Tracey Hawkins is a leader on multiple fronts. She’s the media liaison for the Kansas City Symphony Alliance Designers’ Showhouse, 444 Westover Road, which is open to the public April 23-May 15.
Hawkins is also a prominent national speaker. We’ve all heard of stranger danger, but Hawkins teaches proactive strategies, bringing product education and safety training to a group of highly vulnerable industry professionals: real estate agents.
Q. How did you get involved with Kansas City Symphony Alliance?
A. In 1989, I was in San Antonio at a conference complaining to a lady that there was nothing to do in Kansas City. I said I wanted to do something beneficial and fun. She told me about the Kansas City Symphony Alliance, and I’ve been a member chairing something in the organization ever since. In the early 2000s, I started working on the showhouses. I love giving designers the opportunity to show what they can do to 7,000 people.
Q. What have you learned from all these designers?
A. I look at how they arrange accessories. I’m not good with details like that, and it amazes me how they place everything just right. There’s definitely a method to it. I like accessories, but I look for the wow piece. At this point in my life, I have everything I need, so if I bring something into the house, I have to love it; if I don’t, I don’t get it.
Q. Is that your philosophy?
A. Clutter can be a problem for me. I have hoarding tendencies, but I’m not as bad as people on those TV shows. I can throw things away. I like to organize things. I’m all about shelves, shelves and more shelves.
Especially because companies are always sending me stuff, so I have quite a lot.
Q. What’s your favorite space in your home?
A. My office, because that’s where I get stuff done, where I make a living. It’s got everything I need. And I do it in a paperless manner. I don’t have a printer anymore and that fascinates me. I ran out of ink and I was too lazy to buy more, so I waited and found a way to work without it. I just email everything.
Q. What is your design style?
A. I’m different. I’ve stopped saying “weird” because I’m an age now that it’s too bad if no one else likes it. My style is more traditional than anything. I think my house is cute, but it’s not a showhouse. Every room is different, in burgundy, gold and sage. I have a black dining room that I painted that way after seeing it at one of the showhouses. I don’t do neutrals. I prefer bold colors, like jewel tones.
My house is a side-to-side split, about 2,500-square feet, and I can see every room. It’s livable. I don’t want a mansion. I don’t aspire to it; that’s not my dream.
Q. What is your dream?
A. I live and work my safety program. I’m a professional speaker on a national level; no one else does what I do. I used to be a real estate agent, then I opened a store in 1997 — a million years ago — and I needed to do something other than retail. I’ve been teaching for 21 years now.
Q. Why do you focus on real estate agents?
A. They make a living meeting strangers at their homes or sitting in empty houses waiting for strangers. When things go bad, business is good. That’s sad, but I work to prevent the bad situations.
Q. How do you teach agents to protect themselves?
A. I teach them how to use technology and social media. When they post open houses on Facebook, it says, “Here’s where I am, and here’s where I am not.” There’s no such thing as privacy. I want them to know the dangers and how to get around them. I always tell them to trust their instincts. It’s your No. 1 tool. All animals have it, but humans are the only ones who ignore it.
Q. How can sellers protect themselves?
A. By putting away their valuables — jewelry, DVD players, guns — and taking medicine out of cabinets. The biggest thing is to never answer the door to a stranger. The homeowner may be thinking it’s a potential buyer, but it’s not their job to sell the house. Let the agent do that. Also, fix the hazards on the property; for instance, a carpet edge that rolls up could be a danger and lead to a lawsuit if someone gets hurt.
Q. How do you avoid being a victim outside of the home?
A. You have to be aware. People don’t know what that means. It means making eye contact. Criminals take 7-10 seconds to decide if you’re going to be their next victim. If you look at them, you’re telling them that you’re not easy, and that you’re going to be witness potential. Say “hi” to everyone. That can be hard to do but it can also save you. Don’t be on your phone unless you use it for a fake conversation. I also keep my pepper spray on my key ring and carry my keys. That way it’s visible and accessible.
Q. What safety products do you recommend?
A. Pepper sprays, but not all pepper sprays are equal — there’s tear gas and Mace, and there are legal issues when using them, but as long as you’re using them in self-defense, you’re within your legal rights.
There’s also stun guns, Tasers and personal alarms, which make noise and get attention. My favorite products are on my website, SafetyAndSecuritySource.com.
Q. With this information, should people feel anxious or armed?
A. I don’t use fear tactics. Everyone needs to make a safety plan and play the what-if game because it’s hard to think on your feet. I do this for proactive people who want to know how to avoid and get out of bad situations. If you have realistic fear, you don’t have to live in fear.