How I went from a North London council estate to stardom on TV’s ritziest, bitchiest show: Chelsea Lazkani is the new (and delightfully diva-ish) super-agent on Netflix smash hit Selling Sunset
- British-born Chelsea Lazkani, 29, is the latest star to join Netflix’s Selling Sunset
- Hollywood Hills is a long way from Barnet north London where Chelsea was born
- Chelsea says that that the show doesn’t reflect the women’s lives accurately
The first time viewers see real estate agent Chelsea Lazkani on screen in Selling Sunset she is conducting a house viewing while wearing a crystal-embellished ruched mini dress by Balmain.
She’s teamed it with white sequinned Versace stilettos and Van Cleef & Arpels jewellery. You don’t get that at Foxtons. But, then again, Foxtons isn’t selling £30million houses in Los Angeles.
British-born Chelsea, 29, is the latest star to join the most popular reality show on Netflix about The Oppenheim Group in West Hollywood, where luxury houses are sold by agents who look like they’ve stepped off the pages of a Victoria’s Secret catalogue.
With her endless legs and eye-catching figure, Chelsea is no different. Chatting to me from her home in Manhattan Beach, she tells me she is currently attempting to sell a house for £18million and has two people who are very interested.
British-born Chelsea Lazkani, 29, (pictured) is the latest star to join Netflix’s Selling Sunset. She says the Hollywood Hills are a long way from Barnet north London where she was born
What’s the commission on that, I wonder? ‘A lot! Many hundreds of thousands,’ she says. Anybody watching the show will know that the agency can earn up to £600,000 commission for a single high-value sale.
‘The top realtors in LA, I’m telling you, are making four or five million dollars a year. I’m not one of them though,’ she says. ‘The seriously super rich are the fewest clients I have but, of course, they’re the ones who make good TV. I have many first-time home buyers or people looking for investment properties in the one to three million dollar range.’
Either way, selling luxury homes in the Hollywood Hills is a long way from Barnet, North London, where Chelsea was born. The daughter of Nigerian immigrants, she recalls her parents struggling to provide for her, her older sister and younger brother.
She reveals: ‘My dad came to the UK when he was 29 and I remember him saying he had £16 in his pocket. At the start of my life we lived in a council house on an estate called Grahame Park, in Mill Hill.’
Although her father, Segun, was an architect, money was tight when he first set up a UK business. Mum Elizabeth, despite having a degree in chemistry, worked in a care home and at Asda to boost the family coffers.
‘When I was seven, Mum moved into corporate work — human resources. I remember them buying their first house in Mill Hill and how proud they were.
Chelsea joins in a toast with co-star Christine Quinn. One aspect of the show Chelsea says doesn’t reflect reality is the suggestion that the women’s lives are an endless round of boozy lunches and over the top ‘staging parties’ where they invite wealthy clients to newly-listed properties
‘When I got to secondary school something changed and we moved into a bigger house in Mill Hill — on a very prestigious street, one my parents had wanted to live on for many years. I saw the absolute pride and joy it brought them.
‘I know that they did everything they could do give their kids the best shot at life.’
Chelsea’s parents instilled in her the importance of an education, so while other teenagers were going to nightclubs and bars, she had her head in a book. ‘My dad always emphasised the value of academia. I was always very serious about school, it was a non-negotiable.’
She did a degree in economics at Buckingham University before completing her Master’s in gas and oil management at Dundee.
Aged 21, she went to LA with the intention of doing a Master of Business Administration degree.
Until, that is, she fell in love. She met her husband Jeff, vice president of a media agency, on her first ever Tinder date.
‘We spoke about 15 times before getting together. I don’t want to waste my time and give my energy to somebody if I don’t think it will be worth it. I felt like I knew him before we even met and the connection was immediate.’
They married two years later, with Chelsea saying: ‘I just got lucky. My husband is amazing and I still wonder how I found this kind of love because it’s so hard.’
The couple have two children, son Maddox, three, and daughter Melia, 18 months. Visitors to Chelsea’s Instagram page will see that the family seems to lead the sort of lavish lifestyle you might imagine one of her clients enjoying, one filled with private jets, ski trips and designer clothes.
Towering five-inch platform heels have become Chelsea’s trademark look. She says that women should be dressing in any way that makes them feel like they can own a room
But she insists it’s not all A-list lifestyle. ‘Instagram is interesting because you see one side of somebody’s life — the best part.
‘Yes, my life is fabulous, it’s absolutely fantastic, but it’s not all vacations and fancy outfits. That’s when I take photos — when I look nice. Ninety per cent of the time my life doesn’t look like that.’
Which is sweet of her to say, but even off duty, slummy mummy she ain’t. In one post — in which she says she was up until 4am trying to soothe her teething toddler — she smiles on a sunlounger dressed in a pink sequinned swimsuit with matching sunglasses. Hardly your average shattered mum.
After having children, Chelsea didn’t want to return to her job as a business strategist and it was Jeff who suggested she try real estate. She worked to get her licence (all U.S agents have to study and pass exams) and, after two years at another company, made her way to The Oppenheim Group, run by twins Jason and Brett, and on to Selling Sunset.
Her debut on the show was an explosive one. She struck up an instant rapport with Christine Quinn, the show’s most controversial star — a Barbie doll of a realtor with a disdain for colleagues and a healthy line in withering put-downs.
As well as selling houses, the women featured seem to be caught in a constant cycle of broken relationships and bitchy fall-outs. The more successful the show has become, the bigger the on-screen dramas, leading some to believe that the ‘reality’ show is largely faked.
