LOS ANGELES – David Bromstad, the Minnesotan who helps the suddenly rich find new digs, lives in a bubble.
“I don’t watch the news,” said the host of HGTV’s “My Lottery Dream Home,” which just entered its sixth season. “If my friends get into a political conversation, I say, ‘Good for you. Good stress on you.’ None of it’s related to me. I am Disney. I am magic. That’s all my life is about.”
To prove his loyalty to the Magic Kingdom, the 45-year-old Cokato native shows off a right arm completely covered in tattoos of paintbrushes and Mickey Mouse caricatures. He has plans to get Cinderella’s castle etched over one of his thighs.
“I wanted to put it on my back, but that would have looked weird,” said Bromstad, who visits Disney World roughly once a month.
His commitment to fantasia is even more on display in the show. On Friday’s episode, the host guides a brand-new millionaire from his son’s couch to three possible new homes in Louisiana. While playing real estate agent, he hugs strangers, dances in place and shares his staccato laugh.
“Isn’t this adorbs?” he says after escorting the amused family around one property.
“Buying a house with all that money is really scary, and I want to make sure we take the scare factor out and just make it a lot of fun,” Bromstad said recently, holding court in a hotel bar.
The formula is connecting with viewers. The season premiere this month drew 1.7 million people, more than the viewership for CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360” or CW’s “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.”
This past January, HGTV boasted more viewers than any other month in the cable network’s nearly 25-year-old history; it’s currently America’s third-most-watched U.S. cable network, behind only Fox and ESPN.
“I think people watch HGTV because it’s a happy network,” Bromstad said. “It’s positive; you can keep it on. You know nothing is going to be bad for your kids. It’s a positive light, it’s a rainbow, it’s a sea of fabulous. And no one else can touch us when it comes to that.”
‘Importance of good talent’
HGTV President Allison Page gives much of the credit for the network’s rising numbers to hosts including “Property Brothers” Jonathan and Drew Scott, estimated to be worth a combined $20 million, and Joanna Gaines, who used “Fixer Upper” to gain 10.4 million Instagram followers.
“When you’re responsible for getting more than 700 hours of original programming on the air each year, you quickly recognize the importance of good talent,” Page said.
Even established celebs have come knocking. “Beverly Hills, 90210” veteran Jennie Garth and rapper Vanilla Ice have done HGTV series.
Coming soon: “A Very Brady Renovation,” featuring many of the original cast members from “The Brady Bunch,” and “Farmhouse Fixer,” in which New Kids on the Block singer Jonathan Knight flips farmhouses.
“I always say I wish we could tour in the wintertime and I could do houses in the summer because doing houses in the winter is the worst,” Knight said. “I mean, two weeks ago I was pouring a foundation and it was 4 degrees. And I’m just like, this is not fun. But you know, you get through it. I love it so much that it’s just a no-brainer. I’ll be out there with numb fingers and love every minute of it.”
A rising star who’s ‘real’
Bromstad had zero name recognition before coming on the airwaves.
After graduating from Wayzata High School in 1992, he attended Florida’s Ringling College of Art and Design, the perfect steppingstone for his dream career as an animator. But the industry’s switch from hand-drawn art to computer technology turned him off. After a short stint with Disney, he started his own company, creating fantasy bedrooms for kids.
That gig led to him auditioning in 2006 for a brand-new show called “Design Star.” First prize: A chance to host your own HGTV show. Bromstad won.
“Color Splash” ran five years and gave the Minnesotan a chance to show off his bubbly enthusiasm. In Friday’s episode of “My Lottery Dream Home,” he dresses to the nines for a Mardi Gras parade and gamely dons a bib fit for a messy toddler before diving into a plate of crawfish.
“I watch David all the time,” said “Windy City Rehab” star Alison Victoria. “I love that he gets to just be himself. He’s real.”
When “My Lottery Dream Home” premiered in 2015, Bromstad would get recognized once or twice a day. Now, whenever he’s in an airport, he can expect to be stopped 20 to 30 times an hour.
The attention makes him appreciate his escapes to Minnesota all the more. At least twice a year, he hides out with his sisters’ families in Chanhassen and Prior Lake, binge-watching TV and spending time with his nephews and nieces.
“I would love to have kids myself, but I need a boyfriend first,” said Bromstad, who lives in Miami. “Being single has served its purpose. I’m ready to settle down and have that regular life — or as regular as my life can be.”
Don’t think Bromstad is complaining. After all, Mickey would never be caught whining.
“I went to Epcot Center right before I came here and I probably posed for 300 pictures,” he said. “Listen, if I didn’t like it, I’m in the wrong business. All they’re giving me is love, so why can’t I give them a little back?”