Chrishell Stause is giving fans a peek inside her life. On Tuesday, the 40-year-old “Selling Sunset” star released a memoir, Under Construction: Because Living My Best Life Took a Little Work, in which she discusses her childhood, soap star past, high-profile divorce, work place drama, and love life today.
Stause and her four sisters grew up home insecure in Kentucky, and the Netflix star rose to become a top real estate agent in Los Angeles. In between, she managed a Dairy Queen, fulfilled a lifelong dream of appearing on soap operas, fell in (and out of) love and had many other highs and lows.
— Chrishell (@Chrishell7) February 8, 2022
Keep reading to see the nine biggest bombshells from Stause’s memoir.
Chrishell Isn’t Her Given First Name
Stause was given the name Terrina Chrishell at birth. The name she now goes by was inspired by how she came into the world.
“My mom was having car trouble and she pulled into a Shell station,” Stause writes. “She went into labor while she was waiting on the car, and the gas station attendant was very sweet and calm and he made sure my mom got to a hospital so that I wouldn’t enter this world next to a gas pump (and probably so he wouldn’t have to deliver a baby).”
“His kindness,” she continues, “inspired my mom to name me after the attendant, Chris, and so Chrishell was born, literally.”
As for her first name, Stause’s mom once told her that she liked it “because she had never heard it before.” Stause didn’t share the same fondness for her name, and “hated every single thing” about herself in high school. It was in college that she began going by Chrishell.
She Grew Up Poor, Living in a Tent and an Abandoned Schoolhouse as a Child
Throughout her childhood, Stause was home insecure. It’s something, she writes, she was “ashamed of” for many years, and only recently became comfortable enough to “own where I came from and speak about it.”
“I knew from a young age that the life I was living was not the life I was going to live,” Stause writes. “There was something else out there for me, waiting. I was completely driven by that thought. I knew it in my bones.”
In middle school, Stause’s home burned down. She missed a year of school while she and her family lived “in a tent, hopping from campsite to campsite.” In high school, she lived with her family in “an abandoned schoolhouse that had a leaky roof and a room full of old, creepy dolls in it.”
“The collapsed roof meant that the old mattress I slept on was always a little wet and mildewy… No utilities, but there was an old janitor’s closet and some puddles of dirty water,” she writes. “… It was a source of deep humiliation for me. I was terrified people would find out we were actually squatting there.”
It was only years later, in her late thirties, that Stause discovered that her dad, who died in 2019, never learned to read.
“My dad lived a life where he was pulled out of school as a kid to help work and support the family through odd jobs, so he never got the chance to learn to read well,” she writes. “… He didn’t have higher than an eighth-grade education, but he still successfully raised five daughters, showed us so much love, and stayed strong until the very end.”
Her Parents Joined a Cult When She Was 10
Amid her tumultuous childhood, Stause’s parents briefly joined a cult.
“My parents got into the cult when I was about ten years old,” Stause writes. “Reader, if you go to a church and you have a ‘leader,’ instead of a pastor or rabbi or minister, that’s your first clue that this might be a cult.”
“When we moved to Kentucky a few years after they joined, we didn’t have a chapter anywhere near our small town,” she continues. “The leader died and his son took over and drastically changed some beliefs, so my parents ended up walking away. Thankfully that ended my extra homework of Bible quizzes and weekly check-ins from church elders.”
Stause’s parents, she writes, “had their struggles with addiction and mental illness,” and she has since “forgiven them for those years they thought it was a good idea to join a cult called the Worldwide Church of God.”
She Was Once Engaged to Matthew Morrison
When Stause was in her mid-twenties she dated, fell in love with, and got engaged to Matthew Morrison.
“I was a small-town girl and this was my first adult relationship,” she writes. “I didn’t fully understand what a healthy, solid relationship looked like, even though of course I thought I did.”
Stause previously alluded to the relationship on “Selling Sunset”, telling the cameras, “If I ended up with the person I was with when I was 25, I would want to kill myself… Yeah, you can Google that. You were a d**k! Sorry!”
