The ‘Queen of Versailles’ has a new calling
Jacqueline Siegel, whose husband David who owns Westgate Resorts, remembers when her daughter Victoria “Rikki” Siegel died from a drug overdose.
“We were living the dream,” Siegel told The Park Record. “Everything was right on track. We had a family with eight beautiful children. My husband had a great company. We had private jets. My whole dream came true. There wasn’t anything more that I wanted in life. Then a week later, the carpet was pulled out from under us, and everything changed.”
Rikki died from an overdose of methadone and sertraline, more commonly known as Zoloft, according to her autopsy report, on June 6, 2015. She was 18 years old.
“I would have given all the money in the world to get our daughter back,” said Siegel, who, along with her family, was the focus on Lauren Greenfield’s award-winning 2012 Sundance Film Festival documentary “Queen of Versailles.” “But that wasn’t possible. So we focused on how to stay strong.”
Siegel, who appears in Greenfield’s new documentary “Generation Wealth,” the opening film for this year’s Sundance Film Festival, decided to raise awareness of drug abuse. To do that, she started a nonprofit called Victoria’s Voice Foundation.
“Our mission in life since the overdose is to help save lives,” Siegel said.
Through the foundation, which can be found at victoriasiegelfoundation.org, the Siegels want to reduce drug experimentation, addiction and overdose deaths.
According to the website, the foundation seeks to accomplish this by accomplishing these tasks:
• Passing legislation to encourage locking up prescription medications.
• Passing legislation for the co-prescription of naloxone every time an opiate painkiller is prescribed.
• Implementation of a policy platform for random drug testing in partnership with educational institutions.
They also published a book, “Victoria’s Voice,” which is adapted from the pages of Rikki’s diary.
“Just before my daughter passed away, she sent a text to her friend and said to let me know where her diary was,” Siegel said. “She said she wanted me to publish it.”
The book starts before Rikki started using drugs and runs through her journey until her death.
“The journal is very raw,” Siegel said. “People [who have read it] told me that it took a lot of courage as a parent to expose the truth, but we felt if we didn’t leave a lot of that stuff in, the book wouldn’t have the impact to help others be aware of drug abuse.”
The book is for teens, Siegel said.
“I think it will help them understand that they are not alone with their fears, dark feelings, desires and wanting to escape, but by turning to drugs, they may end up like my daughter,” she said. “So, hopefully they will wake up and look for help or try to stay strong.”
Siegel also believes the book will help parents recognize symptoms of drug abuse.
“As parents, [David and I] didn’t know our daughter was doing drugs, because she was a great actress,” she said. “Teens, when they want to hide something, they know all the tricks of the trade. So parents who think their children aren’t doing anything might have their eyes open if they read this book. They may find the warning signs that we didn’t know about.”
The book features Rikki’s drawings, art and photos.
In addition, the Siegels included the family’s eulogies that were given at Rikki’s funeral.
“We also edited in some educational portions in the book, where talk about the drugs and how it affected us,” Siegel said. “ Drug addictions don’t have boundaries. Everyone from a homeless person to a billionaire can be addicted to drugs.”
Although Siegel hasn’t seen “Generation Wealth,” she has a feeling it will be well received at the Sundance Film Festival.
“I’m sure it will be a well-done movie, and I wouldn’t be surprised it will be up for an award again,” she said. “We are in it because we had signed to be in “Queen of Versailles.” And the filmmaker is using footage they shot of us for several years.”
While “Queen of Versailles” didn’t show the Siegels in a positive light, Siegel is prepared to take what she calls a “beating” again with “Generation Wealth.”
“I just want to raise awareness of drug abuse,” she said.
That said, Siegel did say her husband’s company has finally climbed out of the financial pit that forced them to stop building Versailles, which would have been the largest house in the United States.
“In ‘Queen of Versailles’ it looked like we lost everything, but at that time with the global recession and economic crisis, everyone made cutbacks,” she said. “We lost a building in Las Vegas, and stopped construction on Versailles. By doing that we self-financed the company and saved thousands of jobs. I mean, we could have cashed out and lived happily ever after, but that’s not us.”
Last year, after working to get back on their feet, the Siegels are stronger than ever, and company, which includes a location at the base of Canyons Village and more than 27 other timeshare resorts across the country, made more than $1 billion last year, Siegel said.
“[David] bought the Las Vegas Hilton, the Cocoa Beach Pier in Florida and a football team – the Orlando Predators,” she said. “The funny thing was he didn’t tell me these things because he wanted to keep me from spending money. He tricked me.”
Sill the recent successes won’t outshine the light on Siegel’s mission of awareness.
“I made my own documentary for myself,” she said. “If anyone wants to see it, I can set up a private viewing.”
“Victoria’s Voice” can be purchased by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 407-808-8032. It can be purchased at Westgate Resorts. For information about the Victoria’s Voice Foundation, visit http://www.victoriasiegelfoundation.org.
Lauren Greenfield’s “Generation Wealth” will screen at 8:30 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 18, at The MARC, Park City; 3 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 20, at the Temple Theatre, Park City; 6 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 21, at the Broadway Centre Cinema 6 in Salt Lake City, 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, Jan. 25, at the Prospector Square Theatre, Park City and at 6 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 27, at the Sundance Resort Screening Room, Sundance Resort. For information, visit sundance.org/festivals.
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