Selling Sunset's Vanessa Villela Dishes On Reality TV Life, Her COVID Diagnosis, And Real Estate Dreams - Exclusive Interview

Season 4 of Netflix's "Selling Sunset" saw two new cast members join the real estate agents at The Oppenheim Group, one of whom was award-winning Mexican actress Vanessa Villela. Having appeared on a plethora of television soaps, Vanessa is already beloved by a huge international audience. More recently, the actor moved into real estate, so her casting on "Selling Sunset" feels truly serendipitous.

Already, Vanessa has made a big impression on "Selling Sunset" fans. From her almost-immediate friendship with Christine Quinn to her growing success as a real estate agent of high-ending listings in California, Vanessa quickly proved that she belongs on the popular Netflix reality show.

In an exclusive interview, Nicki Swift sat down with Vanessa Villela to find out all the behind-the-scenes gossip from "Selling Sunset," what fans can expect from Season 5, and how she's been dealing with the lasting effects of catching COVID-19 earlier in 2021.

Vanessa Villela loves being herself on Selling Sunset

What was it like joining "Selling Sunset?"

Oh my God. It's been the most incredible experience of my life. I've been in TV my whole life, but nothing compared to these, because being on TV as yourself and opening to the world as who you are, it's a different story. It's completely, like it changed the way that people approach me now. It changed from before when I'm acting and they recognize me as an actress, it's more like they love the character, but they don't know who you are. And this time they know Vanessa and it's incredible, honestly.

And was it nerve-wracking putting yourself out there, being on reality TV instead of acting?

Oh my God. Yes. And especially in another language. Because fluent as you see that I am, sometimes I do get stuck. And especially if I'm not speaking in English all day, like if I switch to Spanish or if I'm a little nervous, then my English goes away ... And then sometimes I don't want to say the wrong word and misinterpret it. Or however you say it, you know what I'm trying to say? Sometimes, someone can misunderstand me because I use the wrong word. And if you put it together, then it doesn't sound like what you want to say. And then that was a little scary too. It's obviously different because when you're an actress, you have everything ready. You have your makeup, your hair, your wardrobe, your lines, everything, and here it is up to you what you're going to wear, how you're going to do your makeup. Thank God I had a wonderful girl that helped me with makeup through almost the entire Season 4.

I would say almost everything there, almost like 99% of what you see, she helped me with makeup and hair, but then for Season 5, she got sick too. So she couldn't do my makeup. But I love makeup. I enjoy doing my makeup myself. It's so fun. I've been doing it all my life. I've been practicing with me being an actress and I've been looking when they do it. So I learn from them and I love it. I think it's super fun. So it's been different, but fun, challenging, but it's been a beautiful experience.

Selling Sunset is all about dressing up

Everybody always looks incredible on "Selling Sunset." Do you have a stylist? What's that process like? And do you have your makeup done for every episode?

Yeah. I mean, at the beginning [it] was very stressful because I was like, "Oh my God, what am I going to wear? I'm used to having everything ready on TV. Now, what am I going to wear?" And, of course, you want to look your best when you're on TV. I do like to dress up for my daily life, but not like that. Maybe not that much. And I would not do so much makeup or whatever. Anyways, it was a little stressful at the beginning, but then I found my amazing makeup artist. I know her from a long time ago, she works here in L.A. Her name is Alejandra and she's incredible. And she helped me with the hair and makeup from almost every scene.

And then with styling, I started myself. Then a friend of mine helped me with some of her things that she had that I put together with my own things too. And then a stylist helped me too. So my amazing stylist from Miami, he's been my stylist for years and he actually lives in Texas now. And he was sending me to showrooms and sending me things ... So it was like a little combination of everything, but at the beginning was very stressful because I didn't have anything.

