Get To Know Melissa McCarthy’s Cousin Jenna Perusich
Jenna Perusich, who collaborated with the Property Brothers to remodel her parents’ home on Celebrity IOU, is now co-hosting her own HGTV makeover show with her cousin, actress Melissa McCarthy. HGTV sat down with Jenna to find out more about the woman who was valedictorian of her class in college. Yep, she’s not only design savvy and super-sweet, but a smarty pants, too!
Don’t say you haven’t been warned if Jenna Perusich shows up at your door.
“I might move a sofa, roll up a rug, get rid of all the clocks in the room!” Jenna laughs. In fact, Jenna and her cousin, actress and producer Melissa McCarthy, have been offering up design advice (even going as far as to make mood boards) for friends and family for a good part of the last decade. Now, they’re about to impart their design wisdom on deserving families with the launch of their new makeover show, The Great Giveback With Melissa McCarthy and Jenna Perusich, coming to HGTV June 13 at 9/8c.
“After redesigning my parents’ house on Celebrity IOU, Melissa and I were inspired to combine our desire to help others with our love of renovation,” says Jenna. “The show is really a seamless transition to what we’ve been doing for years, only now we get the chance to push boundaries and learn new things while being fortunate enough to have a front row seat to changing lives.”
Here, you’ll find out why Jenna prefers chocolate over vanilla, dogs over cats, morning over nights, plus more!
She Moved to Los Angeles to Pursue Acting
Jenna moved to Los Angeles nine years ago after graduating from Columbia College Chicago, where she was a theater major. Once on the West Coast, she studied at Groundlings Theatre & School and has been filling up her IMBD page ever since. “I love that I now get to blend my two passions — acting and design — on this new show,” she says.
She and Melissa Bonded as Adults
Jenna’s mom and Melissa’s dad come from a family of 10 kids, with Melissa’s dad being the third oldest and Jenna’s mom being the youngest. “There are 18 years between Melissa and me, so we really didn’t grow up together,” shares Jenna. “We became close after I moved to Los Angeles, where Melissa has become my mentor, offering up amazing career advice and guidance.”
She Met Her Boyfriend During the Pandemic
He's a television marketing executive, and they met almost two years ago on a dating app. “Andrew is my complete opposite,” laughs Jenna. “At times, I’m like a balloon floating all over the place, and he’s this great anchor keeping me grounded.” Meeting during a pandemic had its advantages, she says. “You could say we had an old-fashioned courtship, FaceTiming five times before we ever met!”
One Day, She's Getting a Dog
Jenna's allergic to cats so she and Andrew are considering getting a puppy. She prefers a small dog similar to the one she grew up with (a fluffy white Bichon named Lady), while Andrew wants a larger pooch. “We may have to get two!” says Jenna.
She Throws Regular Dinner Parties
Always on the hunt for a new restaurant or food experience, Jenna hosts monthly “Night in America” theme parties. “There’s something special about making meals with your friends,” she shares. “I set the theme and then everyone dresses and brings food and cocktails around that theme. For example, we’ve had Germany in America, New Orleans in America, Italy in America. Who knows, maybe the night of our show’s premiere, I’ll have a party where everyone dresses up as Drew and Jonathan,” laughs Jenna.
She Has a Secret I Love Lucy Collection
“Vintage dolls, lamps, throw blankets, jars, salt and pepper shakers — I’ve got them all!” says Jenna of her I Love Lucy collection. “I started collecting when I was in fifth grade and it continued through high school — whenever it was my birthday or Christmas, people would gift me things related to the show. My favorites are a little lamp shaped like a TV that says "I Love Lucy" and a cookie jar of Lucy, Ricky, Ethel and Fred riding in a vintage convertible. When I had to dress up as my hero in eigth grade, I went as Lucy. I loved that she took risks, was an artist, fought for what and who she believed in while staying true to herself — things that still resonate with me today.”
She Watches all the Real Housewives Franchises
When it comes to guilty pleasures, Jenna loves nothing more than a bag of chips (Kettle Cooked Mesquite Barbeque) and reality TV, specifically, the Housewives franchise. “I watch all of them — OC, Beverly Hills, New Jersey, New York, Potomac, Salt Lake City, Atlanta — each has their own flavor and vibe!” says Jenna.
She’s a Morning Person
“I’m not a late-night gal,” Jenna notes. “In fact, my favorite time of the week is 7:30 on a Saturday morning, peacefully sitting on my couch with a cup of coffee in my hand and the whole day ahead of me.”
Croatia Is on Her Bucket List
Jenna admits she doesn’t take many vacations and needs to prioritize relaxation time, which is why a visit to Croatia is on her travel checklist. “I’m Croatian and hoping to visit that beautiful country soon,” she shares.
She’s a Fan of '80s Rock and Doo Wop
Jenna’s an old soul when it comes to music. “My dad is a greaser so I grew up listening to The Drifters and The Temptations,” she says. The songs on repeat in her head: "Be My Baby" by the Ronettes and the '80s hit "Alone by Heart." “What can I say, I love doo wop and '80s music!” she says.
