Special to The Seattle Lesbian by Janelle Eagle
I have to admit it. I am addicted to home improvement shows. The immediate payoff of the “before and after” shots and the sense of potential around every construction corner is extremely addicting. My partner and I regularly live vicariously through the television and on at least three occasions have convinced ourselves that “we could totally do that.” Suffice it to say, we have a hypothetical and never-ending “honey-do” list. As readers know, because we’re both women, we’re both the honey and we’re both going to have to do at some point.
Between now and whenever we actually have a home to improve, I am super excited to learn that living vicariously through DIY television won’t be such a stretch once Flipping Miami premieres on Saturday October 20 on A&E. Instead of the gruff, bearded and aggressive men that tend to dominate my favorite home improvement shows, I get to live vicariously through Carolina Balsamo.
You may have seen plenty of swaps, flips and sales. You may have seen plenty of guys trying to make a quick buck by buying, renovating, and reselling. Flipping Miami marks the first time you’ll see a Spanish-speaking, hammer swinging LADY in charge of the construction while her husband handles the paperwork.
I had the opportunity to chat with Carolina, to learn more about her journey to becoming a television star, and what it feels like to represent for strong Latina women:
JE: Who did you look up to when you were younger? Did you have a Latina role model?
Looking back, I cannot recall any Latin figure that’s had an impact on me other than my mom. I spent most of my childhood outdoors and left Colombia when I was a teenager so I didn’t get to look up to any famous figure. My mom has been my role model. She has been the perfect example of a HARD-working individual who is always positive about life and grateful for everything. She made sure to instill within me her passion for life and her positive outlook.
As I’ve gotten older, I have gained so much respect for female figures, including female athletes and strong women. I admire fellow countrywoman Sofia Vergara because she is a driven woman, always with a smile on her face and very determined in life.
JE: Is it surreal then that you got the nickname “Sofia Vergara with a toolbelt?”
Caro: Wow, that is such a compliment. I don’t consider myself as pretty as she is, but the comparison I believe goes beyond the looks. Think about it. We are fellow countrywomen and I have a heavy accent like ‘Gloria’ from Modern Family. We are both brunette and we are always happy and smiling!! I’m flattered.
JE: Isn’t it crazy how women constantly compare themselves? I think you’re absolutely beautiful and that you’re a star in your own right! Why do you think there aren’t more leading Latina ladies in reality television?
Caro: There have been plenty of reality shows with some female leads on Latin networks, but not that many of them on American networks. Latinos are considered to be the ‘minority’ in the USA, but in some areas like South Florida or New York City, Caucasians are currently considered minority. I believe we are at the breaking point where American television networks are accepting the fact that the Latino population is growing, and some networks have started to open doors to Latin talent in their shows.
On the other hand, construction is a tough job. Not too many women are up for the heavy lifting, sweating, and “getting dirty” part. Most home improvements shows are led by men, so I’m happy to be an example for America that women can also wear the tool belt and work that drill and hammer!
JE: You are definitely a fantastic inspiration for women who aspire to take matters into their own hands. When did you get your first tool belt? How were you introduced to the world of house flipping?
Caro: I got my first tool box when I was about 10 years old, but my first tool belt I actually got about 2 years ago. When you are working constantly in construction you NEED to have the basic tools with you all the time. Let’s say you are on a ladder and you need different tools for a job; you can’t count on someone handing you tools, and if you go up and down looking for tools that’s a huge waste of time. A contractor without a tool belt is not a good sign.
The housing market in Florida crashed big time in 2009. My husband and I pooled some money to buy a house as an investment, but it turned out that the returns in this business are incredible. We decided to keep buying and flipping houses. The decision wasn’t difficult; I can make in one house as much as I was making working as a full-time employee in New York. Now I have my own company and even though it’s a heavy-duty job, I’m my own boss! No more requests to HR for vacation
JE: Hooray for independence! It’s a huge accomplishment that you’ve moved, started your own company and are finding success in Miami. Pause with me for a moment and look back. What construction project are you most proud of?
Caro: I always reflect on my projects and get so much satisfaction for what I have accomplished. I like making people happy by offering them a beautiful house to buy or rent! I have to say that the project I’m most proud of is the first house my husband and I bought in Florida. We had NO experience in construction and we hired the wrong team. We encountered so many problems throughout construction, but at the end the house turned out beautiful! We’ve had a tenant in place ever since, and we learned so much from that project.
JE: From my experience watching these shows, it seems like the team surrounding you really makes all the difference in the final product. How does it feel to be constantly surrounded by men at work?
Caro: It feels like I can use some female help! I’d love to work with tough women, but I don’t know any women working in construction other than me. I always have to put on my poker face and be serious and professional. Men do not believe I’m very knowledgeable in construction because of my looks, but as soon as I open my mouth regarding a job to be done, things totally change and I gain respect from them.
JE: One man who deeply respects you is your husband, Chris. You seem to have an incredible balance in your relationship. How is it being partners in business and life?
Caro: Chris and I are ‘the A team’. Whatever I’m not good at, he is really good at and vice versa. He has a really calm personality while I’m very fiery. We complement each other very well and the most important part of our relationship is the unconditional support we offer each other both at work or at home.
JE: Speaking of life outside work, are there other areas of your life where you take on the role normally assumed to be for men?
Caro: I’m the boss either at work or home. It’s always my way, ask my husband! A male characteristic I have is my protective personality. I really care for my people and sometimes the boy inside of me comes out. Especially when looking out for friends and family. I’m always the person to stand up and speak out if anybody I care for is in trouble or is being messed around by someone else.
JE: I am really looking forward to seeing all sides of your personality on Flipping Miami. What do audiences have to look forward to in this first episode of Flipping Miami?
Caro: I love watching home improvement shows, but I got a little bored watching only men doing renovations and watching the stars just sit around and sub-hiring employees to avoid getting dirty.
There are some female roles as designers or home decorators, but I can’t recall one show where a woman is the one wearing the tool belt and getting involved in all the construction! I’m so happy to show the world that there is NO job a woman can’t do. Flipping homes is such a challenge, and in South Florida it becomes very daring since the weather plays a big roll. This work isn’t easy, but the returns are amazing! The message I’d like to pass on to people is that if I can do this type of job, anybody else can do it. The opportunity to make money is at your fingertips!!!
JE: Where can our readers connect with you in social media?
Caro: I’d love to invite all the readers to join us on facebook at www.facebook.com/flippingmiami. I’m also available on Twitter @caroflipmiami. I’m actually working on a new flip and I’m constantly tweeting from the construction site and posting LOTS of pictures! So, stay tuned!!
JE: Check out Flipping Miami on A&E, premiering Saturday October 20at 10am PST. For a taste of what’s in store, feel free to check out this teaser: