Queen of Versailles

Jacqueline Siegel

In a town known for making “Dreams Come True,” it should come as no surprise that just outside the Disney gates a real-life fairytale exists, complete with a castle, king and queen. Jacqueline Siegel, well-known socialite, wife to David Siegel (the Westgate Resort timeshare mogul), and mother to eight children is building the largest home in America, right here in Windermere.

Written by Jana Waring
Portraits by Katie Meehan

It seems hard to define what is normal in the world today. For example, I asked for and received a $130 electric toothbrush for Christmas. The Triumph, as it is appropriately titled, comes equipped with a video timer that tells me where to brush again and when I’m brushing correctly. I can never go back to a regular brush. I know I don’t actually need the Triumph, but now that my perception of reality has changed, I believe I do. This is what I imagine it’s like to be the wife of a billionaire. Because as Jacqueline Siegel tells me about her life, I am not sure she knows how extraordinary it sounds and how different it is from my life.

“Even though we are building the biggest house in America,” she tells me as we are touring her “temporary” home in Isleworth, “We want it to be a home.” Jacqueline didn’t set out to break any record; her good friend Robin Leach (of “Champagne Wishes and Caviar Dreams” fame) was the one to tell her first. The Siegels broke ground on the 90,000 square foot “Versailles” a couple of years ago. It sits adjacent to Lake Butler and is named after the French palace that inspired its design.

The digitally-created rendering gives a sneek peek of the front of the largest house in America.

The digitally-created rendering gives a sneek peek of the front of the largest house in America.

It wasn’t always palaces and champagne for Jackie (as her friends call her). She grew up in Binghamton, a tiny town in upstate New York, in a modest home with two hardworking parents and three siblings. The entire family shared one bathroom during her childhood and she remembers the inconvenience of having to wait in line to use it. Perhaps that is the reason “Versailles” will boast 30 bathrooms. Jackie will never have to wait in line again.

Looking to escape her small town and make something of her life, Jackie put herself through college and received a Computer Engineering degree. She landed a job at IBM. Her dream of owning a home valued at $100,000 was well on its way to becoming a reality. But when she noticed her cube-dwelling office peers were counting down the days to retirement, she was motivated to move to Manhattan to model. After finding success there, she moved to Florida to compete in the Mrs. Florida pageant (and won). Then, as David explains, when Jacqueline walked into a party hosted by a mutual friend, it was love at first sight. David romanced Jackie and whisked her into his world: The world of a billionaire.

Coming home to a house full of at least fifteen people is typical for the Siegel family. After all, there are eight children and five nannies that roam the marble floors there. As we tour the backyard complete with a lakefront custom pool, three of her dogs, all of them with white fur, are jumping all over her. “We like white animals. See our peacocks over there? They’re white. We used to have a white tiger too, as a pet, but not anymore.” She talks of her peacocks and pet tiger in the same way that most American families talk about their family dog.

Top to Bottom Row, Left to Right: Jonquil, Debbie, Jacqueline, Daniel, Victoria, David, Jacqueline, Jordan, Drew

Top to Bottom Row, Left to Right: Jonquil, Debbie, Jacqueline, Daniel, Victoria, David, Jacqueline, Jordan, Drew

It’s not until I am driving her to the site of “Versailles” or what she describes as her new home (and I describe as a potential Disney resort) that it dawns on me that I am responsible for a beautiful billion-dollar commodity sitting in my van. This unsettling realization makes me want to floor it to our lunch destination as quickly as possible, although I am driving more slowly and carefully than ever before. It gives us time to make conversation.

“David and I did not exchange Christmas gifts this year,” she says, “We decided not to, you know, since times are tough.” For one second, I am rushed with guilt for selfishly wanting a luxury toothbrush. “How sweet … and normal,” I think. Then, I see “Versailles” and think again. Perhaps there is no such thing as normal.

