In our humble opinion, he’s one of Toronto’s hottest real estate agents and HGTV personalities right now. Rizwan Malik can often be found selling multi-million dollar homes and condos across the city, and did we mention his EPIC sense of style? Making VP of Sales at Sotheby’s International, and starring in HGTVs Hot Market, all in his early 30s, he’s proven himself as a force to be reckoned with in The 6ix. But he’s so much more than a realtor. He’s an equestrian, an uncle, a dog dad, a first generation immigrant, and openly gay for the majority of his life.
Malik’s experience as both BIPOC and openly gay, has been different than what so many of the horror stories we’ve seen, or even worse, experienced for yourself. Malik was fortunately “blessed” with an accepting support system, who praise him for being his most important label of all: Rizwan. What most grasped our attention: his hopes to neutralize the conversation around sexuality and sexual orientation through education, and creating a safe environment to learn from one another, starting as early as childhood.
Rizwan the Realtor
From a young age, Malik has loved people. As a child he was the always the outgoing, friendly, joker of the class who got along with everyone. He got his first job as a teenager at a local pet store, which is where his career in sales began. As a part-time employee while in high school, he became the top commission earner at his location. He even beat out the store manager for the top sales spot. It was here that Malik learned of his passion for people and desire for freedom in his professional life. When he got into real estate at the age of 20, Malik knew he had found the perfect career.
“It’s a very social career, and i really, really like the networking aspect. the socializing. the meeting new people. i never say no to a party, because you never know who you are going to meet.”rizwan malik
As he gained experience, and success, in the real estate business, Malik continued to build relationships, secure higher profile listings, and really make a name for himself. He tells us that in the cut-throat real estate industry, there are approximately 90,000 agents in Ontario alone. So you can imagine the competition. Malik, however, has always preferred to spend his energy on the clients he does have, then on the ones he doesn’t.
At any given time, Malik could have upwards of 10-active clients at once. And while he has the flexibility to make his own schedule, the nature of the real estate business also means agents are often at the mercy of client calls at all hours of the day. When asked how he deals with working in such a high stress environment, Malik’s answer is simple: Empathy.
His sales strategy is rooted in authenticity. He isn’t afraid to share his extensive knowledge and experience with his clients, helping them to make find the best possible home, for the right price. He doesn’t take it personally, or get annoyed when clients are a little overbearing, because he knows that buying a house is an extremely important financial and personal decision.
“to [clients] it is the single most expensive asset they will ever buy or sell…It’s not that they’re being insensitive or disrespectful to my time. they are buying/selling a home…it’s front and centre for them.”rizwan malik
The issue of religion, race and sexual orientation has never come up in Malik’s professional life, because he doesn’t allow them to. If he is unsuccessful at achieving a goal, it’s never because of who Malik is, rather that it wasn’t the right fit to do business. By not allowing those negative thoughts to manifest within him, Malik is able to focus on what truly matters to him: the quality of his work and the happiness of his clients.
Malik first realized he was gay as a pre-teen and spent most of his teenage year struggling to come to terms with his identity. Being Middle Eastern, he was nervous about the reaction of his family, and thought it would be easier to come out to his friends first. But when he came out, Malik found that it didn’t change who he was in the world at all. It simply allowed him the freedom to continue to be the best version of himself.
“I was very fortunate that all of my friends, their reaction was “well, you’re still rizwan”. it’s not that i came out and i changed or morphed into a new person…i was the exact same person i was the day before i told my friends”.rizwan malik
When coming out to his family, Malik admits that at first, it was a difficult transition for them. Having been so successful financially from such a young age, Malik had a better sense of security than others in the LGBTQ+ community. He knew that no matter what the outcome was when he came out to his parents, he would be safe.
Going into the conversation, Malik was very strategic about his approach with his parents. He wanted to ensure that they would have the time and space they may need to process his news should they need it. It’s one thing to appreciate gay culture and have gay friends, but unfortunately, it’s an entirely different matter when homosexuality is confirmed at home. Despite the fact that Malik thought his parents had likely wondered about his sexual orientation over the years, confirming to them would likely come as a shock. Even though he was now comfortable in his own skin, he couldn’t expect his family to immediately adjust.
Malik finally came out to his parents when he was 24, and he describes it as a very “adult conversation.” He holds an incredible amount of respect for his parents. Malik felt is was important to ensure he answered his parents’ questions patiently, and work to educate them on the realities of being gay in this day and age. He tells us that he expected that his parents would be angry or upset, and that he would understand where it’s coming from, not because they wanted to disown him, but simply because they didn’t understand. To his surprise, his coming out was full of happy tears and far better than he ever could have imagined.
His coming out wasn’t completely smooth sailing however. Malik remembers his parents asking him to see a doctor after hearing the news. He remembers thinking that they simply didn’t understand. Even though he knew what the doctor would say, it was important to him that he not leave that stone unturned for his parents. Not only would it help them to gain a better understanding of who Rizwan is, it would also give his parents peace of mind around what they wanted to get clarity on from the doctor. At the end of the day, Malik knew that his parents only want the best for him.