She loves Dirty Dancing
“This movie has everything when it comes to entertaining — music, drama, dancing,” she says. “It’s truly a film that never ceases to entertain, no matter what my mood.”
She’s Often Complimented on her Intuition
“I’m very intuitive,” says Jenna. “My gut is almost always right, but that doesn’t mean I always listen to it!”
She Sees Her parents as the Ultimate Couple
“I’ve learned so much from my parents about art, design, fashion and music. Yet it’s their dedication to each that I admire most,” says Jenna. “Married for 37 years, they define what love is all about. I’ll be watching TV downstairs in their house only to walk upstairs and find them laughing and dancing to music, enjoying the moment. They are my role models.”
She’ll Choose Chocolate Over Vanilla Every Time
“Points if there’s peanut butter involved,” Jenna laughs.
She Wears Her Heart on Her Sleeve
“Can absolutely guarantee I will cry in every episode,” was something Melissa posted on her Instagram prior to filming the show. “Oh my gosh we both did!” says Jenna. “Our DNA is scary at times, the two of us together are like an open nerve — we care so deeply. We were like grandmas putting Kleenex up our sleeves.”
She Draws Inspiration From Drew and Jonathan
Jenna shares that she and her cousin Melissa are A+ students and perfectionists. “Drew and Jonathan come from the same wheelhouse. If they’re going to do something, they’re going to do it well and with their entire hearts. Yet they still don’t take themselves too seriously, they know how to have fun,” she says.
She Can’t (Won’t!) Choose a Favorite Episode
Don’t even think about asking Jenna to choose a favorite episode. “Every family is so deserving in their own way,” she says. From a female combat vet who served in two wars and suffers from a traumatic brain injury and PTSD, to a mother of eight who has spent her life teaching the power of dance to special needs kids and adults, to a couple who run a non-profit committed to helping inner city kids avoid the trappings of gangs and drugs, Jenna shares that all of the families and renos were completely uplifting and powerful and a reminder to stay positive and embrace the good no matter what life throws at you. “We all go through tough times, but acknowledging where you come from and owning it and being open to the possibilities is what life is all about,” she notes.
She Steals Design Ideas For Her Own Space From the Show
“I’m a renter and I’m always thinking of ways I can update my design without doing anything super permanent,” Jenna says. “In one of the episodes, we added a track to a bedroom ceiling and then hung a wall-to-wall curtain to camouflage a window. The curtain gave the room drama, color and texture. I can’t strip the floors in my home or retile the bathroom, but I can hang a curtain — and because it’s removable, I’ll be able to bring it to my next home!”
She Can’t Wait for the Show’s Reveals
“Asking me which part of the show is my favorite is like asking which part of Christmas I enjoy most,” says Jenna. “Finding the family, getting to know the family, executing the makeover — there are so many amazing parts. But I just love when the homeowner sees their space for the first time. Melissa and I work from such an emotional place and the minutes leading up to the reveal, when the family gets to see the space, well there are no words to describe it. To know this family will now live in a better place because of what we did — that’s what it’s all about.”
Ochre Is One of Her Go-To Colors
“Melissa jokes that if it’s a color that could appear in a baby’s diaper, it’s my color!” says Jenna of the yellow/orange/brown shade. She's also a fan of rich fall tones like rust, forest green and terracotta.
She Loves Design Surprises
Wallpaper in a closet or pantry, why not? “I love to open things up and tell a fun little story because at the end of day, it’s great to have pieces in your home that surprise you,” she says.
And, She's All For Taking Design Risks
Jenna likes to throw out the rules — mixing old with new, modern with vintage, organic with industrial. “I love people who go all out with design,” she shares. “If you love color, go for it, or if you love art, put it on every wall. I’ve always been drawn to people who have no problem painting a stripe on a wall and then seeing what happens.”
She Doesn’t Believe in Trends
So she doesn't like to throw anything away. “Like fashion, everything circles back around, maybe in a new or surprising way,” says Jenna. “I may not like '80s mallard duck décor, but in a particular library room makeover, it could totally work.”
She Loves a Shopping Bargain
Recently, Jenna purchased four amazing cream Sherpa dining room chairs for $200 on an online community marketplace. “They’re insanely cool,” she says. “I’m that person who’s going to find the thing on sale. I’d rather say I got the ‘perfect’ — not the most ‘expensive’ — item. In fact, Melissa says I have cost saving superpowers,” laughs Jenna.
She Dreams of Buying a Spanish-Style Mediterranean Home
As a hopeful soon-to-be first-time buyer, Jenna has her sights set on buying a Spanish Mediterranean style home. “I find myself leaning into Spanish architecture, color and textures — the arches and round corners, Brutalist colors and knubby fabrics, I love it all!” says Jenna.
The Great Giveback With Melissa McCarthy and Jenna Perusich comes to HGTV on June 13 at 9/8c. Keep up with Jenna on Instagram at @jenna_preusich.