CHARLOTTE (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — Stephen Cooley is a familiar face on billboards around south Charlotte and Rock Hill, but you may not know all there is to know about the real estate agency owner.
From the outside looking in, Cooley’s life seems pretty picture perfect.
“A lot of reality TV real estate shows, it’s glamorized it even more,” said Cooley.
He’s been buying and selling houses for more than three decades, since he was 21 years old.
“The cabinets were originally this dark cabinet,” Cooley describes showing his house.
Cooley is always camera ready. He gives real estate advice on his YouTube channel. He’s also known as the “billboard guy” in Fort Mill and south Charlotte.
But life isn’t always so glamorous.
“They think you’re dealing with happy people all day, that’s never the case,” said Cooley.
Cooley gets to be there for the big moments in people’s lives.
“People getting married, relationships ending, unfortunately death,” said Cooley.
Those are the times when people are also buying or selling a home.
“I think we’re more of a marriage counselor and a relationship counselor than a realtor somedays,” said Cooley.
📲 Download the Queen City News app to stay updated on the go.
the Sign up for QC News email alerts to have breaking news sent to your inbox.
💻 Find today’s top stories on QCNews.com for Charlotte, NC, and all of the Carolinas.
Cooley was living a different life in his late 20s, a successful businessman with an 8-year-old daughter.
“I personally didn’t have a lot of time to concentrate on how that would go,” said Cooley.
At that time, he made the decision to tell friends and family he’s gay.
“No social media, no internet, so coming out was a different process back then,” said Cooley.
But some things never change.
“The big thing for me, Robin, is I did not worry about what other people thought,” said Cooley.
That has served him well personally.
“I felt like if people worried at the end of the day, who I loved, they probably were not the right people to be in my life anyway,” said Cooley.
That has also served him well professionally.
“I’ve accepted being fired or not hired and moving on to the people that support me or see relevant to them,” said Cooley.
Cooley credits his mom, Judith.
“She told me early on, ‘You be you and whatever that looks like, you have my support.”
His new baby granddaughter is named after his mom.
“I snuck away for the first 6 months, and I kept Jude every Monday all day.”
Life isn’t always scripted. It’s sometimes even better when the camera isn’t rolling.
“As a gay man, it’s just really been a great opportunity for me to have a daughter and now a granddaughter.”