The following interview with Jacqueline Siegel was conducted during a tour of her current home in Isleworth, while visiting Versailles and over lunch at Bravo on Sand Lake Road with her mother Debbie Mallery and friends Nita Bass and Shari Crabtree.

What are the names and ages of your eight children? I’ll start with the twin girls, Jacqueline and Jordan, who are two years old. Then we have Drew, who is a boy and five. Then we have Debbie who is seven, Daniel who is eight, David who is nine, Victoria who is 12 and Jonquil, who is 15 [and actually an adopted niece]. Everyone’s name begins with a D or J, named after one of us. All three boys have the same birthday and were born on Memorial Day … conceived on Labor Day.

Wow, how did you do it? That is a lot of kids in a short period of time. I was the most fearful for the first one. I didn’t start having kids until my thirties. I was afraid because I was a model. I thought it would ruin my figure. But after the first one, I got my figure back pretty quick. I went to the beach and was wearing a bikini, like, a week later. So for the rest of them, I went into auto-pilot.

Nita: And she had them all naturally.

Yeah there were no c-sections. We love having a big family. Even though we are building the biggest house in America, we want it to be a home. Sometimes you hear fighting and screaming but other times you hear laughter. I think that when the day comes that I don’t have that anymore, I’ll really miss it.

 

A digital rendering of what will be the exquisite ballroom inside the biggest home in America.

Did you set out to build the biggest house in America? No, not at all. We were just building the house that we wanted for our family. Then we kept adding things to it, so it slowly started getting bigger. Robin Leach was actually the person who told us. We’re friends with him and he used to have that show, you know, about those big homes. [She is nonchalantly referring to Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. ] Then other people starting approaching us to sell us things like security systems and they would tell us, too. It turns out it’s the biggest house under one roof that will be resided in. The Biltmore in North Carolina is bigger, but it’s a museum now, not a residence.

Do you have an estimated time of completion for the house? No, it will probably take a few more years. My husband was originally pushing to get it done so we could throw his mother’s 100th birthday party at the house, but then she passed away. So, now there is less of a sense of urgency. Then all this stuff with the economy hit and the banks are in trouble. We’re still doing stuff slowly, but we are also using a lot of our personal money to fund my husband’s business and the Westgate Foundation that provides money for David’s employees who are going through financial hardships. It is really important to us that we help these families who have helped us so much. They have children and we want to take care of them, too. So the home building process has slowed down, but we are still working on it.

What is going in your house that you are most excited about? We are looking forward to all the fireplaces and cozy bedrooms. There are so many different sections, so the home will not feel as large as it is. There will be two movie theaters, one for us and one for the children. Ours will look like the Paris Opera House and will have those private balconies on the second floor. I think my husband is most excited about that room. He just got me Gone With the Wind and the Godfather series. I have never seen those movies. The whole reason I am waiting, is to experience the movies in the new theater. My husband wants me to see them there. I am also pretty excited about the water slide for the kids and the ballroom. I am so looking forward to throwing some amazing parties there.

How many people do you have on staff in your home? We have five nannies right now. They each have their own assignments, with one specifically for the twins. One of the nannies is considered the driver and takes the kids to school, lessons and friends’ houses. We also have a housekeeper. We used to have more, but my husband thought we should cut back because of the bad economy and the layoffs he had to make at his company. He thought we should suffer too. We even have our kids doing chores now. They take out the garbage and stuff like that. We explained that the whole country is going through a hard time right now and they have to pitch in. They understand.

What do the nannies provide that you cannot? For one thing, they provide safety for our children. Living in a big home, with two-year-old twins, it’s difficult. One twin starts running down one hall and the other twin runs down the other. As one person, you don’t know which one to go get. Or sometimes they can even get lost in the house. We have a big pool and we live on a lake. I wouldn’t tolerate it for one minute if they were not being watched and ended up floating in the pool or something. They also provide love. For me, nannies are employees. But for the children—and I talked to a pediatrician about this—they are like extended family.

