Madison Hildebrand made his official exit from the Bravo reality series Million Dollar Listing: Los Angeles after 10 seasons. The telegenic relatively drama-free realtor is now free to focus on his full-service luxury brand, The Malibu Life, and his personal life, free of the constraints of reality TV. He was notably the first of the franchise to come out as LGBTQ, though his initial placement on the continuum was a little fuzzy. But those days are long behind him as he unequivocally identifies as a gay man… full stop.
A glance at his heavily curated Instagram page @MadisonMalibu reflects his renewed optimism and the great place he’s in right now. It’s chock full of picture-perfect photos of Madison enjoying the good life paired with inspirational and motivational quotes, including his professional mantra “First be a blessing, then be blessed.”
Honestly, that’s where I am. It’s not a front. I’m not “up” all the time, I’m not “down” all the time, but I’m certainly riding this wave. If you go back far enough, you’ll catch up to the period where I was hanging on by the tiniest thread to stay positive. There were a lot of dark moments.
Those dark moments he’s referring to include the passage of his two beloved rescue dogs Maya and Mr. Prince as well as the death of his grandfather and a debilitating injury which put him out of commission for two years. But adversity is nothing new for this superstar realtor. In 2016, he suffered a concussion and fractured jaw during a diving board accident which required his jaw to be wired shut for weeks. When asked where he gets that inner strength and tenacity, he attributes some of it to his father whose own father died when he was 16.
I’m in such a wonderful place, in my career and my life in general. After ten seasons, departing from the show was probably one of the best decisions I made – not to be cliché – but for my mental health. COVID was probably – selfishly speaking – one of the best things for my situation. I’m not desensitizing how devastating it is. But when the world shut down, it was what I personally needed. Because I needed to have a moment to shut down.
I asked why he stayed with the series as long as he did if it was the source of so much stress.
The answer is simple and complex – the money and the notoriety were hard to walk away from. The toxicity and the fame were the reason I had to go. In hindsight, it was the best experience, and I am forever grateful, but as an empath it is something I did a lot longer than I ever imagined. As one can see from the other Bravo franchises, it can destroy marriages, cause mental health issues, even suicide. In the scheme of things, I got out pretty unscathed.
While 2020 will be remembered as a catastrophic year for many, it was a milestone for Madison and a time to reflect on where he’s been and where he’s heading.
I turned 40 in October, and I had a really fun party with a group of friends in Tulum Mexico. It was about embracing where I was in my life. I got to pause and appreciate what I’ve accomplished, and what I survived so to speak. And for that I felt, and have been feeling, that I am where I’m supposed to be. I’m happy, I’m healthy, I’m back doing fitness, I’m absolutely dating. A family is still something that I’d consider, if it’s meant to be of course, but I won’t do it alone. Now, I’m not really in a place where I’m needing a relationship. I don’t feel lonely. I certainly don’t have the pressure of the network telling me that I need to find a boyfriend for the season, or need to go on dates, or they’re going to set me up, and do all those things.
Is that what it was like?
Oh yeah, every season they constantly wanted me to be in a relationship. For one episode, we were in Beverly Hills at a bar, and they brought 20 “contestants” as I call them that I had no idea going into and I was speed dating. Did I want to be doing that at the time? No, I had just gotten out of a relationship that hadn’t aired on TV. So now I don’t have those pressures. It’s on my terms and I’m just happy to be free and private.
How is your dating life now?
Are you meeting people through apps and social media, or do you meet them in person, or is it a mix of both?
During COVID it was certainly apps. That was really the only way to connect safely with people. So, I did “app-up.” Since then, I have my social life back in a groove and I deleted all the apps because right now they’re not necessary. I’m technically single, but I am dating and seeing where I want to go with this.
What were some of the lessons learned from your relationship with Cody Keltz which was featured on Million Dollar Listing?
I walked away from that relationship not because there was necessarily anything wrong – or that one of us did something that hurt the other. Quite the opposite. I still loved him, but I really wanted to grow and focus on being more successful. That was the part that was hard because you can’t speed someone’s life up or their life experience and I was ready to hit the ground running.
And in terms of the current crop of guys that you’re seeing, how have things changed? Have you found people that you’re more in synch with?
This being our annual indulgence issue, Madison freely admits to being a bit of a hedonist and shared some of his favorite indulgences.
I threw a Hedonism party one year and that was actually the title on the invitation. I put a lot into my career and my clients and when it’s time for me to indulge, I also do a very good job of that.
You work hard and you play hard.
That was my motto on Bravo. I don’t have kids and I don’t have the Dobermans tying me down.
To be a happy hedonist, it helps to have a high net worth and plenty of disposable income. Though he doesn’t spend as much as one might expect on material things, he is a big believer in more experiential indulgences, such as hosting parties and extravagant travels.
