Interview: Fredrik Eklund
By Alex Taylor Williams
Crossover stars are nothing new—just ask Queen Latifah, Mandy Moore, James Franco, or any of the ever-growing horde of celebrities hell-bent on adding that coveted "slash" to their job titles. But perhaps Fredrik Eklund, a star on Bravo's new Manhattan-based spin-off, Million Dollar Listing New York, is the only (if not one of very few) award-winning-porn-star-turned-real-estate-mogul among us. Eklund, a Swedish import, first came into the public eye as Tag Eriksson (his porn name) and won the 2004 GayVN award for Best Solo Performance in The Hole, an erotic spoof on The Ring. His adult career was short lived, though, and he came to Manhattan in 2004, pursuing the real estate world on the recommendation of a friend. Now, almost a decade later, Eklund is a major player in the New York real estate scene, having closed over $1 billion in deals since the start of his career. On the debut of his latest reincarnation, as a reality star, he spoke with us about catering to celebrities, why he's never regretted his past decisions, and how his TV turn yield a fruitful, if unexpected, outcome.
Out: How did you get your start in real estate?
Eklund: It was about eight years in New York. As soon as I moved here, I got my real estate license and I got started at a company that doesn’t exist anymore. It was owned by Robert Dinero’s uncle, Jack Dinero, in Chelsea actually. I didn’t have any real estate experience; I didn’t really know the city either. I didn’t know people here, or the streets really, so I got my license because I wanted to try it. A friend of mine said that I would be good at it because I like people and also because I’m analytic and number-driven and all those things and you need on both sides.
What made you want to join the cast of Million Dollar Listing New York?
I think that the future of real estate is going to be based around technology. It is already. If you asked me eight years ago when I started, I was one of the only people in real estate who got the Blackberry. It was big and blue, and I felt so cool communicating with my clients in real time over email. Today, we have listing systems and you need to have an international outreach, and everything is much much faster for a realtor now. And I pride myself on being the new guard of real estate and social media. And video is coming quickly. So it's natural to get yourself on television because it's all about building a brand, and the old ways are being replaced with a new agent. Where I’m from, Sweden, it’s a big show. In the U.K. it’s a big show everywhere you go. My business is already international buyers buying from New York, so this is a very good way of getting myself out there.
Were you ready to share more than just your career with the country?
I’ve always said, "I am who I am, proud of who I am. I don’t regret anything." Like what I said in the New York Times article that covered the porn in my past. I see life as a big smorgasbord. I’m ready to try anything and having fun while doing it. But, when it comes to the show its difficult for me to speak about it because I haven’t seen it yet. I just know that, when we filmed it, I was true to myself. Percentage-wise, they told us it would be 75% our business and 25% social, or what happens after work.
There has been some controversy over your past in the adult film industry.
I never used the word controversy. I certainly have never felt any.
What made you want to join the adult film industry?
First of all, it was only a week of my life, accumulated. It was spread out over a few months, so it was a very short period of my life. It was something that I tried and quickly decided that I was done with. But it’s not as dramatic as people put it out to be. I’ve always been open about it. As you may know, I wrote a book about it in Sweden, a novel which is a best-seller in Sweden. It wasn’t anything I really went through or any controversy for me, and, when it comes to my business, I never once thought that it affected my business in a negative way. And now, looking back, it was about nine years ago—I never really think about it except when I’m in interviews. The show brings it up and I’m glad that they did because it allowed me to respond to it, rather than just mentioning it. Then, you can clear it out so people don’t think that I am trying to hide it. That’s probably one of the reasons why I haven’t received any negativity—because you can see in my eyes or hear in my voice that I’m open about it.
Do you have any celebrity clients?
I have worked with a lot of celebrities, most of them. I have so many listings, from $500,000 to $20 million, so it’s a very big range over different neighborhoods. Although sometimes the clients and celebrities are maybe not mine, they come through other brokers through my listings. I’ve met basically all of them and I’ve sold to a lot of them, too. I’ve closed $1.25 billion in my eight years. The show comes with me to Stockholm where I have a company. We just finished $600 million in sales. There’s lots of stories. I live and breathe this job, and I have a lot of clients.
What was it like working with the other guys on the show?
We weren’t allowed to communicate off camera. Not allowed to have dinners or hang out because everything is real on the show, and, in New York, everything is so transparent. Every deal that I’ve done in New York goes into databases, you can see who bought it and for what price. Which means that I did nine deals over the first season, which have all closed. So we can't really see anything that’s the format of the show. Whenever you see an interaction, that’s really the first time we interacted all season and that’s real. It's exactly what you see there. It’s like a friendly competition, which means big deals, big commissions, and big clients. There was a bit of drama which I’m sure they edit to make it interesting to watch, which I understand because no one wants to watch anything when everyone is in agreement.
For me, personally the biggest surprise was that it was very therapeutic in a way, and I didn’t expect it to be. They filmed me with my dad. I even cried on the show with my mom when they came to Sweden. I met my boyfriend—we’re actually engaged now—on the last episode of the show. The show somehow became a catalyst for all of these energies. I never expected that on that emotional level.