What is a typical day like in the life of Jacqueline Siegel? Every day is a new day—I have no regular routine. My day usually starts off with three of the four dogs jumping on me. One of the nannies will be cooking breakfast and that will wake the dogs up and they’ll come find me. That’s at around 5:30 a.m. Then I have breakfast with the kids, ride to school with them, exercise and get my husband off to work. And then I usually have a lunch meeting for charity, social obligations, the Mrs. Florida Pageant or TravelHost Orlando Magazine . [She is the producer of the pageant and a partner in J&S Media which publishes the magazine.] But then my day can change. My husband can call and tell me, “Hey, we have to go to Las Vegas this afternoon.” We have our own private plane. In an instant we can take off to go look at a property in Cancun or meet with a banker in New York.

Has having so much money affected the people you choose to surround yourself with? I remember when I had my 20-year high school reunion. One of the friends I reconnected with started emailing me all the time. She wanted me to buy her a new car. I told her that I didn’t earn the money and didn’t have the right to do that. She never called me again. Some people are moochers – others are true friends. I have closed down my huge circle of friends. Now I focus more on my family and have a smaller handful of friends that I enjoy more.

Some people may think it’s easier to raise kids having money. Would you agree with that? Money certainly helps. The kids need clothes and a nice pair of sneakers. [Jackie asks her friend Shari what she thinks.]

Shari: I would say no. Raising kids is difficult no matter what.

Both David and I came from modest beginnings. He was raised in a one-room apartment in Miami Beach. His parents would hang a sheet to separate the room so they could have some privacy. We never forget where we came from and that helps us to not spoil our kids.

Do your kids know that your financial situation is not like everyone else’s? They do know there is a difference. They see it when they go to their friends’ homes. They are not spoiled by any means. I do remember a funny story though. One time, we flew commercial for some reason, and one of the younger kids asked, “Mommy, what are all these strangers doing on our plane?” They are used to traveling on our private jet.

Do you think having money changes the way you must parent your children? It doesn’t for us, because my husband is very careful about how he spends money and doesn’t spoil the kids. We have to shut the lights off every time we leave a room. We drive regular cars and keep them for a long time. The only reason we own a plane, we actually own two, is so that David can run his business efficiently and easily visit his resorts. Before he owned all of the resorts, he could have had a plane, but didn’t. It’s not a luxury for us; it’s more of a necessity. We believe in hand-me-downs for the kids’ clothes. And if you look at our current house—to go through the whole tour it takes about 45 minutes—we use every single inch of it. It’s very lived in.

How do you set rules and boundaries in your household? I’m not a super strict mom. I think I use my husband, like, “If you don’t listen I’m going to tell Dad.” I don’t know if that’s the best way to do it but it seems to work. I put the fear of Dad … or God. [Laughs]

Were there things in your upbringing that you felt necessary to incorporate into your children’s lives? Show the children a lot of love. Give them hugs. Give them praise. Something may not be that important to you, but it’s important to them and you have to acknowledge it. Even if they pick a flower and give it to you and you’re really busy, you have to take the time and say, “Thank you so much.” My twins did that. They picked some flowers and I stuck them in my hair to show it meant something to me. [During the photo shoot, little Debbie Siegel did pick a flower for her mom and you could see Jackie’s face light up.]

You’ve mentioned that you think Central Florida is a great place to raise a family. Where do you and your family spend time outside the home? We ride our bikes down trails and through Isleworth. My kids love having me around. We play kickball. Just last weekend, we went out on a field and had chicken fights and played Ring Around the Rosie. We enjoy the water parks and theme parks: SeaWorld, Universal and Disney. We can see the Disney fireworks from our backyard. We don’t overdo it with the parks, but we go a few times a year to each one. After all, we live where every child in the country dreams about.

