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ĎRehab Addictí Nicole Curtis opens up in new memoir

December 12, 2016


Fans 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).

In 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."

We talked with Curtis about her grandmother, mall bangs and why she left Minneapolis.

Q: How and why did you come to write a book?

A: 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.

Q: What was your process for writing? Did you use a coach or ghostwriter?

A: 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.

I 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.

Q: 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?

A: 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.

Q: What about losing your Minnehaha house [in a legal dispute with an ex]?

A: 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.

Q: Will you continue to work on houses in Minneapolis? And whatís the status of the house youíve been rehabbing in north Minneapolis?

A: 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 right now.

Q: What did that house teach you?

A: 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.

Q: You share many personal photos, like that one of you sporting í80s mall bangs.

A: 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.

Q: If you could leave readers with one takeaway from the book, what would it be?

A: 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.

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