Especially before I started filming, all the preparation that you do before filming, that's when I was more stressed and then a little bit when I was filming. And then, because I didn't know. "Is this really what I want to wear?" But I am someone that one day, I can dress [in] something very girly, and the next day, I use something very like rock, so I don't really have a defined style in my daily life either. So I wanted to do that too for the show, I don't have to wear the same thing over and over like the same style. Like if today I feel like I want to wear something more girly, more feminine, then that's fine. And tomorrow, I feel like I want to wear something more with a suit and even play with that. It's fun too.

That's the fun of the show, though. I mean, Christine [Quinn] is a great example of that. People are watching for every outfit she has, because they're all so different.

I love her style. She is incredible.

Vanessa has made a lot of friends on Selling Sunset

You are already an established, award-winning actress. What's the response been like from your fans?

It's been super beautiful. And because they're like, "Oh, wow." I mean, first of all, of course the Latin audience they're like, "Oh my God, I'm so happy to see a Latino on the show, thank you for representing us. And that's super exciting. And also because for the first time, since we know you as an actress, we can see who you are as a person." And that's really beautiful. And the love that I received is overwhelming. Honestly, [they are] just the most beautiful messages I have ever received since I started acting. Because again, when you're acting, and I was normally the villain, so I would receive love, but also a little bit of hate because I was the villain.

But when I was playing my villains, it was such a funny thing, but it happened to me too, you know the certain villains that you root for them in a way? Okay. So that's what happened with me in my soap operas. I remember for example, like Heath Ledger as The Joker, I was like, "Oh my God." I kind of hated him, but I loved him at the same time. So I feel that's a little bit what I had in my acting career, but of course now it's completely like love and love and love ... I feel very lucky and grateful for what's happening in my life right now.

One thing I really liked about you on the show was that you got on with everybody. There's always so much drama going on on "Selling Sunset," and you managed to move between everybody and make friends with people you didn't know. What was that like? And are you still friends with everybody?

Yes. I am still friends with everybody. I really like all of the girls. At the beginning, I take my time to get to know people. I don't judge anyone. I just see how everyone is. And of course I've been hurt in the past. And I always take my time to open up, to say like, "Okay, we're friends." But it was just an instant connection with almost all of them. I think I went with an open heart, and I think that's when you really can create beautiful connections. And slowly, obviously it became stronger and stronger with all of them. And I really love them and I respect them and they inspire me and I think we all inspire each other.

It's a very beautiful environment to work around them. And it's the first time that I work with so many beautiful women and successful women that are not competitive in a negative way. Like, "My God, just get your own thing." And it's difficult when I work with other women. Some of them have been amazing and I have amazing friends, actresses are incredible, but some of them are a nightmare. And I was really scared to go into ["Selling Sunset"]. It's so many women, I was like, "Ooh, how's it going to be?" But it's been such a beautiful experience.

Vanessa Villela wants to support cast mate Maya Vander

Who would you say you're closest to in the cast?

I think everyone, but lately I've been speaking a lot with Maya [Vander, who recently lost her baby at 38 weeks]. I mean, obviously, recently something tragic happened in her life. I just cannot ... My heart breaks for her, to be honest, because I know how loss feels, and I've just been messaging her and I've been like, "Whatever you need, I'm here for you."

I know firsthand that there's nothing you can say that would really change how you feel, but it's very important to feel the love of the people that love you and the support, that just knowing that they're there, it's okay. And it will take time and some people take more time than others and it's good. It's fine to grieve. You have to grieve, you have to go through that in order to heal, if that's a word that you can use ... When you go through the loss of someone, I don't know if you can really heal it forever. I still, some days, can speak about my sister, and some days, it's like, I can do it in a peaceful way. And some days, it really breaks my heart. And some days I miss her like crazy and I can't feel, I cannot understand why she's not here. And I feel like it's a dream, I want to wake up and see her and share all these beautiful things with her.