Is there ever a time when you take a moment to realize how different your life is from what you imagined as a child? My biggest wish for myself, as a child, was to find love. I remember thinking on our wedding day that I couldn’t believe it took me 30 years to find my true love. David is the man of my dreams. I sat back and took a moment to thank God for that. I do feel like I have to pinch myself sometimes. My life is like a fairytale in so many ways.

_____________________

Versailles

Exactly what does it take to be the largest home in America?

90,000 Square Feet
30 Bathrooms
15 Bedrooms
11 Kitchens
6 Pools
2 Movie Theaters
8,000 Square Foot Master Suite
Two-story Front Door (weighing more than a ton)
3.7 Million Dollar Custom Windows
Full-service Health Spa (with massage rooms)
Indoor Roller Skating Rink
Two-lane Bowling Alley
Stadium Tennis Court (seating 200 spectators)
Full-sized Baseball Diamond
Underground Parking for 30 Cars
Wine Cellar (holds more than 20,000 bottles of wine)

Information provided by Joe Bathalter, Project Manager for Versailles
_____________________

This entry was posted in Lifestyle, Local People. Bookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.
  • Maria

    I wish the article would have mentioned how big the house is going to be . . .

  • Niki

    I’m not a hater but this is way too much!

  • Pingback: Sittercity » Blog Archive » Cutting Back to 5 Nannies

  • lilkunta

    is the health spa in her house bc she needs services everyday?

  • http://www.WNCRealEstateServices.com Debbie

    An awesome, well-written interview. Since we live in Asheville, it is interesting that the Biltmore House might not be America’s largest home when this home is completed.

  • http://www.h2hbirthcenter.com Michelle Gawne, LM

    I think that she sounds like a loving and caring mother and I was particularly impressed with the fact that she gave birth to all of her children naturally. As a midwife with a birth center, I speak to many women regarding natural childbirth on a daily basis and I think that if you want to give your children the best start possible (besides prenatally) it is best to give your child a natural birth. Thank you Jackie for mentioning that, as just this basic fact makes you (even with all of your glorious money) just like every beautiful woman in the world…one who wants the basic best for her children.

  • PAM

    All the people without jobs today losing homes ect. I would feel guilty showing that house please help people not just flaunt it.

  • John

    Hmm..Biltmore in Asheville North Carolina is 175,000 square feet…Ira Rennart’s mansion in Sagaponnack NY is 110,000 square feet. So how is this home going to be the largest at 88,000 square feet??

    • http://playground-magazine.com PLAYGROUND admin

      Thanks for your comment John. Our article indicated that the Biltmore is larger but is no longer a private residence, is open to the public and is classified as a museum. In researching Mr. Rennart’s home we found that the main house occupies 72,000 sq. ft. while the ancillary buildings in the compound round out the 110,000 sq. ft. you mention. Large homes by any measure…

  • Elizabeth

    I will agree with the comments above, this is a very well written article. However, it was in poor taste that the article was published at this time with people being laid off, in search of employment, and scrimping and saving. This is the last thing parents want to read about in their favorite local magazine. In the spirit of what is going on in our country and community I expected Playground to publish articles such as, “Have fun this weekend, on a budget”, or “Style your kids’ wardrobe, on a budget”. A great cover story might be something like what a family is doing to give back in the community during this time, to inspire other families to give back. This being a parenting magazine, I was thoroughly disappointed with the choice in article AND cover story. I look forward to something more appropriate in your next issue.

  • Gramma Cam

    Beautiful family! Beautiful people! Congrats on all your successes!

  • Patti

    I have known Mrs. Siegel for the last 20 years and the most important thing that needs to be said about her is how much she gives to others in need. Wow! What an incredible woman…

  • Leslie

    I disagree with Elizabeth, PAM, Niki and others who express dissatisfaction (or is it jealousy) with your choice to publish this article during “tough times”. Get over it. These tough economic times are not hitting everyone in the same way. Jacqueline said in this article that her family is taking hits in this economy as well. If your glass is half full, then perhaps Playground choose perfect timing in publishing this article. It could be encouraging to some… ever think of that? She wasn’t born into money; this lifestyle is due to choices she made along the way and she’s sticking by a man who works very hard. I don’t know her.. that’s just what I got from the article… and I don’t see you criticizing Jackie, but Playground for publishing it. Go read something that talks about doom and gloom.

