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    This originally appeared in the 2019 Best of Louisville issue of Louisville Magazine.

    Michaelle Warner has always loved playing dress-up — from childhood Halloweens on through her 20s, when she would don wigs and costumes to go out dancing at gay bars. Dressing up was a creative outlet, as was art, which she studied at Smith College in the early ’80s. “But painting isn’t real lucrative,” Warner jokes. For a few years she co-owned a popular Old Louisville art gallery-coffee house called Cafe Dog, where you could get an espresso and catch local bands like Slint and King Kong in their infancy. Warner eventually sought a more stable career, becoming a real estate agent in 1989. Over the next three decades, she focused on building her business, raising two children and playing a lead role in the Frankfort Avenue Business Association. Her responsibilities left little time for creative exploits — until now.

    In a series of real estate ads that debuted last fall, Warner taps into her love of costumes and film. The first mailer — inspired by the iconic American Beauty scene with Mena Suvari lying in rose petals — shows Warner in the same pose, amid fall leaves, wearing what she describes as “a tacky gold polyester jacket, like the ones Century 21 agents used to wear in the ’70s.” The tagline: “Looking for your American Beauty?” The second advertisement came out in January, so she chose to spoof the most “winter” film she could think of: Fargo. Warner found a classic police bomber jacket and an ear-flapped hat on eBay, along with a sheriff’s star from Caufield’s, so she could mimic the look of Frances McDormand’s character. Warner’s friend Suki Anderson (who’s also Louisville Magazine’s art director) Photoshopped her into a snowy landscape from the film, with the words “You’re darned tootin’ I can sell your house!”

    “The most important thing in real estate is keeping yourself in people’s minds,” says Warner, who specializes in historic homes (and lives in a 125-year-old Queen Anne Victorian in Clifton). She has plans for a third film-inspired ad, possibly this summer. “My last child just went to college in August, so I’m coming out of my ‘mommy time,’” she says. “I wanted to do something that had an impact and said, ‘I’m still here, going strong.’”

    This originally appeared in the 2019 Best of Louisville issue of Louisville Magazine. Read more.

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