Chrishell Stause Talks ‘Selling Sunset,’ Finding Peace After Breakups, and Being Slapped by Susan Lucci
The actress-slash-realtor adds author to her resume in a revealing new memoir.
We know Chrishell Stause today as a glamorous celebrity realtor slinging multimillion-dollar homes, but getting there wasn’t easy.
She’s pulling back the curtain on that journey from humble beginnings to the Hollywood hills in her new memoir, Under Construction: Because Living My Best Life Took a Little Work. It’s a tale of facing failure, finding success when it’s least expected, and embracing the ups and downs that come in between.
After growing up in a Kentucky household where money was always short and a house fire once forced her family to live in a tent for a year, Stause first broke into entertainment through soap operas, starring on All My Children, Days of Our Lives, and The Young and the Restless. Then a turn to reality TV supercharged her career: Netflix’s breakout real-estate series Selling Sunset follows Stause and her gorgeous, gossipy colleagues as they rush between palatial estates in sky-high stilettos.
One big reason Stause connected with viewers is that she’s open about heartbreak and how it affects her. She writes in Under Construction that she was tempted to quit the show in 2019, when her husband, This is Us star Justin Hartley, abruptly told her — via text message — that he was filing for divorce. But instead, she bared her soul on television, gaining the support of millions of fans in the process.
Last summer, she found love again with her Selling Sunset co-star Jason Oppenheim — who’s also the president of the real estate group where the show is set. Her book discusses the relationship, but timing prevented her from telling the whole story; after she’d finished the manuscript but before it was published, the couple called it quits over “different wants regarding a family.”
As she prepared to officially put her book out into the world, Stause gave KCM a ring to discuss her evolving attitude toward money, her favorite memories of soap opera stardom, and learning about love in the public eye.
What’s the biggest difference between telling your story in your own book as compared to telling it on reality TV?
Chrishell Stause: In reality TV, you don’t get a say in the edit at all. You don’t know what they’re going to use, so it’s a little more nerve-racking in that sense. And then the book can be nerve-racking in another sense because you have a lot more control, but with that control comes a lot of responsibility and expectation. It’s a challenge I hoped I was up for, and now that the book is done, I’m really proud of it.
You write about how deeply you were affected by the financial instability of your childhood, and now you’re starring on Selling Sunset, where wealth and glamour are central themes. How has your relationship with money changed?
I come from a place where when you do have money, it’s a stick-it-under-the-mattress type of thing. And then I realized the way rich people get richer is by investing. I wasn’t raised to be financially successful, not because my family didn’t want to, but they just didn’t have those tools. They had all the love and support, but in our household, it was more about whether we could pay the rent. There were never conversations about being able to support yourself through college or buying a home or any of those things I just had to learn along the way.
For a long time, I still had that fear of, “I have it right now, but it may go away.” It happened in the past — I had been successful on All My Children and then it got canceled [in 2011], and then when I finally got back on one [Days of Our Lives in 2013], I was written off the show. So many times, the rug got pulled out from under me. I’m proud to finally get to a place where I’m completely independent, whether Selling Sunset goes on and on and on or not. I have a business where I can be successful in my own right, with or without the cameras. So I’m relaxing a little bit and splurging here and there. But I do think I’m still a little cheaper than somebody would be if they were raised differently.
You talk about lots of those projects that didn’t work out, like almost starring on The Bachelorette. What does that rejection teach you?
If you look at those things as a gift, instead of the failure that it is in the moment, you start to build a callus to it a little bit. There’s way more rejection than success in the acting world, and that helped form me. When these things happen, I just think, “Well, it wasn’t meant to be, and I’m going to move on.” But that’s a skill I have now acquired. Failure is an intricate part of success, and after having had so much failure, I can now see it for what it is.
Speaking of failure, you say in the book that “divorce can make you feel like a failure as a person.” How did having a public split at the same time Selling Sunset was taking off influence the way you felt about yourself and your success?
In the moment, that felt like the biggest failure to date. Then there was the anxiety of the show coming out and what I expected to be the public humiliation of having to talk about something that was truly the last thing I was in the place to talk about. I was still just trying to put one foot in front of the other. And once the show did come out, the success of that season was the last thing I expected. We were in the middle of Covid and there was the fear of not being able to connect with people, and yet all these people were connecting and sharing their stories with me. I found a tribe of women, and I felt really supported.
The success of the show pulled me through a tough time, but it wasn’t about the career success. It was more about the fact that so many people helped to support my mental space as I’m going through therapy and trying to work on myself. It was about that big lesson that failure is OK, and I can pick up and start over. It helped me get back on my feet and figure out who I was. It reminded me that this is not the end. Get off your ass, get out of bed, go take a shower, and pull it together.
To pivot to another relationship, you were still dating Jason at the time you finished writing. Now that the relationship has ended, do you wish you had been able to address that in the book before it was published?
Sometimes the same thing happens with Selling Sunset — by the time it comes out, things have changed. I do wish I could add a little insert at the end, but it would not change how I feel for Jason. I love him dearly, and it’s the relationship I’m most proud of. It’s bittersweet, but he’s still my best friend. I did write it from a point of view that I knew this was somebody who was very important in my life, no matter what happened, and that speaks to how much I’ve grown and how I really knew who I was when I entered into this relationship.
So yes, when the deadlines were in, we were still together. But this is life, and I’m under construction. If anything, it shows that things are always ever-changing. I’m never going to get to a place where I’ve figured it out. Life normally doesn’t end up exactly the way you planned it — and for a lot of us, it’s not anywhere close. The joy in life is embracing that and being able to go with the flow and do your best.
What are your favorite memories of working in soap operas?
Oh my gosh, I remember the first day I got to work with Susan Lucci. It was a scene where she ends up slapping me. I relished every single moment of it. That’s one of my favorites because even in the moment, I was so aware of how iconic it was that not only have I made it on a soap, but I get to be slapped by [her character] Erica Kane.
And then also just filming my opening sequence, where you kind of turn to the camera. I remember having practiced that so many times as a kid, just being silly in the mirror, because I would watch these soaps and idolize these women. Then here I am actually filming that opening sequence, and of course, you’re trying to give a sultry look, but in the moment, I was trying so hard not to cry. I couldn’t believe I had done that for hours on end as a kid and here I was, really doing it.
You must have manifested it by putting that energy out there for so long.
I think so. Too bad I didn’t manifest when I would practice Whitney Houston singing over and over. I never manifested her vocals, but I did manifest the soap opening sequence.
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