Emma Hernan loves making money, and is really good at it. When she babysat as a teenager, she’d look at the stock portfolios of rich dads after putting the kids to bed. She pooled her earnings from modeling, babysitting, and working at ice cream shops to start investing before she even went to prom. Hernan is also an angel investor for startups, invests in crypto, and is the CEO and owner of a plant-based food company, Emma Leigh & Co. (her secret ingredient? “LOVE.”) It’s one reason she’ll probably succeed as the newest cast member of Selling Sunset, Netflix’s reality TV show about real estate agents slinging high-end homes with the luxury real estate company the Oppenheim Group in Los Angeles, which premieres its fourth season later this year.
“I always say I’m running around like a chicken with my head cut off, but I wouldn’t change it and I wouldn’t have it any other way,” she says. “I love working. I love making money. I love inspiring people.”
It’s impossible to talk to Hernan without envisioning the word “girlboss” flashing in big lights above her. She referred to herself as a “woman entrepreneur” three times during our 15-minute interview, and as “unique” another three times. Selling Sunset is, after all, a show about “girl bosses” without ever having to say that. It’s obvious: We watch real estate agents in stilettos brave construction sites and demanding clients to make commissions of hundreds of thousands of dollars. But where will Hernan’s overt, 2016-era, girlboss energy fall among a cast that’s already clearly defined their roles? Christine Quinn is the wild card and bonafide star; Chrishell Stause is the sweet deer in headlights; Mary Fitzgerald is the romantic; Amanza Smith is the strong, single mom — but they’re all hustling.
Hernan is as confident as they come, and says she wasn’t worried about finding her role. “I feel like I’m a pretty unique person. I have my own story. I’m pretty different than everyone on the cast in just a different way,” she says. “I’m a woman entrepreneur. I've been in business for a while now. I’ve been CEO of my company, so I bring something a little different to the show.”
It begs a bigger question for the show: During our Great Resignation, when people are happier about quitting jobs than they are getting them — where does such a work-oriented show fit in? And where does Hernan and her brand of hustle fit in? We’ll know soon enough. In Hernan’s words, Season 4 is the series’ “juiciest season to come.”
Tell me about your journey to being on Selling Sunset?
I got into real estate three years ago when I bought my first property and I bought it with Jason. I was always going around looking at real estate with Jason and Brett every weekend and they were like, “You have to get your license. You pick up knowledge like a sponge.” And I thought, you know what? That makes sense. I’m going to be buying more property myself, whether it be an investment property or property for my family or whatever it may be and and that’s how I transitioned into, “OK, I’m gonna focus on getting my license,” and Jason was like, “You have to get it and you have to hang your license with me right away,” so that’s how I ended up getting into real estate and obviously, of course there’s no better brokerage to work with than the Oppenheim group, and Jason and Brett are genuinely like my big brothers.
So were you around the office when those first seasons were shooting?
I wasn’t around the office. They were actually shooting and doing all of that, I can do the deals remotely, so at that point I chose to kind of do all my deals somewhere else. There’s a lot of girls in the office, so I chose to do my deals separately and do my own thing, and this year I decided to come in full time and be in the office, so when I was there before, I was just kind of more hidden in the background.
Did you consider being a part of the show earlier on, or did you want to see what it would be like first?
At that point, I was focused on other things. I had a lot of investments and things that were taking off and to be honest, I think that was important the way that I did it because all the people I met through the angel investing I did and the CEOs I met through my food company, they’re all buying houses now from me and they all respect me because we’re in the same industry. We’re actually equals and we’re doing the same deals, so now they’re all using me to buy homes and I’m buying and selling some of the biggest homes on the show this year. It was a nice transition and I wouldn't change it for the world. I feel like everything happens the way it’s supposed to, and that was my journey.
What has it been like to go from working as a real estate agent and doing all these other things to going in every day and having the work you’re doing be filmed?
When I signed on to do the show, I was definitely... not hesitant, but I didn’t know exactly what I was signing up for, and to be honest, it’s been very second nature to me. I’m very comfortable with the cameras around. I’m 100% myself, whether it's on camera, off camera and I think it's important to stay genuine to who you are. I’m a hard worker, super business-oriented, woman entrepreneur, but I’m also funny, so you really get to see my personality and what makes me who I am and having the cameras around I definitely feel more comfortable than I thought that I ever would.
Much of the cast used to be models and actors. Do you feel like that helps with being used to being in front of a camera?
Yeah and I think another big thing that really helped is I’m not meeting all of these people for the first time. I know these people; these people are like my family. Mary and Chrishell and all these people, they’re genuinely my really close friends. Jason and Brett, they’re genuinely my really really close friends; they’re like my big brothers and have been for years. I’m talking, we’d spend like five days of the week with each other and yeah I’m comfortable in front of the camera, but I’m also comfortable with the people that I know and love.
What was it like to come into a reality show that’s been on for a few years where people already have their established roles and dynamics?
