Egypt Sherrod went from being a national radio and television host to the queen of real estate and a design expert. Her husband, Mike Jackson, is a skilled builder and contractor, who has also traveled the world for years as a professional, celebrity DJ. Together, they’ve merged their passions in entertainment and real estate and have one of the most successful home renovation shows on HGTV, Married to Real Estate. The first season attracted over 19 million viewers. Now in its second season, the Atlanta-based couple continues to help clients reimagine their homes on a budget that works for them. Blavity spoke with Egypt and Mike on what to expect this season, renovation trends, and how they prioritize their marriage and family over everything else.
Congrats on Season 2! As a fan of HGTV, I am always happy to see people of color have their own shows as they can be few and far between. Can you tell us about the process of getting ‘Married to Real Estate’ greenlit?
Mike: It all actually came about during the pandemic. We were all home and looking at each other and working from the table, doing homework, etc., and I said, ‘You know what? This is a show in itself.’ Because I’ve always been on set doing the building process when my wife was already doing her other shows, I was there as well, and there were points where we were like, ‘This is a show.’ So a combination of the construction, the real estate, and the pandemic of us being home, it was like, ‘Let’s record this and submit it.’
Egypt: Mike just started building everything, and we had it and edited it into a sizzle reel. We sent it over to the network and pitched the show. People pitch shows every day, all day. But this one stuck, they saw something special and we’re glad they did. So once they decided they were committed to wanting to do a show with Mike and I, they partnered up with 51 Minds, our production company. And we created the magic that you see that occurs in 40 minutes, which obviously doesn’t take 40 minutes. It takes a lot longer than 40 minutes to do each renovation. But they created that magic formula and balance of what you see on Married to Real Estate.
How has the reception been from viewers who look like you and love the show?
Egypt: They’ve expressed they’re very proud of us. They feel that we’re being ourselves and that we’re allowed to be our entire selves as an African-American family, which sometimes, on television, that’s just not the case. In many cases, we are the representation of who someone thinks we are. So I think the realness, the rawness, the honesty, the transparency– people see themselves in us and so they’ve been very proud.
Mike: There are so many elements to it. Like my wife said, it’s about being relatable. The transparency. But the truth is who we really are, when the cameras go away, we’re still the same people. And that’s what makes it work. We don’t have to pretend to be a family that loves each other or a couple that is striving to inspire folks. This is just who we are. I had one young man say, ‘You may see all the elements of the family aspect and everything, but I guarantee you, you don’t see the fact that I am a single person. And as a young man, I look at you as a father that I’ve never had.’ And that just blew me away.
So we get a lot of things like that via text or DMs and Facebook messages and so on, and it keeps you going. It’s a reminder that we’re doing something for people.
Egypt: It’s spawned us to want to give people a little bit more access to us in our lives. And we realized that it was really resonating that way. Even just me and Mike in our playful, silly relationship, we would get comments from other families. And I’m not saying just African-American [families], just in general and across the board saying, ‘I love your love or I love the way you guys have fun with one another. You can tell you really love each other.’ So we decided, ‘Let’s open up even more than what we’ve been doing.’ And then we started a podcast called The Marriage and Money Podcast with Egypt and Mike, and it’s turning into one big, beautiful thing that we never expected when we just decided to feel more family in our life. And it’s wonderful. We’re enjoying the right now.
I actually just stumbled across the podcast. I watched an episode with Trina Braxton and her husband, Von Scales. What made you title the podcast Marriage and Money?
Mike: Simply because we’re married and we deal with a lot of business. So those are two things that seem to be downsized in the African-American community. So we wanted to make sure the presence was there, and it was about being able to tap into a market and expand the reach and inspire folks that may not even realize that, ‘Hey, this couple has a show on TV,’ and there’s a lot of people that don’t watch TV or even have the app, right? So we like, you know what, let’s touch that audience that does an intimate in that area.
Egypt: Yeah, they’re on the Internet now.
I love that. Now let’s go back to Married to Real Estate. This show focuses on dream renovations on a budget. In this economy, what advice are you giving to homeowners who are undergoing major renovation projects? And do you even think that it’s smart to embark on one in the first place, considering where things are at this time?
Egypt: Everybody’s got a bit of a different circumstance. Yes, it’s smart in some cases because if the numbers work for you and your lifestyle, they work. There are many families who have downsized and moved into the home together. Maybe mom and pop are now living on one level, and their kids are living on the lower level with their kids. And that is happening a lot where people are combining households to beat inflation, to stay ahead and continue saving. So they often need to renovate to make a space work for their new lifestyle setup. So absolutely, that makes sense.
When it does not necessarily make sense to renovate it, if you don’t think you’re really going to stay in the house long enough? Or if you’re over-renovating for the neighborhood and what it can bear, and what your resale value will be? But who can tell folks what to do? Because you have people adding value for assets, you have people adding value to earn money, and then you also have people that are renovating to add value for their own quality of life– and that you can’t put a price tag on.
It appeared that you guys have really figured out a way to merge your professional and personal lives seamlessly. And there are a lot of married couples who shy away from going into business together. What have been some of the growing pains within working together as a couple?
Mike: So what you see on TV is who we really are, which makes it a lot easier for us to be able to work together. The only issue that we had is scheduling. We have our family, we have our business, and we have our kids. We have to remind ourselves all the time that it can’t always just be about work. It can’t just be about us always being parents. So we have date days where we continue to keep the flame there, because if that’s not there, then everything else seems to dissipate, and we don’t want that to happen. So for us, it’s more so about making sure we prioritize the right things at the right time and make sure things are scheduled properly, the communication is there, and make it all gel and listen.
Egypt: Work doesn’t feel like work when you’re having fun, when you’re with your friend, when you’re flirting, when you’re giggling over silly things or cracking corny jokes. It doesn’t. You can do what you love and have fun doing it too. So that’s just the formula we figured out that works for us. That’s healthy. It’s not toxic, and it allows us to be productive. And here’s the thing: it just so happens to be that what we do outside of TV is actually what our trades kind of coincide with – meaning real estate coincides with construction. Design coincides with creativity. In some people’s cases, you may have a doctor trying to work with a lawyer, and it just won’t work. So it all depends. Everybody’s circumstance is different.
And you guys are also busy individually. How are you guys balancing your own personal endeavors while keeping your business as a couple afloat?
Egypt: At this point, everything is basically together as a couple. We use the word balance a lot, but there are some things in life that should just not be balanced. They should be prioritized. So our family is always a priority. Our relationship, this marriage is always a priority. So we’re not balancing it. Everything else comes around that. And if it doesn’t, we adjust.
Mike: We also have a great support system as well that allows us to be able to coincide and deal with all businesses at once and a lot of priorities in the scheduling. If we didn’t have that support system, we probably wouldn’t be taking on as much as we do.
The above interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.