  • Adam

    Hello!
    My name is Adam. I was working for Siegels Family almost four years. I want to say: David Siegel and Jacqueline Siegel they are great persons and they have sweet kids. Mr.David and Mrs. Jacqueline they have been like a parents for me and my wife during this four years. We will always remember them and kids. Four years what we have been spent with them that was the best time in ours life. We are so greatfull. Thank You Mrs. Jacqueline and thank You Mrs. David. We miss You.

  • Ryan

    Another EPIC fail, God grants all wealth and power, we are all born equally…

  • Omar Fidel Espinosa

    Billionaires have lost billions, millionaires have lost millions. The richest Indian Mital, he lost 2/3rds of his kingdom.
    The Great Recession of 07′-10′ is far from done.

    The vanderbuilts over and over again lost it all, the vanderbuilts had ten, ten great massive mansions in nyc on 5th ave. By the early 70s they were all torn down, as there was no money to support them.

    Billions and trillions were not “lost” oh no, you see thats the lie. The truth is that those billions and trillions were never there, only imaginary decimal places, The worlds Largest Ponzi scheme.

    This Article fails to remember Oheka castle, and its multi hundred millionaire occupant Otto Khan. It was well over 100,000 sq feet. Its foundation and framework were of steel and concrete. They actually scaled it down from its orignial plans. They decided aganist the Orangarium. Anyway he was now a broken man he died of a mixture of Nervous brake downs and Heart conditions due to the losses he suffered in the crash and resulting great depression.

    The Biltmore is larger and more grand than anything else in the country, no house built in the last 80 years should be compared to the Biltmore. Not even Hursts castle. These were the vanderbuilts!!.

    The Breakers mansion, a summer home mind you!! had Platinum wallpaper!! The real stuff, more expensive than Gold, and this wasnt leaf this stuff was sheet metal.

    Few Mcmansions today have been built of concrete and steel, Most of them will fade away. The boom and bust cycle of the U.S. economy has away of Eroding the foundations of anything built.

  • Pingback: Monday’s Big Money Odds and Ends | Worlds Construction - Building Home Styles Improvement

  • LFP

    Well, I guess this story needs to be updated to say that they never finished this giant poster child of excessive spending and are now trying to dump it as is, unfinished, first for $100M and now for $75M.

  • Tommy

    No what they are selling it for is 100 million finished.And 75 million as it is

  • Michael Cheng

    I love the moral of the story. It’s as timeless as it’s true. Get yourself born super good-looking, at least enough to win state beauty pageants, and you’ve got a decent shot at striking it rich without your own efforts.

  • Andrea

    It’s sad that these people cannot help out some people who are impoverished or starving, instead of a bunch of nonsense

  • http://E DARIA

    WAOOOOOOOO MIS JACGUELIN.

  • Mike

    Guess what…??!!! The house has been withdrawn from the market. Hmmm….no one else has that kind of money to spend on a home?? OOOPs,,, Home??? it’s a small city in itself!!!

  • ugh

    tacky. no matter how much charity work this family does, they are still tacky.

  • jane

    the kids aren’t spolied, but they have 2 planes, and wonder how flying commercially works. Ok. The kids aren’t spolied but have nannies. Ok. so selfish having all those kids and not having the QUALITY time nor the QUANTITY of time needed to spend with each of them. ok. Talk to us again in 20 years – let’s see how those kids are doing then.

  • Sharon

    Jackie is a very nice woman ..does not deserve negative comments..loves her kids and her husband..why are people so jealous of others’ successes?

