‘Dancing with the Stars’ taught Mauricio Umansky to empathize

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He’s appeared in several seasons of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, and last year launched his own real estate reality series on Netflix, Buying Beverly Hills.

But this year, Mauricio Umansky threw yet another reality TV show into his lineup: Dancing with the Stars.

Over the course of six weeks, The Agency’s CEO learned how to move, breathe and feel in time with the music with the assistance of his professional dance partner, Emma Slater. By Week 5, one judge declared that he had become “a freakin’ dancer,” but on Week 6, Umansky’s combined judge and audience scores were not high enough to allow him to advance any further in the competition.

Amidst reports that were released over the summer that Umansky and his wife, Kyle Richards, were separated but living under the same roof, the CEO had said during the DWTS season premiere that the two had been going through “a rough patch” but he hoped the show would provide some relief from that heaviness in his life, as well as a bit of fun.

Inman recently caught up with Umansky to discuss what the experience was like for him, what lessons he could bring back to his business, and a few predictions about who might go home with the Len Goodman Mirrorball Trophy at the end of the season. Here’s what he had to say, edited for brevity and clarity.

Inman: Why did you decide to do Dancing with the Stars?

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Mauricio Umansky | The Agency

Mauricio Umansky: The timing was just great. It was just one of those things that sometimes happens. I was on vacation in Italy on a yacht, and I got an email with the invitation to be on Dancing with the Stars, and I was with my family and my kids and was like, “Hey, guys, I got this invitation.”

Obviously, I was on vacation so I wasn’t doing anything other than having fun eating and drinking and playing in the ocean. And I talked it over with the family and I thought it would be a lot of fun, something to learn that would be completely different. Everybody was supportive. Then I looked at my calendar, and for the first time in my life, I only had a few things I had to take off of my calendar one week in order to make it happen. Generally speaking, that would just be an impossibility, but for some reason, it kind of just fit, so all the stars aligned and I went for it. I’m really glad I did.

My wife had actually gotten the invitation before me and she didn’t want to do it. And funny enough, I told her that she should. I said to her, “If I got the invitation, I would do it.” And then I got the invitation, so I kind of had no choice. [Laughs]

It was an amazing experience. It was good timing for me, just in my personal life and everything, just to go do something that was different. Rainy [Hake Austin], our president, had a good handle on the business. I called her up and I said, “Hey, I got this invite, I really want to do it. Does it work?” She said, “I’ve got the business down,” and she was supportive, and we went for it.

What lessons did you take away from the experience?

The first lesson I learned was, and everybody that is in my position as a leader talks about it — putting yourself in an uncomfortable position and how that makes you a better person, ultimately. I truly had not put myself in a position like that in a long, long time and this was the first time that I was putting myself completely outside of my comfort zone. I’ve never danced before in my life. I’ve never performed before in my life. I’ve never done anything in terms of theatre where I was on a stage and performing in front of live people. Not only people, but in this particular case, live on ABC primetime, Disney+ and Hulu.

So, I had to tap into a completely new part of my being, which was a part of my brain that is not tapped into: That artistic performance side. My brain has always been more of analytical, innovative (from a marketing perspective), but I’ve certainly never been in a situation where I’m tapping into the artist, the performer. That was an amazing experience.

I learned that — as leaders preach — it does make you grow as a person and conquering that piece of discomfort just makes you grow tremendously. So I think that was really great. I put myself in a position where I really had to learn from my [professional dance partner] steps, moves, choreography, how to dance, how to move, how to do all of these things. For the past 12 years, I have been the CEO of a company and have been leading and telling people what to do and how to do it. So I now had to put myself in a position where I was just a straight-up student and listener and that was a really valuable position to be in.

To build off of that a little bit more, are there any specific lessons that you feel like you got from the experience that you’re now going to implement in your business?

One-hundred percent. From my perspective, just as a leader, I learned how to be perhaps a little bit more emotional, a little bit more vulnerable. And I definitely want to bring that vulnerability and emotion and straight-up artistry into the way that I lead the business. The empathy for people learning on the other side, the patience for people who are learning. I think it’s something that has helped me also have that empathy for people who are working for me and doing stuff that I know how to do and they’re learning how to do.

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Umansky and Slater perform during the “DWTS” Most Memorable Year episode | Credit: Disney / Christopher Willard

Fabulous. What was your favorite type of dance that you performed during your time on the show?

I was actually telling Emma [Slater] that every week I was like, “This is my favorite dance.” I felt like every week was my favorite dance. But, I mean, I really enjoyed dancing the contemporary dance, which was just such a meaningful dance. I just enjoyed it. It was a beautiful choreography and we crushed it and I really liked that. But, I think that my favorite dance was the Argentine tango.

Do you think there will be other opportunities for you to perform in this way, either alone or with Emma?

I don’t know — I hope there will be other opportunities. I know I can’t go back on Dancing with the Stars, but I would love to find other opportunities. I can definitely tell you that I’ve enjoyed it, so I would like to continue in the art, whether that means performing on television or whether it just means getting into ballroom competition. I could definitely see myself getting into that. You never know; we’ll see.

Any predictions about who you think might win this season?

You really do develop a strong chemistry and a strong friendship with all these people. It’s such a totally different thing than I’m used to on television with The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills being a very gossipy, toxic type of environment. And then Buying Beverly Hills being a great real estate and business show, whereas this show is really just about dancing and music and happiness. You really do develop an amazing friendship with all of these different people and it’s just a happy vibe.

But, there are some great dancers. I predict the final four [competitors] are going to be Jason Mraz, Ariana Madix, Xochitl Gomez and Charity Lawson. And my prediction is that the winner will be Xochi, but who knows?

We’ll see. Speaking of Buying Beverly Hills, Emma mentioned at the beginning of this season of Dancing with the Stars that she has a real estate license. Is there any chance she’ll become part of The Agency anytime soon, or could we see her on Buying Beverly Hills?

Yes, we’ve got to bring her to The Agency. I mean, she doesn’t really use her [real estate license], but yes, we’ll have her at The Agency, for sure.

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