Attitude is 90% of the job. Modeling forced me to build and develop a thick skin. I bring that into my real estate career.
For Douglas Elliman agent Jane Powers, figuring out her life’s calling was a two-step job. From an early age, she knew she wanted to be a model. What she didn’t know was that she would find her life’s second passion once she started a career in real estate. Elliman Insider speaks with Jane for the inside scoop on her successful modeling career, what it was like to work with renowned fashion photographer Peter Lindbergh, whose legacy is being celebrated in light of his recent passing, and what parts of real estate she finds most rewarding.
Elliman Insider: When did you know you wanted to be a model?
JANE POWERS: I always knew I wanted to be a model—since age 11 or 12. My parents were against it and thought to take me to Eileen Ford so I could hear it from her that modeling wasn’t for me. Maybe it wasn’t meant to be at age 11, but in my early 20’s I was discovered by photographer Steven Meisel and that was the start of things; it seemed it was only a matter of time.
EI: How did you come to know Peter Lindbergh?
JP: There was a group of us shooting the Dolce Gabbana campaign with Steven Meisel. It was a five-day shoot with models that included Tyra Banks, Kate Moss, Susan Holmes. Some of us were then chosen to fly to Arles in the South of France for a shoot for French Vogue and that’s where I first met Peter. Afterward, he extended my stay to shoot “City Jane.” Camilla Nickerson, a stylist from Vogue, dressed me in a tailored menswear suit, complete with a walking stick. Peter knew I was from New York City so the name just fit.
EI: What was it like to work with him?
JP: You know, he reminded me of my father. He was kind, quiet, an old-school gentleman, with a real warmth to him. I think that’s why all the models liked him—because of his kindness. He shot women who weren’t always “picture-perfect,” there was a sense of realness to his shots.
EI: Modeling was a huge part of your life for a long time. When did real estate come into the picture?
JP: I wanted a family and I picked real estate as my next move because I could make my own hours, have my own independent schedule and still be able to work from home and take care of my son. But what started out as a choice soon became a calling. I’ve lived all over the world in my 20’s, working various markets. Those years of international culture and modeling experiences really set me up for the world of real estate. Combining those experiences with the fact that I’m a New Yorker through and through—I was born in Brooklyn, grew up in Manhasset, and moved to New York City at age 18 to attend NYU—helped me establish myself as a successful real estate agent.
EI: Tell me more about what it’s like to be a real estate agent? Did any of the skills you learned as a model carry over into your new career?
JP: Being an agent is about working for yourself and being your own employer. Not everyone is cut out for that commission-based life. But attitude is 90% of the job. Modeling forced me to build and develop a thick skin. I bring that into my real estate career. Here, you learn from experience, and not just from being mentored. You can project yourself right out of this business if you want to, just by people feeling your negativity. Instead, try turning something that others might see as a negative—for example, a top agent who makes more money than you—into a positive. What about the fact that you are in the same playing field to even be able to compare yourself to that agent? You’re in the running with these top agents so take that and be inspired.
EI: What’s your favorite part about being a New York City real estate agent?
JP: Everyone loves New York City real estate—it’s all about the glamor, and everyone wants to be part of that. But the best part is how close I get with my clients. I get to actually make a difference and help people sort their lives out. Sometimes clients come to me and ask me where they should live. I start off with the basic questions like how do you want to spend your days, what do you like to eat, what time do you want to eat, where do you want to take your dogs, etc. People will know the quality of life they want, but they aren’t sure where in New York is best for them to live. It’s my job to help them figure that out and I take that job very seriously.
EI: Any advice for aspiring real estate agents?
JP: Come in with a strategy and be open to learning a lot. Think about the best way to approach each and every challenge. Real estate pushes you to think outside the box and use your brain. And most of all, connect with people, be present with the people you’re with. The payoff is more than your cut, it’s making connections with the people you help, and being able to follow clients throughout their life stages, and establishing real relationships with so many people.