Whether you’re a big fan of Fixer Upper or have just casually been drawn in while channel flicking, you’ll probably have one pressing question about the show: just how real is it? Behind the scenes, is everything faked for the cameras? Well, wonder no more, as folks who have appeared on the series have come forward about their experiences on set. And, tantalizingly, they’ve also given some clues as to what Chip and Joanna Gaines are like when the cameras stop rolling.
Yes, in June 2018 the magazine Country Living got the lowdown from someone who had actually been on an episode of Fixer Upper. Photographer Rachel Whyte and her husband Luke featured on season three of the smash hit HGTV offering, as avid followers of the show may still remember.
Interestingly, Rachel had known the hosts prior to her TV appearance, as she had worked for Magnolia – Chip and Joanna’s company. She had even been the Gaines’ employee while season three of the show was being produced. What’s more, everyone involved – Rachel, Luke, Joanna and Chip – were all alumni of Baylor University in Waco, Texas.
Accordingly, Rachel and Luke had in fact been acquainted with Joanna and Chip before the pair had become famous. But the photographer told Country Living that the pair were generally pretty ordinary people both on and off camera, revealing, “Joanna can be more reserved when she’s in work mode, while Chip is pretty much always extroverted and down to chat with anyone he’s around.”
And one thing on the show that apparently was real was the chemistry between the Gaines. In the couple’s 2016 book The Magnolia Story, Joanna wrote, “One pretty amazing thing we learned early on was that the more time [me and Chip] spent together, the better our relationship was.”
Joanna went on, “I think a lot of couples feel the need to get away from each other now and then – to take little breaks. And they come back after a girls’ weekend or a guys’ fishing trip or something all refreshed and happy to reconnect because they missed each other. We were just the opposite and still are.”
In addition, Rachel explained that she and Luke had actually mulled over potentially appearing for the show before the first episode had even aired. She told Country Living, “We knew that the house we were in at the time wasn’t our long-term home, and we were trying to decide whether or not to move before or after baby number two.”
The photographer went on, “We started looking at houses online, and we found a few fixer-uppers that were options. I knew I did not want to buy [one] unless we could get Magnolia to do it. I wasn’t interested in renovating anything ourselves.” Then, a couple of months after sending in their application, Rachel and Luke were in front of the Fixer Upper cameras.
But, of course, the pair weren’t the only people to be looking for a new home on the series – nor have they been the only ones to tell all. In February 2016 Jaime Ferguson – who had appeared on the episode “A Big Fix for a House in the Woods” – spoke to blogger Rachel Teodoro about her own time on the show.
And for her part, Jaime had nothing but praise for Chip and Joanna. She said, “Chip is 100 percent a goofball. In fact, he had us laughing the entire time to the point that it was all edited out. They must really have a hard time figuring out which funny thing to use in each episode because he doesn’t quit! Joanna is a lot more reserved but very thoughtful when she talks.”
Jaime went on, “I was in awe of [Joanna] during our real estate filming day because she was constantly thinking about different cool things about each house. For example, she was quiet for a while during a tour in one home and then turned and asked how many trees were in the front yard. She had been counting the trees! I think she’s just immensely gifted at what she does.”
When Jaime was asked about the “unrealistic” show budget, however, she said, “I can only speak for our experience, but the budget is definitely real. We had several meetings with the Magnolia team prior to the renovation that centered around a proposed plan and budget. As for real estate costs, it definitely depends where you look in Waco.”
Still, Jaime revealed, you don’t get to keep all of the furniture seen on screen. She said, “When it came time to pack up all their beautiful staging furniture, [my husband] Kyle and I had to decide what we really loved, because our budget at that point was pretty spent. We decided to keep the coffee table from Wayfair.com, two striped chairs from Wayfair and the dining table.”
Jaime added, “Joanna gifted some of the music room items that she had custom made for Kyle. So special!” Still, not every Fixer Upper client was left so content. In November 2016 a man called David Ridley – the first bachelor to be a client on the show – took his own thoughts about it all to the media, and what he had to say was eye-opening.
Speaking to Fox News, David alleged that the part of Fixer Upper where Chip and Joanna choose from three possible houses was all faked for the cameras. He told the broadcaster, “You have to be under contract to be on the show. They show you other homes, but you already have one. After they select you, [the show’s staff] send your house to Chip and Joanna and their design team.”
The Fox News journalist added in their report, “A close look at the show’s application seems to corroborate [David’s] claim. Some questions on the application imply that in many cases, applicants for the show have either already purchased or at least selected their future homes without the help of the Gaines pair. The application also includes a portion where homeowners are told to upload photos of the home.”
