Stars Making a Social Impact: Why & How Jackie Siegel, The Queen of Versailles Is Helping To Change Our World
It’s more important to have a career in something you love because when you love what you do, it’s not a job. Loving what you do is a better, healthier lifestyle choice that brings peace to your mind, body and soul.
As a part of our series about stars who are making an important social impact, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jackie Siegel.
Jackie is an American socialite, model, actress, and beauty pageant director. She is best known for the award-winning documentary feature, Queen of Versailles and its sequel series, Queen of Versailles Reigns Again, which famously depicts Jackie Siegel and her husband David Siegel, founders of Westgate Resorts, and their family as they build their private Orlando residence, Versailles. Since the families rise in success, Jackie has used her platform to highlight a cause close to her heart — raising awareness for drug overdose prevention. Jackie’s daughter, Victoria Siegel, passed away from an accidental drug overdose at just 18 years old. In honor of Victoria, Jackie and her husband founded the Victoria’s Voice Foundation, in hopes of progressing the fight to combat drug overdose with policy change, education, and critical resources.
Thank you so much for joining us on this interview series. Can you share with us the backstory that led you to this career path?
As a little girl, I grew up in Binghamton NY. The only industry in my town was IBM and by that standard, I realized that to be successful in my town, I would need to be an engineer to be able to afford a 100K house. So, I got my computer engineering degree and worked for IBM. I became bored with my first job as a computer engineer, so I left Binghamton, started modeling in NYC and eventually moved to Florida. I won the Florida pageant and started producing this pageant which led to the meeting of my current husband. We grew our family to include 8 children. Amid this, we started building our dream home, which unknown to us at the time, turned out to be the largest home in America. Because of this, I met the documentarian Lauren Greenfield who produced the movie about us called the “Queen of Versailles” which wound up being one of the 50 most watched documentaries of all time worldwide and ultimately led to the pathway for a Broadway musical of the same name, coming out next year.
It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I almost (because education is never wasted) feel the mistake I made was studying for 5 years for a career that I couldn’t stand. It’s more important to have a career in something you love because when you love what you do, it’s not a job. Loving what you do is a better, healthier lifestyle choice that brings peace to your mind, body and soul.
What would you advise a young person who wants to emulate your success?
You’ve got to work hard, have direction and not be a “couch potato.” Opportunities and chance meetings in life do not come from sitting around. You’ve got to be out there meeting people and exposing yourself to get that chance meeting. Once you have that door of opportunity open, you must have the drive and determination to be an expert in your field.
Is there a person that made a profound impact on your life? Can you share a story?
I was most influenced by the manager at IBM who wrote a program for counting the days to when he was going to retire. I asked him why he would do that, and he said that when he retired would be when he’s going to start living his life. The next day I submitted my resignation to IBM.
How are you using your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share with us the meaningful or exciting causes you’re working on right now?
In 2023 Victoria’s Voice Foundation is launching the Get. Give. Save. Naloxone Awareness Movement to create a national movement to make naloxone distribution affordable and accessible to every home, business, community center, school, church, doctor’s office and public facility. This cause is particularly important to me because my daughter Victoria died of an accidental drug overdose in 2015. She had a pulse when the first responders arrived, but they did not have naloxone.
Can you share with us a story behind why you chose to take up this particular cause?
In 2015, our 18-year-old daughter Victoria died from an accidental drug overdose. It shattered our lives and changed our focus on life. Losing a child is every parent’s worst nightmare. In the days following Victoria’s death, we found her diary, which outlined her drug use and mental health decline. Reading her diary was an eye opener for me and my husband. It’s also a cautionary tale to any parent who thinks they know what is going on in their children’s lives. David and I missed the signs. It’s our life’s work to ensure no other parent has to endure the shock and grief that we did with Victoria’s passing.
Can you share with us a story about a person who was impacted by your cause?
We hear stories all the time about families and especially kids who have been impacted by the foundation’s work. Most recently I met with a woman named Bree, who received a copy of Victoria’s Diary due to her work with one of our programs called Beauty for Good. Her daughter and husband were both struggling with substance use disorders. Bree was inspired to have her family read the diary, because she didn’t want her daughter’s life to end the same way mine did. I’m excited to share that Bree’s husband and daughter are both in recovery. They attended a recent foundation event in Orlando and are becoming Victoria’s Voice ambassadors, to share their story nationwide.
Are there three things or are there things that individuals, society, or the government can do to support you in this effort?
Every business, home, community center, school, church and public venue should have naloxone. The federal government requires all businesses to have a first aid kit. There should be a mandate that the first aid kit also have just one dose of naloxone. So many people don’t think they need to carry naloxone because their family members do not use drugs. The problem is you don’t know what your kids’ friends are doing, and you don’t know if fentanyl has tainted something your children have touched. Fentanyl poisoning and opioid overdose deaths have become our nation’s largest threat. Over 50% of all overdose deaths are witnessed by a bystander. That means nearly half of all overdose deaths could have been prevented.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started”
When I first started the Victoria’s Voice Foundation, I wished there was a foundation like mine when I first lost my daughter. I wish I knew about Narcan, Fentanyl, the bullying, how bad the drug epidemic is, and also how rampant depression and anxiety is amongst the youth. I missed all the warning signs that were the perfect storm that led up to my daughter’s overdose.
You’re a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
To encourage people to make a difference by being kind and giving. Whether you have money or not, you can mow a lawn of do a favor for a single Mom or someone in need. I would like to start some sort of a campaign for success stories for “Random Acts of Kindness” for paying it forward — maybe have a contest for doing the most good deeds — Having people Post their acts of kindness on social media — such as a boy scout helping an elderly woman crossing the street. It will help inspire others to do good. Good attracts good.
Can you please give us your favorite life lesson quote? And can you explain how that was relevant in your life?
Shoot for the moon because even if you fail; falling and catching a star is an accomplishment rather than never trying and having nothing. “Never give up!”
We are blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
I would most like to spend time with Elon Musk for his incredible capacity for technology and his ability to improve the quality of life on earth for people as he cares for the greater good of man. He truly is a scientist who uses logic from fact backed statistics. Additionally, when I was a little girl laying in the yard, under the stars, dreaming; I always thought of going into space and got sidetracked to another path, but my dream was always to go into space. At this point I can probably just buy a ticket on SpaceX for a quarter of a million $ or maybe he’ll give the Queen of Versailles a free ticket — Lol! I only live 30 minutes from Cape Canaveral!
Thank you so much for these amazing insights. This was so inspiring, and we wish you continued success!
Stars Making a Social Impact: Why & How Jackie Siegel, The Queen of Versailles, Is Helping To… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.