So I've been messaging [Maya] a lot, but we were talking a lot before. I'm waiting for her to be ready to speak. She actually messaged me, "Thank you so much for being there." I hope I can help her in some way. I hope I can do something too, some of my experience will help her in some way. With Davina Potratz, I've been speaking a lot with Heather [Rae El Moussa]. We just ran into each other today at the office, and we're going to plan a girls get-together. I saw Chrishell [Stause] too. So I mean, all of them, I really like all of them. Christine [Quinn], I'm going to see her soon, I hope. I don't know if she's going to travel for the holidays. And obviously, with the launch of the show, we've been all super busy with interviews and work. But, I really love all of them.

Vanessa Villela on sharing her grief on Selling Sunset

When you shared about the loss of your sister, that made me cry. And I think that's the same for so many people that watched it. I lost my mom a few years ago. And it's just so important to see those stories, so you can know that you're not alone. Thank you for sharing that.

Sometimes in life, we go through hard experiences, and it's not like I wanted to go through these to help others, but if I can do something good out of my negative experience, of my painful experience, then ... Why not? Especially now more than ever. So many people are going through grief. I'm so sorry about your mom. You obviously understand that it never goes away.

It's like you learn to live with that. And then sometimes other things can help you to probably not feel like your heart is broken, because it literally feels ... broken. But I use that love that I have for my sister and the pain at the same time to make something positive. Because none of my sadness or depression that I was going through will bring her back. And I'm sure that she was a very happy person, so she didn't want to see me like that. And I was like, "I'm done. And I need to step up for my family, and for myself." Obviously for my family, but I have to love myself. And I have to be grateful that I'm alive. I have always been very grateful with life and happy too. So I have to step out of this victim mode that I was in because, yes, unfortunately I was going through a nightmare, but there's nothing that will change that.

So the only thing that I can change is my future. With how? With my present, and how? Changing my mindset and looking for help. And just owning what I was feeling, but stepping out of the pain and not staying there.

Vanessa Villela on dealing with long-COVID

You caught COVID-19 this year, and you're still dealing with that. Can you tell us a little bit about what happened and how it's affecting you now?

Yes, my love. It's been such a long, long, long ride. Honestly, some people get COVID and they recover immediately. Some others, like me, they get long COVID, which it's not like COVID is still in my body; it's that I have serious side effects from COVID. So one of the things that I have is brain inflammation. So some people get affected in the lungs, some people in their stomachs.

So at the beginning, it was a lot of brain fog, dizziness, headaches, and then it changed to a lot of confusion ... that's probably part of the brain fog. Then, thank God. I found this amazing doctor in Los Angeles in a clinic that does treatments and vitamins and all these things, but everything is natural. So I really love it because I didn't want to put more medicines into my body. Like, I wanted to heal naturally, and then I started feeling better. But now, recently I started losing my hair, which as you can imagine is a nightmare for a woman. It's a nightmare for anyone. I actually want to start doing something positive about my journey, because now I have another thing. It's a syndrome because of COVID that some foods and some drinks taste like sewage.

Just to [give] you an idea, like turkey, like slices of turkey, they taste like sewage to me. So I cannot eat. I cannot eat them now. So it's been like a hormonal imbalance, vitamin D level super low. So that's probably the reason why I got it so strong because my vitamin D levels were low. But they're still low. So I have to put injections of vitamin D to raise my vitamin D levels fast. And hopefully stop the hair loss. I probably lost, I would say, like 30% of my hair. I had a breakdown the other day. So that's what I'm telling you, like sometimes you go through things. And just because you see me happy right now, it doesn't mean that I don't have my bad days and that's okay too.

But I step out of the victim mode because yes, I'm going through this, but there's a lot of people that are going through this too. And the only thing I can do is like, "Okay, so if I'm going through this, the hair loss is going to stop. What can I do? I'll do some research. I'm going to put more veggies in me." And then now, okay. They taste like sewage. Well, which ones are not tasting like sewage? There's some that are not tasting like that. So I'm going to focus on those and then this will go away. It will go away. Just a matter of time.

