By Al Barbarino
Angelika Kallio once strutted the catwalk for top designers like Chanel, Versace and Calvin Klein. She graced the covers of international fashion magazines like Cosmopolitan, Elle and Marie Claire. She was a Victoria’s Secret lingerie model. She even partied with Madonna during a fashion show in Milan.
With minor exceptions, like the cold shoulder her friend Naomi Campbell used to give her for no apparent reason, “It was a lot of fun,” Finland’s former top supermodel told Brokers Weekly last week.
But today, as a real estate broker for Citi Habitats, the bombshell seldom brings up her modeling days when dealing with clients. Serving clients and being a better broker are more important than the past, Kallio said. But her comfort and ease around people, crucial in the modeling business, have been essential to her success as a Citi Habitats broker.
“I’m a people person, so it’s very exciting for me,” Kallio, who joined Citi Habitats two years ago, said. “It’s my passion and it’s very exciting because I love to make deals. I love to bargain.”
Kallio was born in Latvia and moved to Finland when she was 12. She entered a modeling competition when she was just 14, catching the eye of an agent who worked for the likes of Claudia Schiffer. The agent signed Kallio into a $60,000 contract and flew her to Paris… and her career took off.
Her mother was an architect, however, and the properties Kallio visited as a child sparked a lifelong fascination with real estate that likely would have brought her into the industry much earlier had it not been for her unlikely rise to fame.
“I’ve always been infatuated with real estate,” she said. “I was always around beautiful buildings, so it was always in the back of my mind. Instead, I was this very skinny, ugly girl that turned into a model.”
The exposure she gained over two decades in the modeling business has its perks. She traveled the world – from Europe to Asia to Africa – and she speaks English, Russian and Finnish. Her fluency in Russian helps her communicate with a new wave of Russian investors in New York, and her ties around the globe translates into valuable international referrals, she said.
But the differences between modeling and brokering are staggering. As a supermodel, it wasn’t uncommon for Kallio to fly out to Miami or the Bahamas for one week, pocket $50,000, then split for the next two weeks, nowhere to be found, she said. That strategy doesn’t fly in brokerage.
“You have to work a little bit harder here,” she said jokingly. “It’s a seven-day job. This business can be stressful and overwhelming if you don’t put the effort in. I talk with my clients every day. Every day. It’s almost like nourishing a baby.”
She has worked her way up from handling small rental listings, to dealing with more substantial properties, like her current exclusive listing of a $2.1 million two-bedroom condo located at 312 East 22nd Street; and a $1.47 million two-bedroom condo located at 127 East 30th Street. She currently handles about 15 clients, but insists that quality service is more important than quantity.
Kallio, who has made her home in the West Village, has lived in Manhattan for more than 20 years. Of all the places she’s been, there was never any question she would end up here.
“As soon as I set foot here I loved everything about New York,” she said. “America is made up of people from all over. That’s what makes America and that’s what has made me comfortable here. I can succeed by being who I am.”