Tarek and Christina El Moussa were once the golden couple of HGTV with their smash-hit series Flip or Flop. When their marriage crumbled and the pair parted ways, then, it made headlines across the world. But why exactly did Tarek and Christina divorce when they appeared to have it all? Well, here’s the truth behind the scenes – and the real reasons why the two couldn’t make it work.
First off, Christina and Tarek actually split up way back in 2016; they just kept it a secret from their fans for a while. And they continued to film their show as normal before the announcement came – something the pair apparently didn’t want to change. They told People magazine at the end of that year, “We plan to continue our professional life together.”
Back then, Tarek and Christina also said that they didn’t necessarily plan to formally divorce. They had two children together, after all, and the youngest was still a baby at that time. Yet it appears that something changed their minds – and in short order, too. In January 2017 – after counseling had failed – Tarek launched legal proceedings to officially end the marriage. The process was subsequently finalized a year later.
After that, both parties eventually got together with new partners. At the end of 2018, in fact, Christina married again to British TV host Ant Anstead. Tarek, meanwhile, began co-habiting with his girlfriend Heather Rae Young in January 2020.
So, everything seemed to work out for the best. Both Tarek and Christina found happiness again before too long, while Flip or Flop continued to excel in the ratings. But the pair’s relationship had always seemed so strong on the show – so just what on earth had happened behind the scenes for it to all end like this?
For a long time, in fact, Tarek and Christina had seemed like the perfect couple. The two had originally met back in 2005 when both were employed as real estate agents for Prudential. Yet while there was a spark between them, there was a hitch: Tarek was already in a relationship. Once he eventually became single, though, Christina made a move.
In 2017 Christina told Good Housekeeping, “The day Tarek and I officially started dating, which was October 9, 2006, we moved in together.” And in a bout of wishful thinking, the pair unashamedly put up a dream board in their joint office that featured a house, a wedding ring and a private jet. Christina added, “The weird part is, by the time I turned 31, we had all of it.”
Then the pair met an agent who turned them onto the idea of doing a TV show. So, Christina – seven months pregnant at the time – filmed her husband at an open house, with this leading in turn to an audition. And while the mom-to-be was originally skeptical that anything would come of the process, she was proved very wrong. The couple went on to scoop their own HGTV series Flip or Flop – and quickly became stars into the bargain.
Flip or Flop may even have saved Tarek’s life, as unbeknown to him, he had a serious medical problem. When a nurse watching the show happened to spot a lump on the host’s neck, however, she called up the producers and let them know. And after Tarek duly got the lump checked out, he was given a shocking diagnosis: cancer.
Battling the disease required both surgery and thyroid radioactive iodine therapy. In time, though, Tarek fortunately went into remission. And in 2015 he opened up about his ordeal, telling People with perhaps a little understatement, “The last three years have been a pretty big challenge.”
The HGTV star told the magazine, “I feel good, but I don’t have the energy I used to have. The only thing is [that] most days, or like half the time, I feel a little jetlagged. I’m really tired.” He added, “There is always that chance of recurrence, but every year that goes by, the odds of recurrence goes down, so it’s good.”
Touchingly, Tarek even got to meet the nurse who had noticed the symptoms and potentially saved his life. Her name was Ryan, and he emotionally thanked her during a November 2015 episode of The Doctors. Tarek said on the show, “If it wasn’t for TV or [Ryan] noticing this huge lump on my neck, I would still be moving forward with my life with cancer in my body.”
While Tarek had been fighting cancer, though, his wife had been dealing with even more heartache. She’d been trying to have a second child through in vitro fertilization, but in 2014 one pregnancy had sadly ended in miscarriage. To make matters worse, Tarek had then injured his back playing golf.
Yet Tarek and Christina held everything together – or seemed to, at least. During a July 2015 interview with David Bromstad, the pair didn’t give any indication that they were having difficulties as they answered questions about their marriage. Still, in hindsight, there may have been a hint that not all was well. When asked what her least favorite thing about Tarek was, Christina tellingly responded, “Temper.”
And while Christina and Tarek finally welcomed their much-longed-for second child – a boy named Brayden – in August 2015, this happy event brought with it more troubles for the new mom. There had been complications involved in the birth, you see. As Brayden had been so big, Christina had needed to undergo an emergency C-section, and with this had come a lot of recovery time.
