Cover Vanessa Villela made her debut appearance in the first episode of the fourth season of Selling Sunset (Image: Courtesy of Neflix)

Having made her debut on season four of Netflix’s Selling Sunset, former soap opera actress Vanessa Villela talks to Tatler about coping with Covid-19, her realtor career, and what might possibly happen in season five

Anyone who has blitzed through the entire season four of Netflix series Selling Sunset would know Vanessa Villela for her sunny disposition. Five minutes into our Zoom call, her warm personality and infectious laughter simply reaffirmed the fact. 

“I don’t enjoy feeling unhappy, so I will do anything that will help my mind or spirit to feel lighter and more vibrant,” says former telenovela actress turned real estate agent, from her home in Los Angeles. Villela is one of the two new additions to the fourth season of Selling Sunset—the other being Emma Hernan—which revolves around the private and professional lives of several agents in the Oppenheim Group, a luxury real estate brokerage firm based in Los Angeles.

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Her recovery from Covid-19

The newest cast member is a trooper, immediately jumping into the fray of the show bristling with energy. Her dynamic spirit often serves her well in life, especially when she encountered a major setback in August last year. 

“I had to miss five out of 11 weeks of filming [season five of Selling Sunset] because I was diagnosed with Covid-19,” she reveals. “In week three, I tried to return to filming. But after just two hours on set, I started filming extremely dizzy, and the production team had to send me back home.”

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Describing her journey as a “really long one that can get frustrating at times”, the real estate agent is still dealing with ongoing symptoms, even till this day. Some of her earlier symptoms include extreme fatigue and brain fog, as well as parosmia—a condition that causes a repugnant smell and alters your sense of taste—and hormonal imbalances, which caused her hair to thin and fall out.

While dealing with Covid-19 and its symptoms have been difficult, Villela is slowly but surely recovering. “I think the reason why everything started to get better was because of my doctor. Thanks to her I was able to start filming again,” she reflects, while encouraging those in a similar position to exercise patience with the medical staff. “The thing is, all of this is new to [the doctors] too. They're trying their best to find the answer for you, and I think we're all learning together.” 

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Her sister inspired her career switch

Through it all, the upbeat real estate agent has kept to her optimistic spirit. “It’s frustrating, but at the same time I feel that sometimes things happen for a reason,” she muses. “The reason this is probably happening to me is so I can share my story with my audience and help people feel less lonely.” 

In a similar thread, Villela switched from acting to real estate as she delights in helping people find their dream homes. Having obtained her license in 2020, she was inspired to kickstart her realtor career thanks to her sister Jackie, as revealed in the first episode when Villela opened up about tragically losing her sister. 

“Before she passed away, my sister suggested for me to enter real estate; with her passing, it pushed me to really go for it,” she shares. “She was absolutely right because I really do love helping people and it makes me so happy.”  

Noting that her new career path has been “opening doors one after the other”, the talented realtor managed to clinch her first listing a month after obtaining her license—a rare feat; fellow cast member Christine Quinn shared that she achieved hers after seven months—and sold her first house before her first year ended. 

“I was jumping and screaming with joy, just like you saw me on the show! I was that excited,” she recalls with a laugh. “It was bittersweet too, because I would love to share the moment with my sister as she’s the one who got me into this. That was the only part that was a little sad, but other than that, I was so happy.”   

While being a real estate agent might be new for Villela, being in front of the cameras isn’t. “I’ve been around cameras since I was four years old, so I’m used to them,” she says. “I was more nervous meeting the cast. As an actress my entire life, I know that sometimes it can be tough working with successful women, and the environment can become competitive and not very welcoming.” 

“It was beautiful because they [Selling Sunset cast] received me with a lot of love and support. My first scene was my first day at the office and it was literally the first time that I saw all of them. I shared my story and they were super sweet and loving, so it was really lovely.”

Having kept to a neutral stance amidst the dramatic scenes in the show, the peacemaker shares: “I’m a zero-drama person, I really don't like that. I think that everything can get resolved with communication and with an open heart. There's a lot of history on the show, and I hope that they could get to a point where they can at least be comfortable with each other in the same room if not friends again.”  

While Villela is neither on Team Christine or Team Chrishell, she loves all the cast members equally. “I really love all of them! I feel I speak the most to Heather [Rae Young], we have a lot in common as we’re both very romantic and in love. I speak a lot with Maya [Vander] and I really love her, we’re both friends and you know, we both love each other very much,” she shares. “I was actually texting Christine [Quinn] just two or three days ago, and we're trying to get together! I really do have a very good relationship with all of them, and I feel very lucky, to be honest.” 

With her supportive cast members and “equally understanding producers”, Villela has high hopes that she hasn’t missed out on much. When asked about what might unfold in the upcoming season, she teases: “The only thing I can tell you from season five is that there might be big decisions...and of course, big drama, for sure!” 

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