Since launching reality TV program Fixer Upper in 2013, Chip and Joanna Gaines have been no strangers to controversy. With lawsuits and apparent alienation of some LGBTQ viewers, this couple has seemingly made as many enemies as friends. And after talking about some details of their home life, they may now have earned the ire of some disapproving parents as well.
Married since 2003, Chip and Joanna Gaines are partners in both business and life. With Chip’s experience as a contractor and Joanna’s knowledge of interior design, the couple began flipping houses in their home town of Waco, Texas. And the pair were good at it, too. Indeed, by 2013, they had remodeled more than 100 homes.
It wasn’t long before people outside of Texas began to take notice. After finding the Gaineses via a 2011 blog post, TV producer Katie Neff got in touch with them to talk about an idea for a show. The couple jumped at the offer and a pilot episode of Fixer Upper was made two years later.
Broadcast by network HGTV, Fixer Upper was an instant success and attracted 1.9 million viewers. Soon after, the show was picked up for five seasons and audiences just couldn’t get enough. In fact – by its fourth year – the series was already pulling in 20 million eager fans.
Thanks to their series’ success, the Gaines began growing their brand. Besides a planned spin-off show Behind the Design, the couple – who were now parents to four kids – opened the store Magnolia Market in 2015. In addition, Joanna even launched her own fashion line with Matilda Jane Clothing.
It wasn’t just the Gaines family benefitting from this success. Indeed, Waco – still tainted by the infamous 1993 stand-off between the FBI and religious group the Branch Davidians – saw a surge in tourism. Consequently, Waco Today named the couple “Persons of the Year” in 2015.
However, not everyone shared Waco’s love for its most famous residents. While carrying out some research of the couple’s religious beliefs, Buzzfeed’s Kate Aurthur uncovered some details about their local Antioch Community Church. More precisely, its pastor Jimmy Seibert is an opponent of gay marriage and advocates so-called conversion therapy.
Published in November 2016, Buzzfeed’s story prompted an instant response from HGTV, disowning Seibert’s views. “We don’t discriminate against members of the LGBT community in any of our shows,” it said in a statement. Nevertheless, Chip and Joanna – who took part in an on-stage discussion with Seibert just a few months earlier – refused to comment.
It wasn’t until the New Year that the couple responded to the allegations – albeit a little bit obliquely. Through his company website, Chip seemingly denied being homophobic, but didn’t seem to condemn the pastor’s opinions. Moreover, he wrote about refusing “to be baited into using our influence in a way that will further harm an already hurting world.”
Despite the controversy surrounding them, the Gaineses did have vocal supporters. In particular, controversial gay writer Brandon Ambrosino decried Buzzfeed’s article as “a non-story” and “a hit piece.” on the couple. Nonetheless, trouble would find the two again a short while later.
Earlier this year, Chip’s former business partners John L. Lewis and Richard L. Clark issued him with a lawsuit. According to their complaint – which seeks more than $1 million – the contractor coerced both men into selling stocks in Gaines’ company for just $2,500. This was two days before Fixer Upper was unveiled.
Not only did Gaines allegedly retain information about the show before the deal, but he is also accused of using threats to get his way. “There was a sense of betrayal and frustration,” Lewis admitted to People in May. “Once I had sold him my interest in the company and his show began to flourish, I never heard from him again.”
In response to these claims, Gaines tweeted that “the light shines in the darkness,” in reference to a biblical passage. One day later, he posted a more telling tirade in which he criticized his partner’s decision to go public. “I’ve had the same cell # 15 years,” he wrote. “4 years later ‘friends’ reach out via lawsuit… hmm.”
With so much controversy surrounding them, Chip and Joanna Gaines may be best advised to keep a low profile. However – prior to their public backlash – the two welcomed Entertainment Tonight into their 40-acre Texas home for a very revealing interview. And there they made some peculiar revelations about their parenting style.
During the October 2016 interview, Joanna talked about her home life as well as her kids Emmie, Drake, Duke and Ella. In a surprising twist for a TV star, she admitted that the family don’t have a television in their house. What’s more, her children are also denied another major piece of modern technology.
“I tell the kids that you are probably not going to get a cell phone,” she explained. “We want to teach our kids that life happens outside of these devices. It’s just a simple thing to go outside and connect with nature, play with your friends and get dirty.”
While their intentions seem commendable, Chip and Joanna are certainly withholding a popular social device from their children. Indeed, a 2015 study by Pediatrics found that 75 percent of four-year-olds owned a cell. Meanwhile, a further 97 percent had had experience of using one.
Nevertheless, this unorthodox parenting approach has attracted some positive responses on social media. One Twitter user wrote, “Kids should learn they wont [sic] always get everything they want.” Another added, “If you want something bad enough you will probably work very hard to get it.”
In June 2017, Joanna gave an interview to People magazine explaining the reasons behind their ban. In fact, the decision is about keeping their children out of the spotlight and in the dark about Fixer Upper’s success. “They’re so young and we want to give them the chance to have a normal childhood,” she revealed.
Despite their controversy, Chip and Joanna Gaines are still a major of part of television and the Waco community. Currently, the pair are busy filming Fixer Upper’s fifth season, while they also earned praise for helping to refurbish a paralyzed firefighter’s home. But with the pair still in legal limbo, only time will tell what’s in store for these household gurus.