Life & Culture

Selling Sunset’s star from Israel

The reality show of the season, Selling Sunset, features a firm of Los Angeles estate agents, making deals for fabulous Hollywood homes. Israeli Maya Vander is one of its stars


When it comes to finding the perfect reality TV formula, Selling Sunset has it nailed. The Netflix hit show about Los Angeles estate agents has it all: beautiful properties, weather and clothes and a cast of colourful realtors —it’s a done deal, as they’d say. And while Israeli Maya Vander may be the most likeable and least intimidating girl on the show, she is definitely not a walkover.

In fact, the 32-year-old — who often refers to her strong Israeli characteristics on the show — is a force to be reckoned with, in the nicest possible way. For, although she steers clear of the drama and toxicity that her co-stars seem to relish, she is a tough cookie when it comes to navigating the world of property, selling some pretty impressive homes with huge price tags at The Oppenheim brokerage group, run by twin brothers Jason and Brett Oppenheim.

If the reality show has taught her anything, Vander tells me, it is to “not take sides with my co-stars when a bust-up occurs” — something fans will know is a regular occurrence.

Speaking to Vander in her Miami home from London on a hot day I can’t help joking that I wished we were doing a face-to-face interview in her air-conditioned living room. Her luxury pad has yet to appear on the series but I’ve had the pleasure of seeing a video tour of it and, like Vander, it is cool, beautiful and elegant. There are large spacious rooms and a funky kitchen featuring all mod cons, and a playroom full of toys and books for her two young children, baby Elle and two-year-old Aiden. Everything looks immaculate, but then again this is a property expert who is at the top of her game when it comes to showing off homes.

“I’ve always had a passion for art, architecture and property,” she tells me. “It’s one thing working at the Oppenheim group presenting and selling multi-million properties in Beverley Hills and another trying to keep my own house looking good when I’ve got two little ones. Look a bit closer and you will actually see mucky fingerprints and messy sofas are the real reality.”

Her passion for the real estate game is partly influenced by her family, who have a history of investing in properties and homes. She tells me her parents helped ignite her hard-working ethos.

“I didn’t have a very luxurious upbringing in Eilat but it was a happy one and I learnt how important it was to work hard and not have things handed to you on a plate.

“My childhood was amazing and I would often spend time supporting our local basketball team Hapoel Eilat and go to each game as a kid. My parents always trusted my judgement and this allowed me to move to Amsterdam when I was 20 to be a model and then to work in Spain, Singapore and Malaysia.”

It was when she moved to LA at the age of 22 that Vander got her job at the Oppenheim Group.

“I instantly felt at home. It took years of very hard work for me to get to grips with the business but, having seen my family invest in properties and work in real estate as I was growing up, I just knew I wanted to do it for myself.”

Although her parents are now divorced, she remains close to both. Her Dutch-born father moved back to the Netherlands and her mother lives in the town of Rehovot in Tel Aviv, a place Vander is very fond of.

“I love the buzz of Tel Aviv, it is such a vibrant city but I haven’t been able to go back home to visit because of the pandemic.

“I’m very close to my family and miss them hugely and the family values I learnt from them will be passed down to my own kids.”

Although not observant, Vander celebrates all the festivals and ensures her kids will be brought up with a love of the Jewish religion. Even though she has occasionally posted pictures of them on her social media, she is keen to keep them out of the spotlight.

The same can be said of her husband, about whom she’s said very little in public — just that he has a job in finance. We don’t mention him during the interview but I guess he is also Israeli, as she tells me the couple like to “read books to the kids in both Hebrew and English before they go to bed.

“It is second nature for me to talk to the kids in Hebrew at home, as when they go to school they’ll be speaking English, so it is good for them to grow up and embrace both languages.”

With no past acting experience, Vander acknowledges the show has given her a new media profile and exposure, but she insists on remaining down-to-earth and is unfazed by the fame surrounding the show and cast members.

“On camera I joke about my strong Israeli characteristics but you have to have your head screwed on working in the property market, and know how to remain calm when so much drama is around you. I mean the minute the girls kick off with their arguments I refuse to get involved. There is no point.

“I’m very good friends with all of them. I speak to Davina and Chrishell a lot and also Christine, who I’m not ashamed to say is the star of the show. I mean, without her, I doubt the show would be so big.”

With talk of season four on the horizon, Vander is not sure what lies ahead.

Juggling kids and work, she is keen for the production cast to film in Miami so they can work around her schedule but she knows that may not be possible. Her dream is to open an Oppenheim group office in Florida.

“There is a great market in Miami for luxury houses. It fits The Oppenheim Group’s brand and prestige. I just have to convince Jason and Brett to believe in me,” she says.

“Whatever will be will be. I am not a religious person but I believe in faith, things are meant to happen for a reason.”



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