- Share this article on Facebook
- Share this article on Twitter
- Share this article on Email
- Show additional share options
- Share this article on Print
- Share this article on Comment
- Share this article on Whatsapp
- Share this article on Linkedin
- Share this article on Reddit
- Share this article on Pinit
- Share this article on Tumblr
Selling Sunset, the hit Netflix reality show about high-priced real estate in Los Angeles has welcomed two new castmembers for season four: Mexican telenovela actress-turned-real estate agent Vanessa Villela and food-product entrepreneur Emma Hernan.
“I joke that Oppenheim Group is Game of Homes,” says the latter of working at the Los Angeles real-estate agency at the center of the series. Co-founded by twins Jason and Brett Oppenheim, the company is otherwise largely populated by a group of women whose interpersonal drama is a key ingredient in the Netflix show’s success, alongside getting to tour its parade of multimillion-dollar, boxy-modernist homes.
But Hernan says that despite the competitiveness and conflict captured on-screen — including a storyline involving a mutual ex that pits her against fellow agent Christine Quinn — behind the cameras, “It’s been really fun. I love working with Jason and Brett and all of the girls. We go out as a work group all the time and we have so much fun together, which is nice when you are actually working with your best friends.”
But while Hernan is new to Selling Sunset, she isn’t new to Oppenheim Group. She joined the real-estate brokerage in 2017 after meeting Jason Oppenheim at Catch restaurant in West Hollywood.
“I was looking for my first home and we just hit it off,” says Hernan, over a coffee at Conservatory in West Hollywood. “It was recommended to me by somebody, ‘You have to use Jason. He’s the best broker in L.A.’ So, I met him, we exchanged information, and he helped me find my first property that I purchased, actually right near his house — literally across the street.”
It was Jason who suggested Hernan become a real estate agent. “Because we were going around looking at homes and I was picking everything up really fast. He was like, ‘You have to get your license,'” says Hernan, who earlier this year, along with Jason, sold a home owned by electronic music star Alesso for $6.35 million.
The agent and former model — who grew up in the Boston area and is also an investor and entrepreneur who founded her own vegan food company, Emma Leigh & Co. — talked with The Hollywood Reporter about why she joined the show this season, why she thinks it’s become a hit and how she got her start investing money as a teenager.
Why didn’t you join the show until season four?
I was more focused on other things. I was investing really heavily in different startups and taking meetings, and I was in Boston starting my food company. And then I got more involved in actually selling, buying, taking clients. So Jason was like, “You have to come on the show.”
What is it like working with Jason and his girlfriend, Chrishell Stause?
I love seeing them together. They are so cute. They are genuinely in love and genuinely hardworking people, and it’s nice to be around them.
Why do you think the show is such a success?
Selling Sunset does so well because you kind of hit a little bit of everything. You hit the real estate. You hit the fashion. You hit a lot of different dynamics and relationships. People like to watch relationships as well as real estate. And then, of course, the real estate is probably the best in the world. Seeing these homes in the Hills is what people dream about. This season is I think the best that it’s ever been. We’re adding a lot more girls. It’s definitely a larger group of women in the office, so that’s always interesting dynamics.
Where did you grow up?
All of my family’s in Boston. I grew up south of Boston, a small little beach town called Scituate. I was in the food industry my entire life. My grandfather started a company — it was really small — he was making crab cakes out of his kitchen.
How did you get into investing?
I started at a really young age. I was taking care of this family. I was a nanny and the father went to Harvard. When I would put the kids down for a nap, instead of watching TV like most babysitters, I looked at — I saw his Christmas bonus. It was a very big Christmas bonus.
So that inspired you?
My father was a firefighter. My mom was a stay-at-home mom. My parents didn’t know anything about stocks. And so I took all my babysitting money, all my modeling money and started investing it in health care, in stocks. Now mind you, I’m only 14 years old. When I first started doing this, I saved every penny. And then when my grandfather passed away, in order to get the company where it is today, I was lending my family money in order to get equipment, for payroll. I’m 16 years old and I’m lending my family hundreds of thousands of dollars to get this company [Yankee Trader Seafood] going and grow it to where it is today. Now it’s a multimillion-dollar company.
How did you get interested in real estate?
Once you are starting to make a lot of money and stuff like that, you transition into real estate. I feel like it’s only natural. Real estate is one of the best investments you could possibly make.
Among the food products your company sells are vegan empanadas. Where can people find them?
I just heard from Costco that they are taking it, which is huge. I’ve already been on QVC with some of my items. They are on all of the major retailers on the East Coast. Honestly, to be a female entrepreneur is really important for me. Trust me, I’ve walked into meetings before where people will literally laugh.
Because people get a picture of what you look like and they think you’re in the wrong spot. I’ve had to prove myself more than most people because you can be judged on your appearance. So I’ve always wanted to work so hard and give back to my family, and that’s what drives me. I want some young girl to watch the show and be like, “Wow, I have a passion.” And maybe they can go out and start a company. I want to inspire people and that’s why I went on [the show] and — as cliché as it sounds — it’s true. So, if I can change somebody’s life out there, I want to be able to do that.
Sign up for THR news straight to your inbox every day