The untold truth of Fixer Upper


HGTV’s Fixer Upper is our favorite home improvement show to marathon on a lazy Sunday, and that’s thanks, in large part, to the dynamic husband-and-wife duo of Chip and Joanna Gaines. He’s goofy and lovable; she’s laid back but all business. On every episode, Chip combines his real estate and construction know-how with Joanna’s eye for design (and shiplap) to transform dilapidated homes into real estate and reality TV gold. That’s lovely, but let’s mine for the lesser known details about this record-breaking series and the couple who makes it all happen.



What is Joanna’s ethnicity?

Let’s go ahead and get this one out of the way. At some point while watching Fixer Upper, you’ve probably wondered about Joanna’s ethnicity. Is she Native America? Asian? Both?

You’re not alone in your curiousity. Joanna gets asked about her background so much that she decided to set the record straight on her blog. “I love hearing all the guesses,” she wrote. “Although I did play Pocahontas in high school, I am not Native American. My father is half Lebanese/half German and my mother is full Korean.” Now you know. Don’t you feel better?


They met because Chip needed his brakes fixed

Chip first set eyes on the love of his life in a family photo her father hung behind the counter of his automotive repair shop. “I knew I’d marry her one day just by the picture on the wall,” he told Popsugar, but he needed an excuse to make his move. One day, Chip reportedly came into the shop to have his brakes fixed. Joanna was working in the office.

“We met in the waiting area and hit it off immediately,” she told Popsugar. “He was genuinely engaging and he had such a sincere smile.” While Chip was smitten, Joanna said she took a few months to let her guard down. “At first, I couldn’t believe how kind Chip was—he had kind eyes, and made me laugh a lot. I knew he was the one because I knew I could trust him,” she said. Oh, Chip, you sly dog.

Fixer Upper wasn’t Joanna’s TV debut

Clearly, Joanna’s fresh-faced beauty and friendly demeanor factored into HGTV’s willingness to center a show around her, but they weren’t the first ones to have this thought. As we previously mentioned, Joanna’s dad owned an automotive repair shop and cast her in commercials for the store. It’s easy to see in the above clip that Joanna is a natural in front of the camera, even if she is talking about tire warranties instead of open floor plans.


A blog post was their lucky break

Fixer Upper’s big break began in January 2012, when the Design Mom blog published a post titled, “Living With Kids: Joanna Gaines.” A production company reportedly saw the blog, liked a photo of one of her and Chip’s designs, and reached out. “They called us and just said, ‘Hey, we love that you guys do real estate and you guys work together, that’s intriguing,'” she told Glamour. “From there, that’s where the whole courtship began.”

Fun fact: Joanna was a communications major. Her first design project was the fixer upper she and Chip bought the first year of their marriage.

Chip’s surprise houseboat purchase landed the show



Chip’s surprise houseboat purchase landed the show

It may have been their designs that attracted the attention of HGTV, but when the camera crews first showed up to see if the Gaines family had what it took for reality TV stardom, things didn’t go so great. According to the couple’s memoir, The Magnolia Story, both Chip and Joanna choked big time in front of the cameras for the first time.

“The crew had me stand in the kitchen and try to make pancakes with the kids hanging off of my legs while Chip was basically sucking his thumb over in the corner,” Joanna writes, adding, “I certainly didn’t feel natural, and it definitely wasn’t fun.”

But things took a turn when a massive houseboat arrived, which Chip had purchased unbeknownst to Joanna with the intention of fixing it up and moving the family into it. The ensuing argument over what Joanna described as “the ugliest, rundown-looking, two-story shack of a boat” she’d ever seen was all caught on camera. But so was their quick reconciliation. Joanna soon changed her mind about the boat and starting to rattle off design ideas for its renovation. In that moment, the couple’s passionate dynamic and its penchant for risk-taking and creative genius became clear to HGTV. And yes, because we know you are wondering, Joanna floated the idea of using shiplap on the boat. Seriously.

What’s the deal with ‘Magnolia’ anyway?