In 2016 Christina told nutritionist Cara Clark, “C-sections suck. I felt like I got beat up by a world champion boxer. My entire body hurt, literally my entire body… So I asked for help, which I don’t normally do. I took it really, really easy and followed the doctors’ orders. [Then], after the two-week mark, I finally felt more normal.”
But the TV mom returned to house flipping after only a short amount of time, and that in itself led to more problems. She said in the interview, “I suffer from a lot of mommy guilt. I went back to work at five weeks, and that was pretty hard. My daughter got pretty jealous of the time I was spending with Brayden, so I try to do my girlie stuff with my daughter.”
In any case, Christina and Tarek began to feel the strain. In a 2017 interview with People, Christina admitted that she regretted going back to work so soon and that she had been “overwhelmed” as a result. Even worse, the decision had caused “tension” between her and her husband. And Christina added, “We weren’t able to properly communicate anymore. It got to the point where we weren’t even driving to set together.”
Then came a sudden incident that absolutely horrified fans. In May 2016 11 police officers arrived at Christina and Tarek’s Orange County home. The cops were apparently responding to a call about a “possibly suicidal male with a gun” – and reports claimed that the individual in question was Tarek.
According to People, however, Tarek informed police that while he had left the house with a gun, the firearm was only to defend himself from potential animal attacks while hiking. Christina also explained to law enforcement that her husband had not been threatening to take his own life. Even so, Tarek did have to hand over his weapons to the authorities temporarily.
Intriguingly, it even turned out that Christina’s hair and makeup artist Shannon Rhodes had been involved. Specifically, People claimed that she had seen Tarek remove a gun from his safe and leave with it. And while he hadn’t made any alarming statements or appeared suicidal, his behavior was still strange enough to make Rhodes alert Christina.
This incident was mentioned when Tarek and Christina announced their separation in 2016. They said in a statement, “Like many couples, we have had challenges in our marriage. We had an unfortunate misunderstanding about six months ago, and the police were called to our house in an abundance of caution. There was no violence, and no charges were filed.”
Later, though, Christina would describe the event as the breaking point in her marriage. Speaking to People in 2017, she said, “It just made me realize that us being separated was healthier for both of us.” Fans would get the other side of the story, too, when Tarek went on The Dr. Oz Show the following year.
And according to Tarek, the whole thing had been “a huge misunderstanding on [Christina’s] part.” He explained, “I sent my neighbor a text. I said, ‘Can I borrow your bikes? Because I want to go [on] scout trails.’ He wasn’t home. I have a CCW, California Concealed Carry, which means I can legally carry a firearm.”
Tarek went on, “The next thing I know, there’s a sheriff’s helicopter circling, and I’m like, ‘Geez, what are these guys doing?’ I’m [thinking], ‘They must be looking for somebody bad.’ Then I realize, ‘Well, wait a minute, he was looking for me,’ and next thing I know I see 11 sheriffs around me and off-road vehicles and guns on me.”
Tarek added, “I had just bought a mountain bike, so I went on a hike. Sure, I was having a rough day, and I was trying to blow off steam, and that’s what I did. So, it was a surreal experience. It was like my life was in slow motion. My life paused for a moment, and it was like I was living a movie.”
But the TV presenter had been working through some other issues, too. In 2018, for example, he told Dr. Drew Pinsky on his podcast that other medical problems had followed the cancer diagnosis. Tarek revealed, “I thought [my health was suffering] from the thyroid medication, but it wasn’t. Here’s the worst thing I ever did, which is a hundred times worse than cancer.”
Apparently, Tarek had gone to a hormone clinic on Christina’s advice. And of this experience, he added, “Next thing I know, I’m shoving a needle on my ass and taking steroids. It was testosterone. It was awful. I was on way too much testosterone, [and] on top of that [I was] taking human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) injections every day because I was told to.”
Then, right after recovering from cancer, Tarek injured his back – making things even worse for him. He explained to Dr. Drew, “I lost 60 pounds. I was on Vicodin every day. [That means] my hormones are off, I’m on pain meds and narcotics, and I’m filming and working. It’s wild. It was a horrifying experience.”
