Chip And Joanna Gaines On How They’ve Grown From A Home Improvement Show To A Media Fiefdom: “We’re Just Being Ourselves”

It wasn’t the kind of splash that Chip and Joanna Gaines were looking to make. During an anniversary trip to Mexico in 2021, Chip Gaines thought it would be fun to post a video of his bikini-clad wife doing a backward plunge into the pool. “I had to kind of beg her,” he recalls, before posting the video and several other images from their sunny vacation on Instagram. “It was so funny. I thought nobody would care.”

Oh, but they did. Almost overnight, the images went viral and were picked up by publications like People magazine. “My friends started texting screenshots of me in that swimsuit,” says Joanna. “And I was like, ‘Oh, OK. Noted. Don’t do that.’ I don’t know if that is something you ever get used to. We feel like we’re pretty normal people from Waco.”

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But ‘normal’ people in Texas don’t usually turn a simple passion of flipping homes into a multi-million-dollar empire. In just nine years, the couple went from hosting HGTV’s Fixer Upper to partnering with Warner Bros. Discovery to launch the Magnolia Network in 2022. The parents of five are also the sole owners of a broader Magnolia fiefdom that includes a Waco-based shopping center, restaurants, vacation rental homes, a Target-based merchandise line and their Magnolia Journalmagazine.

“I think what’s been cool about us — and what I’m proud of — goes back to that sort of naive position of when we got into this. We didn’t look at something we thought was successful and then try to emulate it; try to reproduce it,” says Chip Gaines proudly. “So, if we’re disruptive, it’s because we are completely original and completely authentic. And then even the word authentic, especially over the last three to five years, is kind of like a gag. It’s become its own tagline or sales pitch: ‘Oh, wait until you meet this couple! They’re really authentic!’ And then all the things that preceded them are exactly what they are trying to replicate. We’re just being ourselves.”

The humility runs strong in these effervescent entrepreneurs, especially in light of the decision by Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav last year to move Magnolia from the Warner Bros. side of the company under HBO and HBO Max chief content officer Casey Bloys. “We laugh,” says Chip Gaines about how Fixer Upper reruns can now be found alongside some of the greatest scripted shows ever made for television. “We were just like, what? To be with The Sopranos and, uh, is it The Least of Us?”

The Last of Us,” responds his wife. “We are The Least of Us.”

“Yeah, we feel like the least of us,” laughs Chip. “But to be in the company of those legendary writers and producers, and then here’s our little family network stapled to the back. We feel like a fly on an elephant’s rear end.”

Hardly. Magnolia Network is already a top 50 cable network among women 18+ and boasts more than 600 hours of original programming that includes the entire Fixer Upper library, Magnolia Table with Joanna Gaines, Maine Cabin Masters, The Lost Kitchen, Homegrown, Restoration Road with Clint Harp and more. It also debuted two record-breaking shows in 2022: Fixer Upper: Welcome Home (9.2 million viewers) and Fixer Upper: The Castle (4.5 million viewers).

This means the appetite for home improvement programming has never been bigger, which is why the Gaines are eager to find their next big breakout.

“When you think of these reveals, it’s like everyone thinks it needs to be bigger and bigger,” Joanna Gaines says. “Especially in the world we are going through today, how do we give people content that is actually attainable? How do we show people relatable content that’s still super-inspirational and helpful for the viewers? I think more than the big reveals, the biggest challenges are in these smaller spaces where you’ve got a $10,000 budget and a weekend to do it. I think with the economy and all the stuff that’s going on, more of these projects that are scaled back can still be beautiful.”

In other words, you don’t always have to go big to make a splash.

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