Making “Our Place” Her Place
By Susan Ferrier ’03
some weekday morning, you might see an old classmate. As co-host
of “Our Place” on HGTV, Renai Ellison ’89
can be found in living rooms all over the country. Combining metropolitan
sophistication with country simplicity, “Our Place”
is the perfect venue for Ellison.
Ellison has enjoyed success on many fronts and fashion has been
the common thread. After college, Ellison began her affiliation
with QVC, first as a model, then a host. She has contributed to
several style magazines as a fashion editor and freelance writer.
As a lifestyle correspondent for several FOX affiliates, she represented
various clothing companies including Jones New York, Land’s
End and Sears.
In April 2001 Ellison began a new relationship with QVC when she
suggested her own clothing line. Since then, the Renai Ellison
Collection has gone into production with a New York manufacturer.
Ellison brings her flare for style to this collection of coordinating
separates in a bouclé knit. Ellison admits, “I like
to surround myself with nice things.” Her new line gives
women of all sizes the opportunity to do the same.
The glamour of modeling, fashion and television hasn’t spoiled
Ellison. She is well-rooted in her East Vineland beginnings. Raised
by her mother, a glass-factory worker, Ellison worked during high
school as a produce packer—a choice her mother found unsettling.
It was her mother’s encouragement that prompted Ellison
to pursue a degree in communications and journalism at Rowan University.
Ellison speaks fondly of her college years. “Some incredible
things happened for me,” she recalls. As Rowan’s first
African-American Homecoming Queen, Ellison admits she was astonished
not by the selection of an African-American, but a size 18 woman.
“I was very self-conscious of my size and looks,”
she confesses. Victory improved her self-image and built the confidence
she would need to succeed. “It gave me a vision.”
As part of her coursework, Ellison interned in the Public Relations
Department at KYW Television in Philadelphia. While there, she
began to envision a future in front of the camera, something she
had considered “a long shot.”
Ellison met some important people at KYW, including Nancy Glass,
then the host of “Evening Magazine.” At Glass’s
suggestion, Ellison competed and triumphed against 4000 women
in the National Model Search, launching her modeling career. These
experiences and four years at Rowan earned Ellison much more than
a degree. “It helped me see what I could achieve,”
For now, Ellison concentrates on “getting the most out of
the moment I’m in now.” Her focus these days is “Our
Place.” Each show pro€les a professional artisan, then walks
viewers through a simplified make-at-home version of the artist’s
work. When asked about her artistic ability, Ellison concedes,
“I am creative but not artistic… I get a lot of help.”
When her manager suggested she audition for “Our Place,”
Ellison knew immediately this was the opportunity she had been
seeking. But after her audition, HGTV had concerns—was Ellison
too perky? They requested a second audition. This time Ellison
nailed it. Now, in its fourth successful season, HGTV should no
longer be concerned about Ellison’s bubbly personality.
Ellison’s living room has the feel of a chic Manhattan studio.
Surrounded by the elegant décor, it is easy to forget this
is a modest New Jersey residence. Purchasing her home a year ago,
Ellison shunned New York and Hollywood, choosing to settle close
to her roots. She lives a simple lifestyle that is reflective
of her values. She said, “I have more than I could ever
have asked for.”