  • Lori

    When you have that much money, your quality time with your children can be used in creative ways, not by changing diapers or cleaning up after them, etc. Because the moms have a lot of time freed up from cleaning, cooking, laundry, gardening, they re able to spend more time with their children, unlike most of the masses. I grew up, like most middle America Boomers, with a father that worked long hours and was too tired to spend a lot of time just playing with us…mom was tired after having 6 kids w/o nannies, cooks, etc. So, we kids were pretty much left on our own a lot ( figuratively speaking) to entertain ourselves. In 20 years the kids will not only be fine but also have had a great college education , lots of networking connections, be well rounded from traveling, social events and learning the importance of charitable giving. We, that have little always want to se those that have more, fail at some point. The reality is that the wealthy’s offspring will have more opportunities and do very well.

  • Russ

    Interesting! If you don’t want criticism don’t spend your adult life seeking publicity. They have wasted $70 to $100 million. One family of 4 in low, middle income makes $35,000 per year. Without touching the principle, simple interest on the $100 million would be a year’s income for 170 families, or send 800 kids to college each year forever. Should they spread that money around – that’s up to them. But don’t rub it in someone’s face and then say you are being frugal – that is insulting.

  • Laura

    There are things I admire about her. She has 8 kids, she gave birth to them, they adopted a niece, etc, etc; but she seems out of touch with most Americans. That’s not her fault of course, it happens when you have that kind of money.

    In any case, the house is over the top. IMO, they could do so much more with the money to help others, but it’s their money, they can do as please.

  • Max

    Give me a break lady….you had a master plan from way back…and it included a older man with a huge bankbook, who was looking for a trophy wife..so enjoy all the spoils of your efforts, but know that your not fooling anybody…plenty of goldiggers like you around…driving around town in their BMW’s which they attained more by their womanly charms, than their brains……..its called the power of the- (you know what)

  • Sara

    Max… you are a very hateful person. Why don’t you spend less time hating and being jealous of these people , who made their money legally and participate in philanthropy, and use your energy to better yourself financially and educationally. Just because you, Max, are not one of the charities, organizations or programs they choose to donate their money to doesn’t mean they are bad people because they choose to spend the money they ear.ed however they want. It may be extravagant to middle America, but the fact that they live in America go es them the right to live how they want and spend how they want. Max, and others who hate, get over yourselves. This story shows that no matter how you start out, you can, through hard work and commitment, change the class you are born into. There are countries out there where no matter what you want you cannot change your status. (any typos are unintentional, my phone sometimes jumps the gun. For that, I do apologise)

  • Stacy

    This is just plain crazy…. No one is jealous its just simple as this…KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT AND JUST LIVE NO ONE WANTS TO HEAR ABOUT YOUR LAVISH LIFESTYLE. There are so many millionaire and billionaires out here. Do you see Oprah flaunting her home? Do you see Jay Z and Beyonce showing off what they got? NOOOOO!!!! Its just distasteful… and I am not jealous I have money and living lavishly but I don’t flaunt it!!!

  • lola

    i saw the documentary it was an eye opening into what extreme richness can do to oneself when one is poorly trained to enjoy a good life without wasting money.
    highly recommend to be better organized when it come to the household, the kids need to go to a good boarding school to be trained to manage their fortune better, the excess of bikes and stuff in the garage need to be sold not given as charity but sold since is money that can be used to pay the expenses, the dogs need to have an appropriate place instead of being all over the place doing their bathroom thing everywhere. the old man needs some quiet time a better office, organized files instead of box filled room and an space where he can take time off from all the noise an chaos around him.
    Jackie needs to tone it down with the shopping and instead take art lesson and go to a Buddhist temple where she will learn to manage her compulsiveness.
    also stop indulging in the beauty pageant stuff since one of all these pretty women could bring more havoc into the marriage than need it.
    otherwise good luck with their wealth and the big house even though very ambition is worth the creation….like San Simeon