Even occasional watchers of Fixer Upper will quickly notice a reoccurring theme: magnolia. The couple’s real estate business is named Magnolia Realty, and its property renovation company is called Magnolia Homes. The gated community they’re building is known as Magnolia Villas, and Joanna’s retail store is the Magnolia Market. Their bakery? Magnolia Flour. Their 40-acre home sweet home is called Magnolia Farms. Their bed and breakfast is the Magnolia House. It’s safe to assume the word bears significance.

“When we were just dating, I would pick these blooms from Magnolia trees,” Chip told Glamour. “If you’ve ever seen them, they are almost just bowl-like, and that whole thing just always inspired us. So when we had the opportunity and were trying to figure out what to name her little boutique, Magnolia Market just stood out to us.”

Now that you are fully prepared to answer Fixer Upper trivia questions about Joanna and Chip, let’s talk about some things that happen—or don’t happen—on the show itself.

The furniture leaves when the cameras stop rolling


At the end of each episode, homebuyers experience the big reveal—their completely renovated dream home filled with gorgeous furniture. The buyers love it! The audience loves it! But the bookkeepers? Not so much. The furniture on the show is for staging purposes only. If you want to keep it, you can always take out a second mortgage, but we suspect most clients beat feet over to the nearest IKEA.

HGTV doesn’t fund renovations


Unlike ABC’s former behemoth, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, nobody on Fixer Upper is donating their services or materials to the show. However, HGTV might throw in some money if the property lacks curb appeal. According to the Waco Tribune-Herald, the show, “doesn’t fund the renovations, though producers may throw in some extra landscaping or design flourishes.”

You need at least $30K in your pocket


Fans of the show know the format: Chip and Joanna show homebuyers three potential properties; the buyers fall in love with one; the co-hosts work their magic. If it seems very storybook, and that’s because it is. According to the Hooked on Houses blog, Fixer Upper prefers “you already have a fixer upper before applying to be on the show. That means the house-hunting we see in the first half hour is probably just for entertainment purposes.” As for the renovation itself? The blog said homeowners must be prepared to invest at least $30,000 in the project and follow the Gaineses’ lead.

Fixer Upper is fixing Waco, TX


When most people think of Waco, Texas, the first image that comes to mind is the U.S. government’s 1993 siege of the Branch Davidian compound. During the siege, 76 followers of cult leader David Koresh died in a fire that was broadcast live on television. You may also recall the 2015 biker shootout that left nine dead. The city’s battered image may be improving thanks to Fixer Upper. In a 2016 article in the The Dallas Morning News, residents of Waco credited the show’s popularity with rejuvenating the community’s public image. “…all around the world, you can say Waco and people automatically have images.” said Baylor Professor Robert Darden. ” I think, now, there’s more Fixer Upper than David Koresh.”

Chip’s former business partners sued him


Though the Magnolia brand has become a juggernaut in the home and living space, it was not solely the brainchild of Chip and Joanna. In fact, according to the Waco Tribune-Herald, the entire thing started out as Magnolia Realty, a teeny tiny real estate firm founded by Chip, his lawyer buddy, John L. Lewis, and another friend, Richard L. Clark. That’s cool, right? A small business hit it big with a lucky break on a reality TV show. But ask yourself this: Have you ever seen Lewis or Clark on Fixer Upper? Right.

According to Chip’s former business partners, that’s because the Waco construction guru allegedly bought them out of the business—for $2,500 each—just two days before the announcement that HGTV had picked up the show, and despite allegedly negotiating with the network for more than a year. Four years later, Magnolia Realty, as we’ve previously mentioned, has ballooned into Magnolia everything, leaving Lewis and Clark feeling like they were left in the dust.

The result of the falling-out is a lawsuit filed by the jilted Magnolia partners. It names “Chip Gaines; Magnolia Realty; Scripps Networks, the company that owns HGTV; and High Noon Productions, the company that produces Fixer Upper,” and seeks more than $1 million in damages. As of this writing, there hasn’t been much movement on the suit, but Gaines’ attorney has dismissed it as “meritless” and claimed it’s just a product of “people try to take advantage of the hard work and success of Chip and Joanna Gaines.”

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