“The fact that many homeowners featured on the show have already honed in on or purchased their houses without the help of the [Gaines] seems to be an open secret,” the writer continued. “A Waco Tribune-Herald article from back in 2014 – when the show first hit the air – described how various couples featured on the [program] already owned their homes. The show’s application is in no way trying to conceal that many applicants may already have a home.”
The Waco Tribune-Herald piece did indeed mention that at least one Fixer Upper participant had already purchased their home. It also featured a quote from Chip himself, who said, “[The program is] going to show people what’s possible in their own backyard. I pray to God that other people take this leap of faith, because it’s worth it.”
In response to David’s claims, though, HGTV ended up releasing a statement. This read, simply, “Fixer Upper fans enjoy the series because it focuses on the playful banter between Chip and Jo, their home renovation expertise, innovative design tips and families who get the help they need to transform a fixer-upper into the home of their dreams.”
And although the last episode of Fixer Upper aired in 2018, the show hadn’t ended because of any allegations of fakery; rather, Chip had thought it was time to move on. Apparently, one tweet of complaint from a customer had been the final straw.
The message directed at Chip had read, “It’s been three weeks, and I still haven’t gotten my wreath. What’s up?!” In his 2017 book Capital Gaines: Smart Things I Learned Doing Stupid Stuff, the TV star claimed that this grievance had “changed everything” for him – meaning, ultimately, he decided to quit Fixer Upper.
Chip wrote in the book, “Suddenly, filming the TV show looked like ‘the job’ that had seduced me into giving it my precious time that I had always promised would be reserved for my true loves, my family and my business. How had this side gig found its way to competing with the very things that mean more to me than anything else in the world?”
Chip subsequently came to the conclusion that Fixer Upper was consuming his life. He added, “So much time was being allocated to filming that the details of the business were slipping. We had been driving so hard for so long now. And I had this sense that if I kept my foot on the gas, we might be headed for disaster.”
But even after Fixer Upper came to an end, people were still interested in what had gone on behind the scenes – and could have been potentially fabricated to make for good TV. That’s where Rachel came in, and the former employee of the Gaines decided to tell Country Living magazine everything she knew.
Rachel explained to the publication, “We were unique in that we lived in the home for five weeks before renovations began, so that was interesting. And we basically lived as nomads for the entire time the house was being renovated. We slept in 17 different beds in four months. It was an adventure!” Nonetheless, she added, “It was uncomfortable at times because we, like most people, aren’t used to having cameras around us.”
Rachel went on, “But what happens really is real. The producers might have you repeat things a few times, and they might film things multiple times from different angles, but the reactions and conversations are real. The hard thing is remembering what you said before when asked to repeat it.”
Prior to the episode’s filming, Rachel and Luke apparently also had to create a budget. The photographer revealed, “You have to sign off on your budget at the beginning, and we actually didn’t have any surprises come up during filming. The budget goes towards your wish list, but the design team will also make decisions about what they think the home needs to be a TV-worthy renovation.”
And, reportedly, Joanna requests Pinterest boards from her clients. Rachel added to Country Living, “I put a white house with grey shutters on my Pinterest board, and they really [went with] that concept. We were also unique in that Luke and I both created Pinterest boards, so [Joanna] had the challenge of making us both happy.”
However, something else Rachel revealed may have come as a surprise to fans; apparently, she and Luke had only actually met Joanna face-to-face on two occasions throughout the whole process. Yet even so, the host had frequently been in touch in order to keep the couple informed of what was going on. And altogether, Rachel was very happy with the work done on the show.
Rachel concluded, “Overall, we were pretty hands-off and fully trusted [Chip and Joanna]. Our only real desires were that the exterior of the house be painted white, that the kitchen was light and airy and that there was some element of mountain ruggedness to satisfy Luke. They gave us all that and more!”
“We were pretty set on the house we now live in, but they did show us two other homes – like you see on the show – and we considered the other options that were shown to us,” Rachel continued. “Even though I had seen our home before our official tour with Chip and Jo, my negative reaction to how it looked was genuine. I was seriously hesitant that they would be able to make the house look good!”
The Country Living writer then asked Rachel how legitimate the show’s “reveal day” was. And while the photographer responded that she had indeed closed her eyes while being driven up to the house, she continued, “I snuck a peek to see if the house was white, and I was able to see that it was, so I could rest easy, and the rest would be smooth sailing.”
Yes, both the reveal day and the tearing down of the big poster captured genuine reactions, according to Rachel. She added, “How it happens on TV is how it happens in real life!” At this point in filming, she and Luke had been escorted from room to room to see what they thought – an element of the process that the photographer has described as a “sensory overload.”