I came on feeling pretty confident. I feel like I’m a pretty unique person. I have my own story. I’m pretty different than everyone on the cast in just a different way. I’m a woman entrepreneur. I've been in business for a while now. I’ve been CEO of my company, so I bring something a little different to the show and you’ll get to see that and it’s really interesting to watch my story and see how I accomplished everything I accomplished. I worked very hard my entire life. We all have different stories, but we all kind of form well together at the same time.
I’d love to hear more about your story and what makes you different and how you got into investing.
This is a funny story. I love kids. I'm super family-oriented. When I was in middle school and high school, I’d always nanny. I was taking care of this family and the husband did very well. He had gone to Harvard and was into the stock market and when I put the kids down to nap, instead of watching TV, I would look at all these stocks he was investing in and I kind of became infatuated with what he was doing and I may or may not have saw what the bonus was he was getting for Christmas and I was like, “Wow if that’s your Christmas bonus, that’s insane.”
At a really young age I took all my modeling money, all my babysitting money, all my ice cream money — I worked at every store, I loved working — and I started investing in the stock market and health care. I self-taught myself, just by reading and learning and that’s how I got into investing. From there, I moved to LA and started angel investing in different startups, so I started in the stock market, then startups, now crypto, and now real estate, so I definitely feel like I have a really unique story. And then I started my own food company and I partnered with Beyond Meat. My story is unique. I have a 100% woman-owned company, so that’s been important for me to showcase as well. I want to inspire young girls to go out there and work as hard as they can and they can go and accomplish everything I have and more.
Where do you feel like is a good place for young people to start investing?
When it comes to starting off, you definitely want to start off with something that’s safe. I would never advise someone to invest in something that’s super high-risk and they could lose everything, so I think starting off with something like a mutual fund or even a money market to dip your toes in and get your feet wet, because that’s where I started. I was really young when I started, so you're able to be a little more risky when it comes to the investments you make. Those happen to pay off a lot more because when you invest in something that’s risky, it’s definitely very risky — you could lose it all — but you could also 10-times your money like you couldn’t in a mutual fund or a money market. I’ve actually taught my family and close friends how to invest, what to invest in, and what you should read. I’ve made my family a lot of money, which has made a big difference, and I’ve made my friends a lot of money from me teaching them. I hope to do the same with other young girls and guys as well out there.
What do you think about NFTs?
I feel like I didn't get into that as much. I love crypto. I’m definitely getting more involved in that each and every day. NFTs I wasn’t as into. Plenty of my friends and family are into it, but you never want to get in when you’ve already missed the boat. You don’t want to get in when it’s on a high. I missed the growth and I would never want to get in on the high and that's the problem with people who don’t know a ton about investing. They want to buy when it’s going up, up, up, up, up, but you actually need to buy when things are down. It’s a hard thing to learn.
Do you still run your other companies alongside doing real estate full time and being on the show?
Oh yeah, I’m a busy woman. I run my food company and I am 100% hands-on. I bought my manufacturing facility back in Boston. It’s really cool to see. I bought an empanada machine, a spring roll machine. It’s crazy to go in and see that. I run that and I own it 100%. I’ve had offers from top VC funds and individuals asking to invest and I haven’t given up any equity or anything yet. I do all of that and real estate as well, so I have a million deals going on.
When it comes to investing, that’s what’s great about crypto and throwing money into a startup, you don’t have to do anything for that. It’s almost like passive income. So that makes it easier because I have real estate and I have my food company and those go hand in hand and that’s where I put the majority of my energy into.
Is it hard to actually get work done at work when there's a camera there all the time?
At the beginning it was for sure. It’s a new experience and there’s cameras around and you're trying to get work done. But a month in, you’re like, “OK if I don’t take this phone call, if I don’t set up this showing, then I’m never going to get work done,” so you just start getting used to it and you start doing it.
At first, I was coming home, I was up until 1, 2 a.m. just working nonstop because I wasn't getting as much done and now I'm so used to it, it's almost like second nature. Now I’m able to multitask when it comes to getting my work done and having the cameras there. I’m doing like 10 jobs at once. I always say I’m running around like a chicken with my head cut off, but I wouldn’t change it and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love working. I love making money. I love inspiring people and I love helping other people out as well.
What can you tell us about Season 4?
Of course I can’t share too many details, but you've seen the show, so I will say: Hands down, Season 4 will be the juiciest season to come and I am not exaggerating in the slightest bit.
You have to tell me: Is Christine as fabulous and wild off-screen as she is on-screen?
I’ll say no comment on that one. I’ll leave that one a “no comment.”
Why do you think Selling Sunset resonates so much with people?
I think for so many people, they’re able to connect. If you’re a woman into fashion, you get to see these crazy fashion moments. There's a lot of relationships in the show as well. You get to see a love story, and come on, who doesn’t love a love story? So to see that play out, I think that really resonates with women. I think that the guys really like it because — trust me, plenty of my guy friends love seeing the show — and for them, they love seeing the real estate, so I think that’s why the show is so big because you have the females who love to see the fashion, the drama, the relationships, and for the guys you get to see these amazing homes. And of course, guys don’t like to admit it, but they like to see a little of the relationships, a little drama and all that, and of course: beautiful girls.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.