It is the night before Thanksgiving when Christine Quinn calls from the home she shares with her husband in the Hollywood Hills. We find Christine in atypically domestic mode. Dogs yap around her. Last minute cooking is happening. ‘I’ll probably be up for another two hours,’ she notes. It is currently midnight, LA time. ‘What can I say? I’m a night owl. And I make everything from scratch, all homemade.’
The Quinn household ‘Friendsgiving’ menu will comprise honey-glazed ham, green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole, carrots, sausage balls, home-made bread and cranberry sauce with Grand Marnier and orange zest. ‘So, it’s a whole shit-show,’ she clarifies. ‘But in a good way.’
‘What else?’ Quinn’s interview manner, like her TV persona, is brilliantly no-filter, upbeat, straight-shooting. One of many reasons she has become the most compelling star of Netflix’s smash hit property/reality TV show, Selling Sunset, is her refusal to slot into the hazy kindness zone now monopolised by celebrities. ‘I even do homemade, distilled ice cubes,’ she continues. ‘I have rosemary and lemon and I have a waiter coming tomorrow to help me out. It’s very casual.’
Selling Sunset follows the trials, travails and interpersonal gossip of six co-workers at The Oppenheim Group, a ranch-style West Hollywood real estate brokerage catering to the house shopping tastes of the top 1% LA earners. From the first episode in 2018, Christine was the realtor you couldn’t take your eyes off. She felt very famous, very quickly and each of the two seasons since has built on her essence of extra. ‘Oh my god, I love you for that that,’ she says. ‘I love being extra. I love being called extra. I love all things extra. Extra is such a compliment to me.’
Because she is so extra, Christine has her haters. She couldn’t care less. ‘I understand that I’m not everyone’s cup of tea. Some people like coffee, some people like soda. I happen to like Earl Grey and think it’s fabulous.’ Fabulousness is another recurring theme in Quinn-speak. ‘We haven’t seen enough women in business standing on their own, not depending on a man. Where they are smart, witty and fabulous, fashionable as hell and quick-tongued. We haven’t had enough of those role models.’
Enter the Oppenheim Group Power Six, the Charlie’s Angels of generation Rightmove. Christine, Mary (‘she’s consistent’), Chrishell (‘I’m trying to think of the word. I would just say she fools people’), Davina (‘ambitious AF’), Maya (‘on camera, very neutral but in real life: gossip hound. I love that about her’) and Heather (‘Karen from Mean Girls’) emerged as an instantly familiar synthesis of The Apprentice and The Pussycat Dolls. ‘I believe we’re a very dysfunctional but still loving sisterhood,’ she says.
They dovetailed perfectly with the blunt commercial end of Trump’s America, overseen by two obscenely wealthy, self-made, bald, trim 5’3” siblings in bootcut denim called Bret and Jason. Perhaps reflecting Kamala Harris’s America to come (‘I just hope things get better,’ is Christine’s sweet, abbreviated judgement on the Biden win), all the men in Selling Sunset are positioned, intentionally as the little people. Mary’s husband looks like an underwear model and can’t speak proper English. Maya and Heather’s are both positioned out of town.
Christine’s husband is a multi-millionaire retired businessman who rode the tech wave, Christian Richard. He emerged from her high school years on his own property search at the start of season two, and they married season three.
Christine wore a black wedding dress. ‘Everyone loves white but it’s so cliché,’ she says. ‘I wanted to have an event, a party, I wanted to have something memorable that is bold and leaves people pondering. It was very unapologetic. That was my overall theme for the wedding and it’s my overall theme for life.’
Quinn’s brand of easy-access glamour is old-school, acquisitive, spike-heeled, quick-witted and camp, unusual assets for an estate agent. ‘Some of those walk-aways,’ she says of the Oppenheim Group Power Six closing a deal in killer heels, flouncing away from camera down a Melrose Avenue sidewalk, ‘are beyond camp.’ Sometimes they feel like a backchatting variant of the Queer Eyes. ‘I see that. We’re both facilitating dreams.’
Selling Sunset began life when former The Hills and Laguna Beach producer Adam DiVello spotted the yearly billboard Bret and Jason put up for the brokerage slap bang in the middle of Sunset Boulevard. ‘He was like, what is this? It’s a modelling agency? Real Estate?’ Several approaches were made to the brothers, who remained reticent. For Quinn, a woman who had arrived in LA six years previously to model and act, there were no reservations. ‘I was the first one who was jumping up and down. I’m that girl. I always have been.’