Normalizing the Conversation about Sexuality
Over 10-years have passed since Malik came out to his friends and family, allowing him to live freely and confidently as his authentic self. The Rizwan we spoke to, has an undeniable self-confidence that is obvious, but not overbearing. It comes from an understanding and acceptance of who he is, rather than a false bravado. Malik’s family has grown to include two young godsons, a loyal group of friends, and his adorable dog Luna. He’s found success not only professionally but personally, and truly is living his best life. When it comes to showing PRIDE, his version looks a little different, which is why we were so intrigued to learn more.
“for me, what i see pride in is knowing when i go and see my godsons and they ask me, “hey uncle riz, did you go on a date?””rizwan malik
Hearing his godsons use the term partner, or asking about his dates, is the ultimate sign that there is hope for a change in attitudes towards the LGBTQ+ community with future generations. Malik doesn’t believe that he needs to forwardly highlight his sexuality upfront to others, because that insinuates that there is a problem with who he is. He believes, that creating normalcy around the conversation of sexual orientation, is really at the root of what is needed to encourage growth and change in society.
Supporting the LGBTQ+ Community
Although he admits that he is not an activist, by any means, Malik has been a supporter of The 519 for years. The resources they provide to the community are crucial to so many across Toronto. The 519 offers free safe spaces to gather and work for those in need, as well as services ranging from counselling, to refugee settlement. On top of that, The organization offers training, workshops, and resources to help better the lives of those who need their help from within the LGBTQ+ community.
Malik believes that the best way to move towards acceptance, is through empowering people through education. More specifically, creating an environment where we don’t get defensive when someone asks a question. He says that, if we don’t give each other the opportunity to learn, we will never be able to grow. Asking the questions that you need to ask, and being as objective as possible, ultimately will help to spread awareness in a meaningful way.
Harnessing Horse Power
One of Malik’s lifelong hobbies has been horseback riding. As soon as he started working and saved up, Malik started paying for his own riding lessons. As a child he loved the Saddle Club books, and was passionate about riding even before he began training. Malik describes his experience on a horse as therapeutic. Referencing the mutual respect that is formed between horse and rider.
As we arrived at Benchmark Equestrian, we were greeted by an extremely handsome and powerful horse named Frank. Frank is Malik’s horse, and to watch the two interact was a sight to behold. At times, Malik would speak softly to Frank when he got restless, calming him with a soft “woah” and pet on the nose. Their bond, was undeniable.
“they are so forgiving. i’ve had times where i have completely brought him right up to a fence and just at the nick of time he will still jump it just out of respect and understanding that you know what, this is a partnership.”Rizwan Malik
While show jumping is still considered a hobby to Malik, riding horses truly is his own form of therapy. Spending time alone, in nature can be extremely positive for your mental health. Adding in the exhilaration felt when harnessing the power of a 1500 lbs animal, as well as trust in the partnership all add to the overall experience for Malik. Turns out you can learn more from horseback riding than just how to get back on when you fall.
Life in The 6ix
Malik moved to Canada when he was 8-years old, and while he has always loved Toronto, he also is an avid traveller. When he’s not selling fabulous Toronto homes, he’s travelling to one of his favourite destinations around the world to see his friends. Of all the many places he has visited, Rome is definitely his top destination. With friends who are native to the city, Malik experiences a much different Rome than many tourists, he takes the saying, “do as the Romans do” to a whole new level.
Malik himself resides in Yorkville in the heart of Toronto. A perfect location for a fashion-lover like himself to settle. He will often venture out to different neighbourhoods depending on what he’s looking for. For example, in Cabbagetown he frequents St. James Town Butcher several times a week for a bowl of his favourite chili. For Italian food, it has to be Carisma (for both takeout and dine-in) where, according to Malik, they serve the best Gnocchi in the city. For Sunday brunch, either Mildred’s Temple or The Four Seasons’ Cafe Boulud are a must.
What’s next for Rizwan Malik?
He’s currently working on a new office, as well as shooting a new show that he could not share too much about…all in between his busy realtor schedule. If you ask us, he’s definitely one to watch. 😉
Creative/Fashion Direction and Producer: STEVEN BRANCO; Photography: NICK MERZETTI; Fashion Assistant: SHANON SIDHU; Production Coordinator and Contributor: MERRILL FLYNN; Lighting Assistant: MOR ANUCOV; Grooming: DARREN JANSEN / L’Oreal Pro; Makeup: RESHMA SOOKDEO; Production Assistance and BTS Photography: CAIT NAZAL, MCKENNA LAHEUR, ALAINA LINDSAY; Locations: BENCHMARK EQUESTRIAN, AND A $5.5M LISTING yet to hit the market (with strict social distancing and screening measures in place) in Toronto. A special thank you to the Gab Communications team for their assistance on set.
Originally published: June 1 2021