He described a recent indulgence when a French girlfriend of his invited him to Costa Rica on the spur of the moment.
She said, I’m leaving tomorrow at 6 am. The hotel is booked, you don’t need to plan, just get on the plane. And I literally called American Express, got a ticket, flew out the next morning at 6am and went away for 7 days to Costa Rica with 4 French guys and a French girl and LIVED IT UP. It was completely spontaneous and so much fun.
But there’s more…
I just came back from San Francisco for a very indulgent party. I was up there for the weekend for my friend’s birthday.” For more on that, you can check out his Space Cowboy costume on Instagram. He’s also heading to the Amalfi Coast on a 200-foot yacht for Labor Day.
But in Madison’s world, indulgences aren’t just for special occasions, they’re built into his regular schedule. Hosting parties and indulging his appetite for the good life for him and those fortunate enough to be in his circle of friends can be costly, but in terms of a dollar amount, he says “it’s not something I think about too much, but I try to stay under 10-15k a month.” Such perks include a personal masseur with a standing two-hour weekly massage, a personal chef, a concierge, a driver, and chartering a helicopter as needed for efficiency or for that extra splurge while traveling.
Last week, I hosted four parties at my home in Malibu. One for a gay friend’s 30th birthday and all his friends. Then I had houseguests in for three days, so we had a cocktail party for her and her boyfriend and their friends. Then I decided, because I wasn’t busy enough, that I wanted to have a dinner party for a bunch of clients who were just feeling like they wanted to get out and about again” after being locked down during the pandemic. “The mask ordinance came off… for a minute. So, I invited 14 people, called my concierge, called the chef. That was on a Monday and the party was on a Wednesday. We enjoyed a four-course meal with lobster and alcohol and all the fun things.
What would you say are the most important traits that have enabled you to excel?
How much of your job entails psychology? Knowing how to read people, how to hand-hold, when to push, when to back off.
Almost 95 percent is handling people the right way. And sometimes that means you let them think that they are controlling the situation. I think that’s probably something our industry doesn’t get enough credit for. The art of the deal is not just negotiating dollars and terms. It’s really negotiating personalities. It’s also how quickly you can overcome obstacles and find solutions. And that’s something that I’m good at, especially under pressure.
Dealing with the Malibu luxury real estate market, Madison has worked with his share of celebrities. But getting him to spill some tea is another matter.
I definitely have represented some of the most recognized names in the celebrity world. But I’m so not tied up in that world. It’s the person, not their resume. The thing that gets me excited is the energy of the people.
Having reached a dead-end with the celebrity scoop, I moved on to politics and the Black Lives Matter protests that erupted across the United States this past year. Malibu has a certain image, and our country went through a huge reckoning with racial issues. I was just wondering if that seeped into the Malibu bubble.
I don’t think anyone in America was sheltered from that loud cry of a movement that was so necessary in a lot of ways. Including Malibu. There were protestors at the main intersection with their banners from very young kids to adults and their parents. Honking their horns and chanting on the side of the road. So, it was nice to see that in the community. And Malibu, as affluent as it is, is still a very open minded, very liberal, and artistic community. I think it was surprisingly more responsive than you would think, which I was proud to be a part of.
I also have a home in West Hollywood. And so, during the pandemic I was going back and forth. But I was there the night the riots broke out. I had a dinner party at my house that night. The helicopters were literally swarming the sky. We couldn’t sit outside as we planned because we couldn’t hear each other speak. We started smelling the fires, and you could hear the shots fired. I really had a different experience than just being in Malibu because I was there for the wildest part of it. And then coming to Malibu was like night and day. It was a safe zone, I would say.
While scrolling through his Instagram feed, I couldn’t help noticing a photograph of Madison having climbed the gymnastic rings in Santa Monica, wondering how he could attempt something like that knowing about his recent recovery from a severe hand injury.
It’s so funny. Everybody reacted to that like, what the hell are you doing? And if you noticed, I had a knee brace on as well. Because the week before I had just injured my knee in the ocean. I was still kind of hobbling. But I think that is just representative of who I am as a person. Because when I’m back, I’m back. When I’m going to do something, I do it. And when I want to heal, I don’t want to be held back by someone telling me it will never be the same. And the doctor essentially said that to me when I left the hospital.
Just as he puts his all into his work, Madison channeled all that energy into healing. He cited a documentary titled “Heal” which was very impactful about the power of the mind to heal physical ailments.
Did I sit and hold my wrist and my hand where the bone was and meditate and focus my mental energy and frequencies? Absolutely. And I think that rope-climbing incident was a testament to how good I feel. And yes, that was not hard to do, and it did not hurt. Going to the rings is something that I used to do for workouts in the summer. And it’s going to be part of my regimen again. So yeah, I’m like a big kid in an adult body.
Featured Photo: Jennifer Olson
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