of home-improvement TV know Nicole Curtis as the
hands-on blonde of "Rehab Addict." But her
road to becoming a design and media star has been paved
with struggles and setbacks along with successes,
chronicled in her new book: "Better Than New:
Lessons Iíve Learned From Saving Old Homes (And How
They Saved Me)" (Artisan, $27.95).
eight chapters, each focused on a house, starting with
her first Florida fixer-upper, the Detroit native shares
her unvarnished personal journey ó from Hooters
waitress to struggling single mom, through relationships
good and bad ó to her complicated life today.
"Some women ó what I used to think of as Ďnormal
womení ó color their hair when they need a
change," she writes. "Some get a manicure or
buy new clothes. I buy a house."
talked with Curtis about her grandmother, mall bangs and
why she left Minneapolis.
How and why did you come to write a book?
I wanted to write a memoir, so I put the word out there,
and wrote a sample chapter. I had no interest in writing
a design book. Thatís kind of boring to me. Everyone
on TV writes a design book. Ö People want more of the
details of my homes. Ö People are always asking me
questions, and telling me their stories. Ö "We
feel so stupid. We lost our house." Things work out
so well on TV but not in real life.
What was your process for writing? Did you use a coach
When we started, it wasnít chronological. It was a
completely different book six months ago. After Gram
[her grandmother, to whom the book is dedicated] passed
away, I hunkered down and changed it all. Ö Iím
old-school. I was taking my book to Kinkoís every
couple of days and printing it out.
wrote it the way I write for social media. But it has to
go through so many hands. The editor takes things out,
like when I referred to Terminal G22 at the Minneapolis
airport. They took it out, but I said, "It doesnít
sound like I talk. I would say G22." It reads like
itís off the pages of my social media.
You write pretty candidly about some difficult things in
your life, such as breakups and legal battles. What was
the hardest thing to write about?
My grandmother dying. She passed away in May. It wasnít
how I was going to end the book. The first time I
submitted it, she hadnít passed away.
What about losing your Minnehaha house [in a legal
dispute with an ex]?
Itís water under the bridge. Iím so blessed that
didnít work. It really changed my life, and now I have
my son [age 18 months]. I have a whole different life.
It wasnít a healthy place for me, but I didnít know
it at the time.
Will you continue to work on houses in Minneapolis? And
whatís the status of the house youíve been rehabbing
in north Minneapolis?
Iím not there in Minneapolis for the most part. Itís
been an uphill battle. I still have one project, and Iíve
been trying to get a building permit, but the city is
blocking it again. It turns into one thing after
another, red tape. What is wrong with this situation? Iíve
tried to be part of the community. Iím so frustrated
What did that house teach you?
Persistence. Keep your head where you need it to be,
when other people are trying to bring you down. I did an
open house, raised money for a friend [who was battling
cancer]. But it brought all this negative energy, so
much negative press. What they donít realize, I have
to answer to the network, and when thereís negative
stuff with Minneapolis, they say, "We donít want
to shoot there anymore." Minneapolis isnít my
hometown but I treated it that way. I tried to bring
something positive to it. Ö Iíd love to do houses
there, but how many times can you get kicked in the
teeth? Letís go to another city.
You share many personal photos, like that one of you
sporting í80s mall bangs.
Iíve always taken snapshots, and I had great fun going
through them. Ethan [her teenage son] approved all his
photos. I did have some bad hair. All these little girls
come to my signings, and now with the internet, they
know whatís in style. We never knew what was stylish.
If you could leave readers with one takeaway from the
book, what would it be?
That they have the power to do anything. I love these
book tours and speaking. I make it a party. Women come
up to me, crying that they lost their job, they lost
their first house, they havenít made it and they feel
like such a loser. Iím 40, and Iím just starting to
hit my stride. Life is not easy for anyone. If they say
itís easy, theyíre lying.