Rachel said, “They film you walking into each room, then they have you talk about your first reaction, and they might film you walking into the room again. Having to focus on one room at a time is hard because you want to just see it all!” She also admitted that before the cameras had started rolling, she’d tried to practice looks of surprise.
And Rachel did spill at least one secret that Fixer Upper fans may not know: not all of her house was fixed up. She said, “Magnolia only renovated the parts of our house that were seen on the show as well as one additional bedroom. We did the other two bedrooms and bathrooms ourselves after moving in in an effort to save money. In hindsight, we should have had Chip and Joanna do it all.”
Rachel was also asked whether or not she and Luke got to keep the furniture seen on the show. This was apparently among the most frequent queries she had fielded following her TV appearance, and she replied, “I think it’s so funny because you wouldn’t want to get rid of all your furniture. They give you an itemized list of how much everything costs at the end to see if you want to purchase things at a discounted price.”
So, while things behind the scenes might not be exactly how they appear on screen, they are pretty close to reality. And at least one of Chip and Joanna’s clients seems happy. In her 2016 interview, Jaime said that the experience of being on Fixer Upper was “wonderful and worth it,” adding, “We feel like we’re living in our dream house that was renovated to perfection by the Magnolia team. We will forever be grateful!”
Even so, in 2018 Chip told Cowboys & Indians magazine that the show hadn’t felt “real” enough for him. He went on, “The more staged something becomes, or the more required something becomes, it boxes me up. And I felt like toward the end of the Fixer Upper journey, I felt caged, trapped.”
The TV star continued, “Jo and I couldn’t figure it out. I mean, why? You’re getting to have all this fun, right? But it’s like if I put a camera in your face and said, ‘Hey, say something funny.’ Or if I put a camera in your face and said, ‘Hey, be smart.’ I just struggled with that environment – especially at the end of it.”
But not all is lost for fans of Fixer Upper and the Gaines family. You see, Chip and Joanna announced in 2018 that they would be creating their own lifestyle network. Magnolia TV is set to appear – as far as anyone knows – sometime in 2021. And that’s definitely exciting news for those who love the couple’s own chirpy brand of reality television.
In the meantime, the pair are continuing to get to grips with being a family of seven. And back when their youngest child was just a baby, Chip made a strange decision: he was going to run a marathon with his newborn in tow. So, did taking Crew along for the whole 26 miles help or hinder the star?
Chip is well known as a family man, of course – not least because he rose to fame alongside his wife on Fixer Upper. The reality series first aired in May 2013 and ran for five seasons until it finally came to an end in April 2018.
And when Chip and Joanna weren’t busy renovating other people’s properties, they had plenty to be getting on with at home. That’s because the couple have five children together, the youngest of whom – a boy named Crew – was born in June 2018. And it’s safe to say that the proud parents dote on their brood.
So after quitting Fixer Upper, Chip and Joanna vowed to spend more time with their family. And it seems that the couple are taking that promise quite literally. Because, when Chip took to the streets of Waco to take part in the Silo District Half Marathon in 2019 he decided to take youngest tot Crew along for the challenge.
During its four-year run, Fixer Upper proved to be extremely popular with audiences, making stars out of Chip and Joanna in the process. The premise of the show revolved around couples looking to purchase homes in the central Texas area. After deciding on a property, Joanna then helped them redesign it, while Chip managed the build with a budget of around $30,000.
Before starring on Fixer Upper, Chip and Joanna had made a living out of renovations, helping to remodel more than 100 properties. But the couple hadn’t always worked together. In fact, when they first met, Joanna had been employed at her father’s Firestone Tire store. It just so happened that Chip was a customer at the Waco, Texas, business. And he had his eye on the young Joanna.
In fact, Chip didn’t even need to meet Joanna to know that she was the girl for him. In 2018 he told PopSugar, “Her dad made the mistake of putting a pic of the family behind the counter at his shop.” And clearly, it was love at first sight for Chip. “I knew I’d marry her one day just by the picture on the wall,” he revealed.
With that in mind, Chip began stopping by the store regularly, in the hopes of running into the girl of his dreams. “My buddies used to always joke that no one could get their brakes done as often as I got my brakes done,” Chip told KWTX. Then, in 2001 he at last met Joanna at the shop.
However, despite his eagerness to meet Joanna, Chip soon cooled things off. He was late for their first date then didn’t call her for months because of a stupid bet with his buddy. “I’d made a bet with John to see who could hold out the longest before calling our dates back,” Chip explained in The Magnolia Story. “I really wanted that 50 dollars from John! That’s the only reason I didn’t call.”
