love, I got offered the job with “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” and life seemed to be amazing. Then my relationship with Ed fell apart and all I had was “Extreme.” I really had nothing else going on … inside my soul anyways. I am sure as an outsider people thought I had it all going on. I just thought to myself, “If I didn’t have ‘Extreme Makeover’ right now, I would be a wreck. I think if it wasn’t for “Extreme,” I would have had a more difficult time with life.
I will never forget my first episode. It was a little girl who lost her dad to heart failure. I remember being so depressed and so heartbroken. I sat down and talked to her about her life. I realized that I might have lost somebody, but it was kind of their choice. I could not imagine losing somebody who meant so much to me that didn’t want to leave me. I realized that I just needed to suck it up, there were plenty of fish in the sea and it was his loss. I was there to make a change in the girl’s life. It wasn’t about me anymore. I think that has been a selfless move. I have been loving being on this show, having a voice, seeing people smile and being a part of that. It has been incredible.
Catch Up On Last Week’s Episode Of “Extreme Makeover”:
So I am assuming you don’t see Ed anymore?
Actually, we really do try. Despite friends and family who don’t think it was a healthy relationship, we went through something that was incredible. That nobody will ever be able to take away from us. It has been really difficult because I think we both want to point fingers at the other as to why it didn’t work, but, I think, at the end of the day, if you love somebody at some point in your life, it doesn’t make sense to cut them out completely. So we try to remain in touch. Sometimes I am angry at him; sometimes he is angry at me; sometimes we are friends. I think there are no rules. But I think in order for us to move on and date other people, you have to have closure, so we are working toward that.
Why do you think most of the relationships on “The Bachelor”/”Bachelorette” fail?
It is not about “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette.” If you think about it, there have been 15 Bachelors and six Bachelorettes, so 21 shows. If you take 21 random people out of society and ask them if all their relationships worked out with people they thought they were going to marry, probably 95 percent of them didn’t work out. I don’t think it has anything to do with the show.
Ed and I were very pragmatic about the fact that we weren’t prepared to be engaged. So when we came off the show, we said, “Let’s take a breather and really get to know one another.” It turned out that we were really immature and insecure about who we were as people. I think that is why it didn’t work out for us.
I think the show, actually, introduced me to 30 guys. I think if I had met any of them on the street, I probably would have dated them. I don’t know if it would have worked out with any of them. I think it is the right time and the right place. I think it doesn’t have anything to do with the show, I think it has to do with the people and what you decide to do with your relationship afterwards and if you are really serious about it. I look at Jason and Molly [Messnick]. They have an incredible relationship. Trista and Ryan [Sutter] have a great relationship. Ali [Fedotowsky] and Roberto [Martinez] … I really look up to their relationship. The same with JP [Rosenbaum] and Ashley [Hebert]. It does help to say that a lot of those people didn’t stay in the industry, so who is to say that me staying in the industry might be why we broke up? With relationships in general, there is no method to the madness. I wish I could solve the equation. Someone on the plane the other day said to me, “Love is not logical. You can’t think like that.”
You dodged a bullet when you broke up. There was a lot of press coverage on Jake Pavelka and Vienna Girardi at the time.
That took a lot of work. We were approached by many magazines and outlets and offered a lot of money to tell our story and to sell each other out. I am so glad we didn’t. It wouldn’t have been worth it in the end. We didn’t want to break up. We loved each other very much. We just couldn’t figure out a way to make it work.
Your philosophy is to design by personality. Can you talk about how that applies to the families you work with on “EMHE”?
I think “Extreme” taught me those principles. I was really nervous when I got hired by “Extreme,” because I always wanted to design for that “Wow” factor and for the pride of being able to put my pieces in a design magazine. As you know the “Extreme” spaces are beautiful, but they are very, very personal and they are very, very extreme. But what I learned is when you meet the family, it isn’t about me and it isn’t about a design award, it is about creating a space that is personal for them and a space that nobody else in the world really has. So, it is important for me to get to know the families, what makes them tick, what makes them cry, what is their happy place and, if there was one thing they couldn’t live without, what would it be and integrating it into their space. Because of that I have learned some really cool design principles that my everyday clients can use in their space.
On this Friday’s episode, you worked with the Keefer family. How did you approach this task?
I don’t want to give away everything. But the Keefers love the outdoors, which I love as well, and they loved to go camping before Brian’s accident. So we figured out a really super, creative way that I don’t think anybody has seen before to bring the idea of camping to them. It was really, really fun. I was able to make this space that is so cool, that is tailored to their family and that they love, but is very design-y and very cool. You have to tune in and see how we have done this.
What has your time on “EMHE” taught you?
I think that all of our lives, if we take a step back, haven’t turned out exactly how we expected. I can be very candid and say that at 32, I thought I would be married and have kids. That is something I feel differently about. I am not saying I don’t want to get married. I definitely want to have children. I just have a different outlook on it now. It is not a “goal” of mine. But it is something that if it happens, great, but I definitely won’t force it. But I do have something else that is special. I have a voice and I work with people and not only do I help change their lives with the team but they really help change my life.
So what I have learned is I may have a career and be a “celebrity,” but there is still a piece of my life that I look forward to one day and it is what these families have: an unconditional love, a bond, a friendship. They have something that I don’t have yet. I think it has made me realize that we have to be grateful for the things that we do have. And even though our lives haven’t turned out the way we expected, all of us have something really special, whether it be a family, a career, or a roof over our head. I may not have that husband and kids yet, but I have cousins and aunts and uncles and grandparents and my mom and dad. I think it is understanding what you do have in your life and not what you don’t have in your life.
“Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” moves to Friday nights at 8/7c on ABC starting tomorrow.