“I try to preserve my privacy, but sometimes a girl has to tell it like it is, I guess,” she writes, before revealing where she and Morrison stand today.
“We can both laugh about it all now,” she writes. “It’s not like we’re hanging out and bonding every week, but we’ve run into each other a few times over the years and even though I sounded a little angry on ‘Selling Sunset’, it’s always cordial.”
“He’s said in interviews that he felt pressure to get married at that time, not from me, but from society,” Stause continues. “Looking back I know it never would have worked out, and we were so young and we each still had a lot to learn. Not that I’m making excuses for him, but I’m just glad, in retrospect, that it didn’t work out.”
She Was Nearly Named the Bachelorette
Following the end of her engagement to Morrison, Stause was all set to be named the next Bachelorette. However, things fell apart after Brad Womack’s season of “The Bachelor” aired without him picking a winner.
“DeAnna Pappas went on ‘Ellen’ and talked about getting rejected by Brad, and Ellen declared that DeAnna should be the next Bachelorette,” Stause writes of Womack’s co-runner-up. “Fans rallied around, the network listened, and my announcement was pulled.”
Stause writes that she was “definitely bummed” when she didn’t get the “chance to hand out that fateful rose,” but that she now believes “everything happens for a reason.”
“For so many years my love life wasn’t the main topic of conversation, and if I had done ‘The Bachelorette’, my love life would have been THE topic of conversation,” she writes. “My work and career are so important to me, so speaking as someone who ended up having their love life overshadow their career at times after all, I guess sometimes you can’t escape your fate, and embracing it has become empowering.”
She Has ‘Homicidal Fantasies’ About Christine Quinn
After Stause’s stints on “All My Children” and “Days of Our Lives”, she decided to start her career in real estate. One year after Stause got her real estate license, she was approached about appearing on Netflix’s “Selling Sunset”.
She signed on to the project, and quickly felt “surprise” about “how cutthroat some people could be,” namely Christine Quinn, who immediately started “trying to befriend me, telling me all kinds of gossip and trying to turn me against people before I even really knew them.”
Quinn, Stause writes, “quickly turned into more of an antagonist than a buddy.” At the end of the first season of the series, Stause was shown leaving a party amid a disagreement with Quinn.
“What ended up being a few minutes on a reality TV show in actuality was over an hour of what felt like public humiliation. I just needed to step away,” she writes. “… That was a turning point for me. I went home that night in tears, until I realized that that was exactly what Christine wanted. Me giving up, in tears.”
“So I decided to hold my head up and never let anything she said or did get to me that way again,” Stause continues. “Life is too short to give some people the satisfaction of a single tear. After that night, I was done.”
After that experience, Stause writes that she and Quinn “were left on horrible terms” and didn’t speak for months. Ahead of filming for season 2, though, they had “a civilized, cordial conversation” that ended with them on “fine” terms. Then came Quinn’s engagement party, which Stause was invited to, but declined to attend.
“I hadn’t spoken to her in nearly a year, I’d met her fiancé once for maybe five minutes, and it felt weird to me to jump from that to suddenly being at her engagement celebration, pretending that nothing had happened,” she writes. “… Declining her invitation wasn’t a clapback in terms of me trying to hurt her feelings. It was more about me creating a little peace bubble around myself, for myself.”
Following the death of Stause’s mom in July 2020, her feud with Quinn was again ignited. On season 4 of “Selling Sunset”, Stause alluded to the drama, claiming that Quinn leaked fake stories to the media amid her divorce from Justin Hartley.
“She tried to plant a false story when I was going through my divorce and I had to have both sides confirm that it wasn’t true and then threaten legal action. And this was right after my mom died,” she told Vulture. “It was a lot on my plate and kicking someone while they’re down and trying to spread a rumor that I was hooking up with someone. Both parties knew that is not what happened.”
Stause added that Quinn “did it again recently, trying to say that me and [current boyfriend] Jason [Oppenheim] were happening before, and it’s just not true.”
In her book, Stause writes about the most recent drama between her and Quinn.