A pilot episode was shopped around and rejected by every cable Network in America. ‘I have six-inch roots in that pilot because I was told we were going to re-shoot it,’ she says. ‘Whatever.’ Netflix picked up the option, guaranteeing global exposure for the girls, ‘which was obviously the one that we wanted. It’s huge.’
The first two seasons built significant cult appeal. Season Three arrived at the beginning of the first Coronavirus lockdown panic, a scheduling win DeVillo could not possibly have engineered. Suddenly nobody was allowed into offices or workplaces. The Oppenheim Power Six plugged that watercooler gap singlehandedly. A TV phenomenon was born.
‘Season one did OK,’ says Christine, ‘two was pretty good, but in quarantine we were all looking for that glimmer of hope, everything we weren’t getting in the moment. It was all so dull and dark and scary and uncertain and everything about Selling Sunset was so certain and so glamorous. It was something everyone needed, just to get away. It came out at the perfect time.’ She pauses. ‘Who knew we would miss work so much? We always love what we don’t have, right?’
Christine Quinn’s backstory is a whole West Hollywood glow-up of its own. She was born in small town Texas – ‘honestly, people used to drive horses to the grocery store in the town I come from’ – and fell out of High School to nurse her ailing mother. As a kid, she would stare at postcards of the sun-drenched, palm-lined Boulevards of Los Angeles, dreaming of fame. ‘My first impressions of Sunset were these huge billboards, these places that I’d heard of that I couldn’t believe you could actually go in.’ Now she plays it with the sparkly efficiency of a Monopoly game. At 23, she made the move. ‘It’s half a mile of pure history,’ she says. ‘It’s a very concentrated, glamorous, historical street. I totally see the love and the draw of it.’
When she first arrived in the city, Christine spent weeks trying to locate Rodeo Drive on a phone with crappy GPS. ‘There are two, and one is residential,’ she points out, ‘All I wanted was to drive down there and, for the life of me my phone could not find the real one. I was searching for forever. I finally found it.’ When her acting dreams came to a standstill, she resourcefully stepped into real estate after a chance meeting with Jason. ‘He said, “you’re good with people. You can do this.”’
As a bellwether of how far she came in her second-choice career, Christine Quinn moved into the Pretty Woman hotel, the Beverly Wilshire, at the South End of Rodeo Drive for six months while her and Christian’s house was being reconfigured to their satisfaction. ‘Long story short: it’s haunted.’
By Julia Roberts and Richard Gere?
‘No! They say there was an older blonde woman who haunts the hotel and I do believe it, because we had some… experiences. But living there was really, really iconic. I couldn’t believe we were there?” Christine says the Sunset listing she would most like to sell is The Chateau Marmont Hotel. ‘A safe place for lunch for all of us.’ The last time she was dining in the garden, she spotted Lana Del Rey.
What Selling Sunset, and by default the sheer charismatic pluck of Christine Quinn, offers is a property television show with knobs on, a platinum plated, superannuated Location Location Location on steroids. She’s an anglophile and fan of British TV but has never heard of Kirstie and Phil. ‘I love Gemma Collins and Strictly and Phil and, oh, what’s her name?’
You love… This Morning?
‘Right? Phil and Holly! Amazing.’
Christine calls herself a ‘gothic Barbie dominatrix.’ When quizzed on the exact shade of blonde of her hair, she quickly switches from ‘a light ash honey blonde’ to ‘a light ash champagne blonde. That’s better, right?’ Her colourist (‘all over my Instagram page’) will be one of the guests for her Friendsgiving tomorrow.
‘He was so funny,’ she says. ‘He said what are you going to wear? I said oh, you know, just pyjamas. He said “don’t be silly, bitch, I’ll be here at five doing your makeup and hair”. Yeah, you’re right, who am I kidding? I try!’
Gossip about season four Selling Sunset has already begun apace. There has been no official announcement from Netflix when we speak, but the gossip website TMZ has confirmed it. On the phone, as in life, Christine cannot keep quiet. She’s not the silenced type. So, we wish her good luck for if – sorry, when – filming starts again, estimating she has approximately three hours sleep between cooking and hair and makeup for tomorrow’s festivities.
‘Thank you,’ she gasps. She really is a sweetie. ‘You mean for seasons four and five?’
She chuckles to herself.
‘Did I say that? Oops!’
Photographer: Maggie Shannon. Stylist: Chris Campbell. Hair: Jason Hair. Makeup: Eros Mua. Christmas floral design: @ilfloraldesign Videographer: @austinnelsonphoto
Creative Director: Carolyn Roberts. Picture Director: Nathan Higham Grady.