I have to do things that make me happy to forget about the other things that are not probably helping me to stay in my super happy mode, but it's finding happy in life all the time. And sometimes you're going through experiences that will shine for others. Like, I want to be the light for others. I want to share my story with people and be like, "You're not the only one. I'm going through this too. And how can we go through this together?" If that makes sense.

I can't believe you've been through all of that. But hopefully you're on the right path and things will get better soon.

And I definitely see the progress of, for example, well, I missed almost five weeks of filming on Season 5. It was a long time. And if it wasn't because of these doctors, I don't know how long it would've taken me. Because when I went to film one day, they had to send me home because I was dizzy. So thanks to my doctor, I was able to go back and film. And then now, I do see an improvement, but of course, it's so much that COVID messed up with my body, like hormones, vitamin levels. I think I was reading that iron levels can cause the hair loss. So maybe I need to raise [them] ... And this is all new also for doctors. So it's not something that they can fix in a day, COVID is new to all of us ... I do see a difference completely. I just, yesterday, I went [to see my doctor] and I was crying because of my hair and I don't know what she did, but I feel better today.

Vanessa Villela loves real estate shows

Can you tell us anything about "Selling Sunset" Season 5?

I can tell you that there's going to be a lot of interesting new things to see, obviously drama, for sure. That's obvious. Maybe some big decisions and maybe ... No, I cannot say more. But I can just tell you that it's going to be very interesting.

Do you watch any other reality TV series? And are there any other shows you would like to be on?

No. Lately, I haven't been watching TV. I have watched "Million Dollar Listing." I watched once too, when I started real estate, I started watching. And that was like when my sister told me to start studying two years before she died. So that was five years ago. That's when I started watching some real estate TV shows and I found this very interesting and exciting. And I think probably that's why we're like, "Oh, it looks like something that I would love to do." And that's why I got into studying. But then I went to filming and then I came back and I was like, "Oh no, I don't have time for that." And then life pushed me into that. So yeah, I think that's the ones that I have watched. And, of course, "Selling Sunset."

And now you're on a show a bit like "Million Dollar Listing." You watched that and then you manifested your own version.

Well, the best thing about this, this is crazy, but I was working in another office before "Selling Sunset," and I was sitting on the couch and then I called my best friend and I said, "You know what? I don't know why, but I felt today that I was in 'Selling Sunset.'" Because I watched the show ... like two years before I started [appearing on] the show and then she was like, "Oh, really?" I was like, "Yeah, I don't know why." Long story short, two days later, they contacted me to have an interview with them. Two days later, I called her. I was like, "Call me on FaceTime. I need to see your face." I was like, "Please, you're not going to believe it, but they just called me from 'Selling Sunset,' they want to do an interview on me, blah, blah, blah." And she was like, "What?" We were both screaming and dancing. We're like crazy. I didn't even know that I would like to be on reality TV because I was doing real estate. And then before that I was doing acting and it's completely different.

But it was obviously meant to be.

It was meant to be.

Fashion ventures and makeup lines are in her future

You recently designed a swimwear line. Is fashion something you're hoping to move into?

Yes. I'm planning to. I'm working to get more of that. And then also a makeup line. I have a lot of ideas. And then will continue helping people through my Instagram and maybe create other things to inspire and help. That's my main goal.

So finally, what's been your highlight of 2021?

Oh my God. Well, two things. My highlight is obviously, well, first my heart, because it's super happy. So, the relationship I have, it's my highlight for sure. And "Selling Sunset."

That was an easy one. Is there anything else you want our readers to know before I let you go?

Just to continue watching "Selling Sunset." Stay tuned and then also follow me on my Instagram because everything that will happen with me and everything, you'll see it on there. I'll be in a lot of [Instagram] Lives, I'm going to start doing a lot of Lives. I'm going to start sharing my story and just be more connected with my audience.

"Selling Sunset" Season 4 is streaming on Netflix now.