“Having to spend thousands of dollars in legal fees to kill false stories in the media that were blatantly untrue and intentionally hurtful (and made up by a certain coworker) is my own personal boundary,” she writes. “Luckily I was able to prove that those false stories were untrue and keep them from being printed. Maybe your boundary is something different, but mine is attacking my character. Probably best not to attack my family or my dog, either.”
As for her advice to others about difficult workplace relationships, Stause writes, “If you happen to be contractually obligated to work with someone who inspires you to have homicidal fantasies about murder-by-stiletto, take a deep breath, laugh all the way to the bank, and maybe wear a block heel just to be safe.”
Her Mom Never Liked Justin Hartley
Stause met Hartley, her eventual ex-husband, back in 2013, when they were both starring on separate soap operas and a mutual friend introduced them.
“We hit it off right away and were pretty much inseparable from day one,” Stause writes. “I fell hard and fast and thought that he hung the moon. He proposed in 2016 and we got married the next year. And I, like most everyone who gets married, thought that was it.”
Stause adds later, “When I got married, I imagined being eighty years old on a porch with my husband someday, holding wrinkly hands and laughing about an inside joke. I fell fast and hard. I didn’t mind my love life being public, because it was something I was so proud of.”
However, amid filming for season 3 of “Selling Sunset”, Stause got a text from Hartley “saying he wanted a divorce.”
“Although there were definitely signs that things were far from perfect, ending things in such a finite way, without talking it through with each other or friends and family was a complete shock. I was devastated, of course,” she writes, adding that the situation was “humiliating” and made her feel “like a failure as a person.”
Through it all, though, Stause continued to film “Selling Sunset”, though she “contemplated quitting” the show.
“I had just lost my dad that year, and now I was losing my husband and best friend, my teenage stepdaughter whom I no longer see but who still has a huge piece of my heart, and many of the friends who were his friends before we met,” she writes, referencing Hartley’s 17-year-old daughter, Isabella. “I ultimately decided I couldn’t lose my job, too.”
Still, Stause felt like “a shell” of herself. When the time came for the season to be released, Stause was “terrified” about what the response would be.
“I had a tremendous amount of anxiety before that season premiered,” she writes. “My stomach was always in knots, I couldn’t sleep, and my hands would shake.”
As Stause went through the turmoil, her mom was by her side and supporting her, especially because she’d never been a fan of Hartley to begin with.
“The funny thing is my mom never even liked Justin,” Stause writes. “… She’d never seen any of his shows, and she’d only watched a few episodes of ‘Selling Sunset’, so she just lived in a different world and was not won over by someone’s celebrity. At the end of the day, she just cared about how someone treated her daughter. I’m not sure if she did it on purpose or as a dig, but she always called him Jacob.”
Though her divorce was a painful experience, Stause now views it as “a gift.”
“Although I wouldn’t have ever handled the breakup in the way he did, I would have wasted a lot of time trying to fix something that was irreparably broken if we’d stayed together,” she writes. “… Now I understand much more clearly how I deserve to be treated.”
She Was Freezing Her Eggs While on ‘Dancing With the Stars’
Following her parents’ deaths and her divorce, Stause got offered the opportunity to compete on “Dancing With the Stars”. Despite her grief, she signed on to the show, knowing it was what her mom would’ve wanted.
“Doing ‘Dancing With the Stars’ took me from victim to victor real quick and helped me channel my grief and the love I felt for my mom and dad (who had passed shortly before) into art,” she writes. “It gave a purpose to the pain that told me I was exactly where I was supposed to be…I’d recently gone through a divorce, and I’d lost both of my parents, but I was still willing to make an ass of myself doing the cha-cha. It was terrifying and exhilarating.”
Throughout it all, Stause was preparing to freeze her eggs. Having a family was something she’d discussed with Hartley prior to their split, but, she writes, “once we got divorced, my hopes of getting pregnant and raising a baby with a partner by the age of forty were quickly upended.”
As such, she opted to freeze her eggs. While rehearsing for “four or five hours a day,” Stause would have to step out to give herself hormone shots.
