Heather Rae Young is reflecting on the journey she’s walked from Playboy magazine standout to successful luxury real estate agent and star on the popular Netflix reality series “Selling Sunset,” centered on the day-to-day lives of the ambitious team of female sellers at the Oppenheim Group in Los Angeles.
Young, 32, has since emerged as a fixture on the series, but her storied path begins more than a decade ago when the former Playboy Playmate made her foray into the world of ritzy properties and lavish lifestyles as a young woman posing for Playboy as Miss February 2010.
She took a trip down memory lane in a recent interview with Playboy.com and revisited her two-week shoot, explaining that she chose a “mountain girl” theme based on where she grew up -- Big Bear Lake and Lake Arrowhead in California.
“I shot my pictorial in 2009, and it was an amazing experience,” Young recalled of the shoot with photographer Arny Freytag. “I was in a double issue, with Jaime Edmondson, so we were January and February.”
Young said she initially was against forging a career in real estate, but after realizing her penchant for building relationships -- and with much persistence from those in her circle, she decided to take the leap after modeling, and the risk paid off in big ways.
“Real estate felt like a good transition for me because I’d met so many people and I’m really good at building relationships and making contacts,” she explained. “A couple of my friends actually suggested it, and originally I said no. But you know what? I did it! I studied my a-- off, I passed the test and then within my first three months of doing real estate, I sold a $7.2 million house and a $1.5 million condo.”
The reality star said she felt “empowered” posing for Playboy, calling the moment “a celebration of [her] body” and added the experience aided in helping her develop a love of self -- but also the hunger to prove detractors wrong, in real estate and beyond, who might prejudge her based on her past.
“I think we’re not taken seriously, or we’re perceived as stupid or we don’t know what we’re talking about,” Young said of practicing competitive real estate in a male-dominated arena. “I’m lucky to be partnered with Jason [Oppenheim], 43, because he is well-known in the real estate business, and he treats me like an equal. We’re partners.”
“It’s still a man’s game, but women are rising, and clearly from the show you can see that,” she continued. “It’s supposed to be about women’s empowerment. You can be a pretty woman and still be successful and not just arm candy for a man.”
Season 2 of “Selling Sunset” will dive into Young’s new public relationship with HGTV and “Flip or Flop” star Tarek El Moussa, 38, whom she met on the house-flipper’s boat, El Moussa told Fox News in March -- and Young is excited for the prospect of seeing how the series plays out, adding that her connection to El Moussa has “been amazing.”
“Going from such a private relationship to a public one is very different, but it’s been amazing. I have so much support from Tarek, and the fact that we’re both not only in the television world but in the same industry helps us connect on so many levels beyond our relationship,” she told Playboy.com.
“We have a deeper understanding, respect and appreciation of each other’s real estate careers. He has been in this industry for so long, so he’s always there to help me with advice. We’re always bouncing design ideas off of each other and even learning from each other.”
Although Young said she's had to sometimes step away from the life and times of hustling in Los Angeles to get her mind right, she said she is better for it and sees her career as a blueprint for others fighting for a piece of the pie to keep fighting and growing as professionals and as women.
“It’s tough, especially in L.A. You’re dealing with a lot of money, big properties, big agents who have been around for 30-plus years. And this young girl comes in, and sometimes they just think I’m stupid,” she said. “That’s why I’ve taken my little breaks. I’ve left and then come back and said, ‘No, I’ve got this.’ There’s no reason I shouldn’t be just as successful as Jason or these other guys out here. I can do it just as well, if not better than they can.”
Asked about whether she’ll consider posing nude again for the legendary spread, Young left the door open for a monumental return.
“Gosh. Posing nude has not hurt me. I’m already out there; I’ve done it. I’m proud of myself and what I’ve done,” she said. “It’s a celebration of our bodies and our choices, and I find it empowering. Playboy first catapulted me into a modeling career and the career I’m in now -- so for the right job, I would do it.”