But Chip and Joanna did eventually get their romance back on track. And while Chip readily admits that he fell for her first, it didn’t take long for Joanna to reciprocate the feeling. “At first, I couldn’t believe how kind Chip was. He had kind eyes, and made me laugh a lot,” she told PopSugar. “I knew he was the one because I knew I could trust him.”
After more than a year of dating, Chip and Joanna tied the knot at Earle-Harrison House in Waco in May 2003. And following their honeymoon they embarked on their first renovation project together: remodeling their first home as a married couple. “The house was bad,” Joanna told PopSugar. “Chip did all the construction, and I remember many nights he was on his hands and knees staining floors or laying tile.”
The experience clearly inspired Joanna, who later established her home decor store Magnolia Market. At first, the business was a solo endeavor. But Chip soon joined Joanna to offer a construction element to the company. Consequently, Magnolia Realty and Magnolia Homes were born.
It was these businesses that brought the Gainses to the attention of HGTV. The network was impressed after seeing a photograph of one of their renovations. As a result, they snapped the couple up to front Fixer Upper. The gig was a golden opportunity for Joanna, who’d wanted to become a broadcast journalist. “I always dreamed of the idea of television but never thought it would have to do with design or renovations,” she told PopSugar.
Because of the success of Fixer Upper Chip and Joanna were credited with popularizing the “farmhouse-chic” interior look. Joanna has also worked with brands including Target and Anthropologie to create home decor lines. Furthermore, in April 2019 the couple announced the launch of their new media company.
By that point, Chip and Joanna had already quit Fixer Upper. And it was reported that they’d brought the hit series to an end so that they could focus on their family, which included four little kids. And what’s more, in early 2018 Chip and Joanna were expecting their fifth child.
Chip and Joanna welcomed their first child, a boy named Drake in 2003. Their second baby, a girl called Ella, arrived in 2006, followed by their second son, Duke, in 2008. The fourth Gaines child came in 2010. It was another girl, this time named Emmie. So it was safe to say that Chip and Joanna already had a full house.
Nevertheless, Chip and Joanna decided they had room in their hearts – and home – for one more baby. As a result, in January 2018 the couple announced that they were expecting a fifth child. Two months later, they used social media to confirm that their newest addition would be a boy.
Chip and Joanna welcomed their fifth child in June 2018. Announcing the arrival on Twitter, proud dad Chip wrote, “And then there were five. The Gaines crew is now one stronger! 10 beautiful toes and 10 beautiful fingers all accounted for, and big momma is doing great! #BlessedBeyondBelief.”
Later, mom Joanna took to Instagram to reveal the name of their new son. “Our baby boy, Crew Gaines, is here and we couldn’t be more in love,” she wrote. “He made an unexpected (and speedy) entrance into the world two-and-a-half weeks early — which is fitting given he was a sweet surprise from day one. Thank you for your thoughts and prayers. We are so grateful.”
Alongside her update, Joanna also shared the first photographs of Crew on Instagram. All the shots were seemingly taken in hospital, apparently showing some of little Crew’s first moments on Earth. The post contained the first of many snaps that the family would go on to share of their latest addition, each of them as cute as the last.
In fact, Chip and Joanna have been careful to document as many of little Crew’s milestones as possible, starting with his siblings’ adorable reaction to his birth. In a sweet photograph shared to Instagram by Joanna, the four oldest Gaines children can be seen waiting outside a hospital door. “They couldn’t wait to meet their new baby brother,” the mom wrote.
As Crew settled into the Gaines household, there were many more shots of nap times and cuddles. And just over a week after he’d joined the clan, his mom reassured her Instagram followers, writing, “He’s settling in just fine.” It appeared that Chip, Joanna and their children were completely smitten with their new addition, and it wasn’t hard to see why.
One of Crew’s first family outings that was posted on Instagram was a trip to a ball game. The whole Gaines gang support the Bears, from Waco’s Baylor University. Both Chip and Joanna attended Baylor back in their youth. So although they didn’t meet there, the university has a special place in the family’s hearts.
In fact, Crew’s first game was such a special occasion for the family, that both Chip and Joanna shared snapshots from the outing on Instagram. And when they did, people couldn’t help but notice the striking resemblance between little Crew and his father. One fan even went so far as to call the infant “a mini Chip Gaines.”