“Every day, I would bring my hormone shots and store them in the refrigerator while we practiced,” she writes. “Since the medications all have to be administered at specific times, I would excuse myself and sneak into the bathroom to give myself the shots.”
Following her “DWTS” stint, Stause went public with her relationship with Keo Motsepe, a pro dancer on the show. They split in February 2021, though, and she now believes him to be a “love bomber.”
“After the honeymoon phase, though, things took a turn,” she writes. “This time, instead of making excuses for his behavior, I actually opened my eyes, pushed past the smoke and mirrors, and saw the truth behind all the lies. I’d gotten stronger, and as soon as I realized how deep his lies went, I was the one who ended it. While it hurt, I was able to put it all behind me quickly.”
“Before him, after a breakup I usually couldn’t eat or sleep, but this time was much different. I took care of myself, I kept busy, and I felt strong knowing that I’d done the right thing for me,” Stause continues. “I wasn’t the clueless damsel in the horror movie. I turned around, faced reality, and got the hell out of the woods. Instead of feeling sorry for myself after we broke up, I felt empowered.”
She and Jason Oppenheim Used to ‘Commiserate’ About Breakups Before Getting Together
In July 2021, Stause shocked everyone when she went Instagram official with Jason Oppenheim, who’s her boss on “Selling Sunset”. Stause writes that her friendship with Oppenheim turning into a romantic relationship was as much of a “curveball” to her as it was to fans.
“There was nothing romantic between Jason and I for the longest time. We were definitely not each other’s types, and we had seen the best and worst of each other over the years,” she writes. “But one thing that never changed is that I was always completely myself around him. Through working with him every day, I developed a huge amount of respect for him. I always valued his opinion and his integrity.”
Oppenheim, Stause writes, “was there for every breakup I had, and every bad day,” and eventually “became my best friend.” She found her conversations with Oppenheim to be “comfortable and comforting,” but never imagined a romantic relationship with him.
“He usually dated twentysomething models and I always dated guys who were over six feet tall, so the thought of us being together didn’t cross our minds,” she writes. In fact, the pair used to “commiserate about our respective breakups” together.
“We didn’t hold back with each other. That’s how comfortable it was,” she writes. “We would ask each other for advice about people we were going out with, and the bar got so high for both of us that no one was making the cut for either of us!”
Then, one night, things took a romantic turn, and Stause and Oppenheim kissed.
“What could have ended up with us laughing and saying, ‘What were we thinking?’ instead kicked off my first relationship where I’ve felt like I can be 100 percent myself, with my best friend,” she writes.
Prior to the release of her book, however, Stause and Oppenheim called it quits. Oppenheim announced the news on Instagram in December, writing, “While Chrishell and I are no longer together, we remain best friends and we will always love and support one another.”
“She was the most amazing girlfriend I’ve ever had and it was the happiest and the most fulfilling relationship of my life. While we have different wants regarding a family, we continue to have the utmost respect for one another,” he wrote. “Chrishell is an exceptional human being and loving her and having her in my life is one of the best things that has ever happened to me.”
Stause posted about their split shortly thereafter, likewise noting that her and Oppenheim’s “ideas for a family” were not the same.
“Jason was and is my best friend, and other than our ideas for a family ultimately not being aligned, the amount of respect and love we have for each other will not change going forward,” she wrote. “Men have the luxury of time that women don’t and that’s just the way it goes.”
“I very much hope to one day have a family and decisions I make at this point are with that goal in mind,” Stause added. “Thank you for the kindness and support to those that understand. And thank you Jason for the most incredible relationship and for consistently being honest with me even when it hurts.”
The amicable nature of their split is no surprise. In her book, Stause writes that she and Oppenheim “will always have an enormous amount of love, respect, and friendship between us.”
“No matter what happens, I know I’ll be perfectly happy on my own, living in my dream home that I bought by myself, and decorating my glam closet exactly the way I want to,” she writes. “The most important thing in life is to focus on being a whole, happy person on your own, without depending on the attention of another person to make you feel fulfilled.”
Under Construction: Because Living My Best Life Took a Little Work is out now.
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