Alison Victoria Says New Season of 'Windy City Rehab' Is a 'Fresh Start' After Split from Costar (Exclusive)
"I was at a place where I didn't know if I even wanted to do this anymore," the HGTV star tells PEOPLE of her tumultuous previous season
Alison Victoria is turning a new page after a drama-filled few years.
The Windy City Rehab star spoke with PEOPLE about the new season of her HGTV show, which features Victoria renovating stunning homes in her native Chicago and beyond. The eight-episode season marks a new chapter for the design expert, who cut ties with her business partner and co-star Donovan Eckhardt, in 2020 after his alleged mishandling of company finances.
"For me, it's such a fresh start after going through so much and feeling…this breath of fresh air," she tells PEOPLE, adding that she and her former business partner no longer speak.
Over the course of the previous season, Eckhardt had his general contractor and developer licenses suspended by the city of Chicago over violations, and he and Victoria faced down stop-work orders and serious legal troubles. Now, with those professional woes behind her, Victoria says fans can see a different version of her.
"They're going to see the version of me that I've always been, that unfortunately was completely clouded by the stress and anxiety of multiple lawsuits and a pandemic and not knowing what was going to happen next," she says.
Related:Windy City Rehab's Alison Victoria on Finding HGTV Fame: 'I Always Knew Exactly What I Wanted'
While she feels positive coming out on the other side, Victoria admits she wasn't sure about the future of her design career or HGTV gig ahead of the new season.
"I was at a place where I didn't know if I even wanted to do this anymore. I felt myself flipping and reevaluating things to say like, 'Do I really even want to be in this business anymore?'" she recalls.
The designer took a month off last year and "escaped to my favorite place on earth," Paris, where she had an "aha" moment.
"I was like, 'Okay, everybody has to leave me alone. I'm not going to take work calls. I'm just going to relax. I'm going to go walk the streets of Paris, and I'm going to shop," she says. "And the first trip that I made in Paris, the day I landed, was to my favorite place, which is the Paris Flea Market. I started to find all these pieces, and then I started to realize that this is what I'm supposed to do."
Related:Windy City Rehab's Alison Victoria Cuts Ties with Costar After Alleged Questionable Payouts
She continues: "I ended up calling production and I was like, 'Okay, fine, we can film. Let's film.' A week later, I had camera crews in Paris and we were filming."
This season spotlights Victoria adding her own spin on spaces from the City of Love to Los Angeles and Las Vegas. In each renovation, she focuses on reestablishing a home's original charm.
"When I walk in the homes, most of the history has been stripped out. For me, it feels like it's my job to put it back in," she says. "And so it's like taking these really historic pieces from wherever I find them, breathing new life into them and then in turn breathing new life into the spaces and creating a new history for the pieces."
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It's through these moments, she says, the show shows her true craft.
"What I love about Windy City Rehab and why I created this show years ago was to show the truth of the business. There are no smoke and mirrors in my show, it's just very docuseries. So as things unfold and happen, the cameras are there. These aren't set up scenes," she says.
Even though the design process is "grueling and definitely not for the weak," Victoria says her clients' reactions to home reveals make everything worth it.
"It's so emotional. And it's so beautiful at the end of some of these when you're letting them back into their homes and you're just being flooded with love and emotion," she says. "I love that part of my job."
After her own business troubles, Victoria says advocating for her clients, who become 'family," is constantly top of mind — especially this season.
"Every single client goes through an emotional rollercoaster during this process. You start to feel their fear and you start to see and watch their doubts and then I have to make sure that I am protecting them," she says. "So if there's a subcontractor who's screwing over one of my clients, I'm not going to let that happen. I'm going to make sure that I figure out what's going down and hold these people accountable because that was done to me and I'm not going to watch something like that happen."
After Victoria's much-needed "reset," she has plenty of wisdom to give to viewers and clients alike on this new season of the HGTV show.
"I love being able to show people how to push through and persevere and to just be patient, which is something I've learned," she says. "I wasn't the most patient person in the world. I realized through everything I went through that I can only focus on the things I can control."
The new season of Windy City premieres on HGTV on Tuesday, May 23, at 9 p.m. ET/PT.
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