After Barbara Corcoran’s 14 years on the show, it might be impossible for viewers to imagine Shark Tank without her.
Yet when the series was in its early stages of production, the real estate mogul was dropped from the lineup for the only female-occupied seat on the panel.
Talking on Instagram, Corcoran revealed that she first heard about the show when she got a call from producer Mark Burnett’s assistant asking if she wanted to be on a new panel series named Shark Tank.
“I don’t fish,” Corcoran had said, before being told the premise of the show, and from there she was “hooked.”
Corcoran, who started her New York City real estate firm with $1,000 borrowed from her boyfriend and turned it into a $5 billion business, said she signed the Shark Tank contract two days later “without even reading it.”
Having told her friends and family she was heading to Hollywood, Corcoran said she rushed to luxury department store Bergdorf Goodman to buy two new suits and a set of luggage for her trip.
“The day before I was scheduled to leave for L.A. that same lady called me to tell me they had changed their mind,” said Corcoran. “They were giving the lone female seat to another woman.”
The Corcoran Group founder was told that the seat had been given to someone else, but refusing to back down, the Shark Tales author wrote an email directly to Burnett.
She said the email began: “Dear Mark, I understand you’ve asked another girl to dance instead of me. Although I appreciate being reserved as a fallback—which wasn’t true—I’m much more accustomed to coming in first.
“I think you should consider inviting both women to L.A. to compete for the seat.”
“All the good stuff happened in my life on the heels of rejection. I do my best work when my back is against the wall,” Corcoran continued.
She cited being told she was stupid as a child for not being able to read and write very well, for not being let into the New York real estate game by the “old boys club,” and a legal battle against Donald Trump.
Corcoran said she learned to read and write, and the old boys club eventually had to capitulate because she became their “number one competitor.” Trump paid out after being taken to federal court—Corcoran won “every penny.”
Burnett’s rejection, she believed, was a “lucky charm.”
Corcoran booked her flight to Los Angeles and was invited to compete for the seat—which she won.
She joined media entrepreneur Kevin Harrington, CEO of apparel company FUBU Daymond John, Canadian businessman Kevin O’Leary, and software founder Robert Herjavec.
Harrington left the show, which has since added Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and patent mogul Lori Greiner to the lineup of regular investors.
According to an analytics website for the series, Sharkalytics, Corcoran has invested more than $5.4 million on air, spanning 53 deals with an average investment size of $103,113.
Her investments include outdoor equipment brand Coverplay, cupmaker Loliware, and photo booth brand Pink Shutter.
Not all of her investments immediately brought returns. In the Him & Her Show podcast released earlier this week, Corcoran revealed: “I spent the first two years losing every nickel I put into it.”
The property mogul has plenty to spare, however, as she sold her real estate group to Cendant and Apollo Management’s NRT for $66 million in 2001.
These setbacks are also key for the self-proclaimed “Queen of New York Real Estate” to continue to succeed.
“The lesson is always the same,” said Corcoran on Instagram. “All the good stuff happens after you get back up.”