And there have been many more social media posts that have since shown the close bond between Chip and Crew. There were photos of the baby sound asleep in his father’s arms and another of Chip gazing lovingly at his young son during a doctor’s check-up. In another adorable image, Crew stands smiling in mustard dungarees and a matching coat. Under that picture, his dad proudly wrote, “Chip off the old block.”
But it appears that Chip and Crew may be even more inseparable than first thought. Because when the TV handyman decided to run the Silo District Half Marathon in April 2019, he decided to take his 10-month-old son along for the ride. As a result, he was seen speeding through the streets while pushing Crew along in a stroller.
Of course, the Silo District Marathon had already been a family affair for the Gaineses. The event came into fruition in 2018, after Chip challenged himself to run a full marathon. He was inspired to take on the feat after meeting professional runner Gabriele Grunewald, who had been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer known as ACC.
Chip explained how the encounter with Gabriele had impacted him in a blog post on the Magnolia website in 2018. “After hearing Gabe’s story, I realized two things: I didn’t want to spend another second standing on the sidelines, and secondly, given what she’s gone through, I didn’t have any excuse not to give this a shot,” he wrote. “So I committed.”
Consequently, Chip began training for a marathon, and what’s more, he wanted others to join him on his quest. As a result, he announced that he and Joanna would be hosting the first Silo District Marathon in 2018. And he urged others to join him by running the full 26.2 miles with him or take part in separate half marathon or 5K events.
Presumably, the 2018 Silo District Marathon was a success. Because in 2019 it returned, and once again Chip committed himself to running, although this time he opted for the half marathon event. But while he may have halved his distance, Chip decided to double the fun by bringing Crew along for the experience.
Before the race, Chip had given no inkling that he would be running with Crew in tow. Instead, he took to Instagram to share an image of his race T-shirt and number, alongside some vital supplies. In the accompanying caption, Chip wrote, “This is what I’m bringing. What stuff you got in your #SiloDistrictMarathon pack?”
Giving some words of encouragement to other participants, Chip added, “Win or Lose here’s to all the personal records, all the personal bests. All the nice tries, and we’ll get ‘em next year. But most importantly, here’s to all the folks that can’t be here today because they’re having to focus all their energy on their personal battles with cancer. And for me, today I’m running for @gigrunewald! Let’s do this!”
It was only when Chip arrived on the start line of the race that spectators got their first clue that Crew might be joining his father on the route. In photos taken before the event, the tot was dressed just like his father. As part of their matching ensembles, both were wearing race bibs and sweat bands.
In other images taken at the event, Chip and Crew are seen out on the course. In the snaps dad looks motivated – if not a little red faced – while baby looks content sitting in his stroller. One picture shows baby Crew with a hand outstretched, making him look as though he is waving at onlookers out of shot.
When the images of Chip and Crew landed online, certain fans of the Gaines family couldn’t get enough of them. Writing beneath a photograph shared by Chip on Instagram in April 2019, one user joked, “When you’re supposed to run a marathon but you promised your wife you’d watch the kids.”
But Chip and Crew weren’t the only members of the Gaines family who took part in the 2019 Silo District Marathon. That’s because Chip and Joanna’s daughter Ella also ran in the event for a second consecutive year. At just 12 years old, that was an impressive effort from the youngster. And what’s more, it was all for a good cause.
Chip and Joanna founded the Silo District Marathon to raise money for the Brave Like Gabe Foundation. The organization was founded by the Gaineses’ friend and professional runner Gabriele Grunewald after her diagnosis with ACC in 2009. Money raised by the foundation funds research on rare cancers.
After the 2019 Silo District Marathon, Joanna took to Instagram with a message for the thousands of people who took part in the event. She wrote, “We are so thankful for and blown away by each and every runner who participated in this year’s #SiloDistrictMarathon. Watching the grit, the fight, and the spirit of these runners left me speechless.”
In her heartfelt post, Joanna added, “So many of you would tell me who you were running in honor of and I was literally teary eyed the entire time. Thanks for running with us this year. You helped raise $300k for cancer research and the @bravelikegabe foundation. I was also so proud of @chipgaines and Ella (and baby Crew) for running the half marathon today and killing it!”
Wrapping up her post, Joanna paid tribute to the people that helped make the marathon happen. “Finally, thank you to the city of Waco and all the law enforcement, volunteers and sponsors that helped make this event possible,” she wrote. “We hope to see you next year at the #SiloDistrictMarathon.”
With that in mind, it seems that the Gaines family don’t plan to stop running any time soon. Perhaps we’ll see more members of the clan taking part in the Silo District Marathon in the future. But nothing will beat Crew’s first appearance at the 2019 event. After all, how many other kids can say that they completed their first half marathon before they could even walk?