In the Spotlight: Claudine Ellis
This article published in a slightly shorter version at Inman.
If you love marketing, and especially social media marketing, you may know Claudine Ellis. This Virginia Realtor and head Dream Girl at the Dream Girls of Real Estate team is part mogul, part pop star, and entirely original.
With a Master’s degree from Harvard and a list of accomplishments as long as your arm, Mrs. Ellis is known for her Facebook Live videos, her glam image, and her idyllic family photo shoots. Her image is her brand, and she is her own best advertisement.
As a Top 100 Virginia Realtor, Mrs. Ellis is helping buyers and sellers every day and recording it all on social media. Watching her Facebook feed is like watching a local version of House Hunters, with all of the drama and suspense that entails. I sat down with Mrs. Ellis for a rollicking conversation that was in turn funny, reflective, and always enlightening.
Christy: All right. So the first question--if you could go on a reality show, which would you choose and why?
Claudine: I wouldn’t choose any reality show. My reality show would be named Dream Girls. It will be exclusively about me.
Christy: What is the one thing in your purse that you can't live without?
Claudine: I don’t have a purse. But I can’t live without money.
Christy: Do you really not carry a purse?
Claudine: I’m a Realtor. We don’t have purses. I mean I have one, but it’s really a junk bag. It’s like a big old bag where I throw everything in. You could put a house, a baby—anything in that bag.
Christy: Describe your leadership style.
Claudine: I’m pretty much – I kind of rock to the beat of my own kind of drum. I try to do things where people can follow their own thing and me not have to show them everything.
I like to lead by example, even with my friends and family. They should grow up knowing that, “Hey she did good. She didn’t curse. She didn’t drink. She didn’t smoke and I’m not going to do that,” right? I want people to think for themselves and that’s where I’m having a problem because people don’t think. It’s terrible.
Christy: What was the most important thing you learned at Harvard?
Claudine: Oh wow, that’s a hard one because they teach so much. Harvard was an absolutely incredible experience and there’s so much to learn. I enjoyed that we were like little celebrities, which gave us the opportunity to meet so many people in this intimate setting. I met Nelson Mandela. I could hang out with Cornel West. I mean, these are incredible opportunities.
One thing I learned was that these were normal people. Even though you’re meeting all these people that might have done great things in their career, their lives, everybody there thinks they don’t belong there. They're all like, “Oh my gosh, she’s better than me.” “Oh my gosh, she’s a writer” – and we’re all pretty much the same, all struggling in secrecy. I went to school with Tatiana Ali and Will Smith was at the school at the time. For the most part, everybody is just regular people.
Christy: What advice would you give to a Realtor just starting out?
Claudine: Know your craft. Read every day. I’m an experienced agent and I’m up at 4 reading every day for about an hour. I literally read about everything to stay on top of it, because as of right now, I can tell anybody that I meet, “I know everything about real estate” because guess what? I do. And what I don’t know, I will find out.
I don’t think every agent should leave a three-week class and run out here and sell a house to somebody because if you talk to agents with little or no mentorship, the mistakes they make cost a lot of money. If you are new and you have no mentorship, then you're going to make some horrible mistakes with this client’s largest investment. It’s like going to a brain surgeon who didn’t do a residency. Would you? I know I wouldn’t.
You know, some people are great singers. I’m not a good singer. But I know if I work really hard and get autotuned and get a good publisher, I could probably get my stuff distributed and make some money. And I think I can sing because I really have a great shower voice. But I don’t sing, because my passion is real estate. So I’d say don’t do it if it’s not your passion. Don’t do it. Don’t waste your time. Do what's your passion or not at all.
Christy: So what is your favorite book?
Claudine: There’s a book that I read over and over and it’s called Leap. That book is probably the best book I’ve ever read. Everything I do revolves around the future, money, financing, housing, insurance policies. This book tells you about living from beginning to end on what you need to have in your life to be financially settled. I need to have my money moving.
If I gave you four oranges now, 20 years from now how many oranges will you have? Well, you will not have anything but rotten oranges. So if you had a dollar now and you left it on the table, ten years from now what would you have? That dollar is not going to be worth something if you don’t do something with it; putting it in the bank doesn’t give you a high enough return on investment. So I kind of learned that you have to have your money moving, you have to have your money in motion.
Christy: Okay, now this is a big one because I love your style and I love your image. What is your favorite lipstick and I would like the brand and the color if you know it.
Claudine: Yes. It’s by Kat Von D, let me see if I can find that color, I know the company but I don’t know the actual name. I tell you why I like it. It never comes off and I mean literally. I can't get it off at all. You have to grease it off.
Christy: That’s amazing.
Claudine: The color is – oh Lord, this is small, I can’t even see it. But it is red. You can't see the color. I think I’ve worn the name off, but it’s red by Kat Von D. I bought it while I was in Dubai. [Ed.: Here is a selection of Kat Von D lipsticks.]
Christy: Now, I know that you like to share your jams with us [on Facebook Live]. What is your favorite song to jam to in the car?
Claudine: It has to be some rap music, one thing or another. I’ve been falling in love with Drake’s “Fake Love.” But there’s a song that – I think P Diddy is the one that sings it. I like anything hip-hop old school. “Can’t Nobody Hold Me Down,” I think is the name of the song with P Diddy. That’s one of my favorite ones. No matter what people do or say, they can't break my swag, nobody can take my pride, can't nobody hold me down. [Ed.: Here’s the song, if you’d like to add it to your playlist.]
Christy: Okay, and this is the last one. When someone asks “how was your day?” what do you base your answer on? What makes a good day and what makes a bad day?
Claudine: No matter what I’m going through, you’ll never know what kind of day I’m having. It’s always going to be great. And no one ever asks me how my day is, just so you know. So if they're going to ask me how my day is and they don’t know me, they really don’t care how my day is. When someone says, “Hey Claudine, how are you doing, how’s it going?” “Great.”
I never ever let people see me sweat. The people that are close to me, they see; they don’t have to ask me. The people who care, they need to know what's going on. The rest of the world never knows what's going on. So all they know is I’m smiling all day long. I’m doing great. Just like the song, nothing is going to break my swag, nothing is going to hold me down.
I can't let things take away my positive energy because I like to keep it positive. So, whenever something happens, I remember that day is a premium for what we do – the premium is you can have stressful days, but the reward is great. You can’t let things mess with you. Everybody goes through something. Who wants to be complaining about life? Because there’s always something to complain about. But we’ve got to thank God for what we have.
I so enjoyed talking to Mrs. Ellis and getting to know her better. If you know an inspiring Realtor who I should talk to, let me know! Our industry has so many smart, savvy leaders to learn from, and I love helping you get to know them better.
If you are looking for real estate writing to bring your business to life, let me help. I offer writing, consulting, and coaching services to help you improve and refine your writing for properties, blogs, or web content. And if your bio could use some personality, check out my new Bio and Better Bio packages at the Shop.