It has become this summer’s guilty pleasure. An intoxicating mix of blonde women estate agents with fake tans, tiny dresses and sky-high heels fighting to close deals on multi-million-dollar homes in glamorous Hollywood.
But now Selling Sunset, the highest rated show on Netflix either side of the Atlantic, has been caught up in a fakery row, with claims that the action is scripted and the glamorous stars are not even genuine estate agents.
The Mail on Sunday has established that many of the characters are models or actors, while public records show they have sold suspiciously few properties.
Chrishell Stause and Mary Fitzgerald have both sold just five homes since Selling Sunset started filming in 2018 sparking accusations the reality show is based on fake action
And while British viewers of Made In Chelsea or The Only Way Is Essex might be used to the fuzzy edges of ‘structured reality’, this is America, where such things are taken seriously.
The show’s premise is simple: twin brothers Brett and Jason Oppenheim run their high-end estate agency The Oppenheim Group from designer offices on LA’s Sunset Strip.
The agency is so hip that the office tables are made from recycled Boeing 747 parts.
But it is the women in the show – all meticulously coiffed, with their £10,000 Hermes handbags, Jimmy Choo heels and tiny designer dresses – who are the real ‘stars’ as they show mansions to the ultra-wealthy and discuss the most intimate details of their complicated love lives, all while wearing gorgeous gowns or barely-there mini-dresses.
The show debuted early last year to less than stellar ratings and seemed destined to wallow in obscurity until Covid-19 and lockdown.
Now, even celebrities such as Orlando Bloom and Katy Perry – who could conceivably afford the houses on view – are watching.
Beverly Hills estate agent Brianna King, of Rodeo Realty, said: ‘It’s the ultimate in escapist television. It’s a throwback to a different era.
‘You have beautiful people showing off these amazing homes with sweeping views over Los Angeles and then you get to follow them as they go out to drink cocktails and have catfights in gorgeous restaurants. What’s not to love?
‘It’s beautiful people in beautiful houses. It doesn’t get any more therapeutic than that.’
But that was before Chrissy Teigen, the former supermodel married to singer John Legend, publicly questioned if any of the women on the show were genuine property experts.
Teigen, who has 13 million Twitter followers, said: ‘I look at LA real estate a lot and have never seen any of these people, neither have our agents who I have obsessively asked.’
Mary Fitzgerald, pictured in the office, is said to have met husband, Romain Bonnet, when he was a struggling pastry chef and she showed him properties to rent, despite the face a pastry chef could hardly afford a room. In fact, Bonnet is signed to a leading model agency.
Another long-time LA broker, who has been in the business for 30 years, told the MoS: ‘The Oppenheim brothers are the real deal but none of us have ever come across the women they have working for them.
‘It’s clear these “girls”, as they call them on the show, were hired to make the show sizzle.’
While it’s true the cast members have legitimate estate agent licenses – having registered with the state-run California Department of Real Estate – the MoS has established that some, such as Chrishell Stause and Amanza Smith, only acquired theirs shortly before the show started filming.
And it appears the ‘girls’ have not sold that much property. Stause and Mary Fitzgerald have both sold just five homes since the show started filming in 2018.
Davina Potratz and Maya Vander have each sold just one. When asked about her solitary sale, Potratz laughed and said: ‘So cool to see she [Teigen] is watching our show.’
One estate agent told the MoS: ‘Those selling figures aren’t great by anyone’s standards.
‘No one is selling anything during the pandemic, but the figures seem to suggest the show may be relying on the women to add drama and beauty rather than cold, hard sales.’
While the series builds up the women’s back stories for dramatic effect (Stause was raised in abject poverty and admits she ‘smelled’ after becoming homeless), it fails to mention that many were already working in showbusiness when Selling Sunset was cast.
Stause is a bit-part actress who appeared on US soaps All My Children and Days Of Our Lives.
Her crumbling marriage and subsequent divorce from actor husband Justin Hartley is heavily featured in season three of the show, which is now available.
Fitzgerald is said to have met toy-boy husband, French-born Romain Bonnet, when he arrived in LA as a struggling pastry chef and she showed him properties to rent, despite the fact most struggling French pastry chefs could not afford even a room in the fabulous homes. In fact, Bonnet, a 6ft 4in hunk, is signed to a leading model agency.
Chrishell Stause, pictured at a friend’s wedding, only acquired her real estate licence from California Department of Real Estate shortly before Selling Sunset began filming in 2018
A Selling Sunset insider says: ‘The show portrays the cast as people who have been in the world of real estate for ever.
‘While that is true for some of the women, others were brought on board simply for their looks and acting ability.
‘But, hey, this is Hollywood. It’s all smoke and mirrors. When you have the number one show, that is all that counts. No one is hurting anyone.’
Last night, Jason Oppenheim said: ‘All of the women who work out of the Oppenheim group are licensed and successful real estate agents.
‘We have more than $200million in active listings, we are in a dozen escrows (the step before final sale) and anticipate our most successful year ever, despite the pandemic.
‘The show has created opportunities for the women beyond real estate, including collaborative brands, TV and press appearances.’