Not so, says Chelsea, who insists: ‘Everyone you see selling houses is a licenced realtor. I had to really prove I could do my job and that I didn’t just want to get on TV.
‘Every house you see is a genuine listing. Jason wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s his reputation and livelihood on the line.’
The backstabbing, bitchiness and tears has led to accusations that the show plays to the tired old trope that women can’t work together without resentment and emotions getting in the way.
How does Chelsea feel about that? ‘When I watch the show the drama definitely feels emphasised,’ she says. ‘We might have little tiffs but, ultimately, we are all friends. They don’t see what went on before or afterwards and it can seem a bigger deal than it is.’
Chelsea reveals that she has had many people reach out to her to tell her that she is inpsiring them to get into the housing industry
In the most recent series (the fifth), Christine accuses a colleague of getting better listings by sleeping with the boss and by the end of the series she is suspected of bribing clients not to deal with her rivals.
‘Honestly, when we’re in it, it doesn’t feel like that,’ says Chelsea. ‘Everyone is kind and thoughtful. I’m so close to these girls and I wouldn’t have a relationship with them outside of filming if everyone was bitchy.’
Producers encourage the women to speak their mind but insist they don’t tell anybody what to say. But one aspect of the show Chelsea says doesn’t reflect reality is the suggestion that the women’s lives are an endless round of boozy lunches and over the top ‘staging parties’ where they invite wealthy clients to newly-listed properties.
She says: ‘I drove to a client’s house at 10pm the other day because her offer got rejected and I wanted to talk to her about other options. I don’t know of many agents who would do that.
‘I don’t see clients as one deal and that’s it — I see their lifetime value. I’m a workaholic, I’m always working. I was doing paperwork until 2am last night.’
Her adorable son and daughter feature in the show and, unlike her own parents, she is able to give them the finer things in life.
‘My kids own me,’ she laughs. ‘I’m not strict. I want my son to be free. He picks the hairstyle he wants, he chooses his clothes and what he wants to eat. All I ask is that he has a zest for life, wants to learn and is kind. I try to spend two hours a day giving them my undivided attention. I get up really early to get my emails done and get set for the day.
‘I wake my son, get him ready, make his packed lunch then I drop him at preschool.
‘When not filming I’m not super glam. I’m in comfortable clothes and don’t have my hair and make-up done.’
It brings us back to the subject of those clothes, which have gone from smart and business-like to overthe-top and, sometimes, downright outrageous.
The women are filmed strutting in slow motion as they toss their hair and show off their outfits — in Chelsea’s case that includes head-totoe Burberry, a Louis Vuitton coat and micro mini dresses.
‘Nobody gives you a budget for clothes, hair or make-up,’ she tells me. ‘Some of the girls have a stylist but I don’t. Everything I’ve worn I have purchased. Nobody paid me to wear it — it’s all me.
‘If I wear something crazy, then it’s because I put it together. I don’t like fast fashion and I like to be able to wear my clothes many times.’
She adds: ‘I really don’t have an excessive number of bags and accessories, although it may look that way on the show, because I buy timeless, classic pieces.’
Towering five-inch platform heels have become Chelsea’s trademark look and a couple of times she’s nearly come a cropper when she’s ‘done a Naomi’ and lost her footing.
A part of her body that she loves to accentuate is her impressive cleavage in an endless display of daringly low-cut tops and dresses.
Who is she dressing for, I ask? Herself or clients who might be more likely to part with their cash if being persuaded by a beautiful woman in revealing clothes?
‘Oh my God, no,’ she says in horror. ‘I think women should be dressing in any way that makes them feel like they can own a room and be sexy and comfortable and confident. ‘For some that may be a turtleneck and for others it may be showing off their decolletage. When you feel good and confident you’ll provide a better service to your client.
Chelsea pictured with Christine Quinn in episode eight of Selling Sunset, season 5. The bigger the show has become the bigger the drama
‘It doesn’t matter if you want to show your cleavage or not, but you should be able to have that choice and that shouldn’t affect whether you can seal a deal or not.’
‘People are so quick to try to survey what women are wearing and that’s not OK. Clothes don’t affect your ability to conduct business.’
Her cleavage now looks even more impressive. When filming was complete, Chelsea had uplift surgery, after breastfeeding took its toll.
She says: ‘I didn’t get bigger boobs. I breastfed my son for two years and your boobs are never the same afterwards. On the show I would tape them up because a lot of the clothes that I love to wear didn’t fit me properly. I was just trying to lift them back to where they were.’
Botoxed faces and giant duck lips are regular sights on the show, but Chelsea has avoided any other cosmetic tweaks — so far. ‘I haven’t touched my face,’ she says. ‘I’m not saying I won’t, I definitely will. I did try to get Botox but the doctor said I didn’t have any wrinkles yet and I don’t need preventative Botox and to go back in a year’s time.’
Black women are few and far between in the luxury housing market and Chelsea is glad to be blazing a trail.
‘I’ve had so many women tell me they’re inspired by my confidence and they never thought they’d get into the industry but they’re going to try. I’ve had so many messages like that it’s humbling and that makes me happy.
‘The more women who look like me, the more we’ll all succeed together because it will start to become familiar.’
Designer wardrobe, beach house, rich husband and Mercedes aside, is there anything Chelsea misses about home?
‘Kebabs, going into M&S, walking to the shops and bumping into people you know on your local high street,’ she says, reeling off a list of things that sound lovely — but are highly unlikely to ever make it on to her Instagram feed.
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