The TV star went on, “I would find myself just sitting alone and just being depressed… All the s**t that was being pumped into my body just turned me into someone that wasn’t me. [With] 20/20 hindsight, I think, ‘How in the hell did I film a show, start a company? How did I do all these things?’ I was so spun out from all the s**t they gave me.”
Luckily, though, Tarek was starting to heal both physically and mentally. He declared on the podcast, “After separating [from Christina] and losing my family, I said [that] I’m gonna do every single thing I can to be the best person I can be. I can say standing here today that I’m the best version of myself I ever thought I could be.”
Tarek went on, “I’ve been through so many things: the sickness, the divorce, the cancer, success, mental health, physical health. People have helped me, and I remember how important it was for positive support. Just talking about it makes me feel so much better. Honestly, I’m the happiest I’ve ever been to date because I don’t feel the way I felt.”
Christina too began changing her life following the separation, although in 2017 she told Good Housekeeping how difficult it had been for her at first. You see, virtually as soon as the news about her and Tarek’s split broke, she discovered that the paparazzi were following her as she went about her day.
And the mom also made reference to what someone had told People magazine about the split. The unnamed “source who has worked alongside the couple for several years” had claimed, “In a lot of ways, [Tarek and Christina] just seemed wildly incompatible. She has champagne tastes, and he’s a beer-from-a-can kind of guy.”
Well, Christina hadn’t been very happy about that – especially as the insider may have been a friend. She told Good Housekeeping, “[Tarek and I] definitely have the same taste as far as wanting nice things [is concerned] because we work hard. So, if you’re going to say it, at least say, ‘Both of them.’ Don’t just label me [as having champagne tastes].”
During the interview, Christina also revealed how their daughter Taylor was doing, as she was now old enough to understand what was going on. The TV star said, “One day, as I was driving [Taylor] to a [therapy] appointment, she said, ‘I don’t need to go to therapy anymore. I think you and Daddy are happier apart, and I don’t really need to talk about it anymore.’”
In any case, Tarek was gracious when his ex-wife remarried in late 2018. Speaking about the news on Instagram the following month, he said, “I’m actually happy for [Christina]. I think it’s a great thing. I think [she and her new husband] get along well. And, most importantly, it’s good for my children.”
Tarek added that any tabloid story about him being depressed over the event wasn’t true and that his life was “amazing.” And regarding Christina, he continued, “I’m glad that she found someone. It’s a good thing. It’s a positive thing. I’m not the type that wants to fight with her for the rest of my life and make my kids miserable.”
There were more big life changes to come after that, too. In March 2019 Tarek made the happy announcement that he was finally completely free of cancer. Then, in September of that year, Christina and Ant had their first child together. And Tarek gave his congratulations to the couple on social media, joking that he would babysit “if Christina and Ant pay well.”
Ultimately, then, calling it quits may have worked out well for Tarek and Christina. At the very least, it appears that the two have come to terms with the situation. And it seems that the TV hosts are still on good terms. Speaking to People in August 2020, Christina revealed of the relationship with her ex-husband, “I feel like time just makes things easier in general, and we’ve been separated for four years now. We’re just in a good spot.”
But Tarek isn’t the only one to have had an audience member spot something unusual about him. During one particular news broadcast, something about Australian reporter Antoinette Lattouf’s appearance also set off alarm bells – so much so that it prompted a viewer to send in a concerned message. And, incredibly, it ended up saving the TV star’s life.
Lattouf’s path to journalism began when she studied for a degree in Communications at the University of Technology Sydney. Following that, in 2004 she landed a reporter position at SBS Television’s panel show Insight. And just over a year later, she was also appointed as a producer of SBS News.
In 2007 Lattouf moved to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation where she initially served as a researcher for Media Watch. She later worked as a presenter on radio station Triple J and a producer and journalist on ABC News24. However, it wasn’t long before the journalist once again moved elsewhere.
This time around, Lattouf took her considerable talents to Network Ten. After serving as a reporter on Ten Eyewitness News, she regularly appeared as a guest panelist on Studio10. During this period, the TV star also showcased her writing skills, penning numerous fascinating features for the now-defunct Australian news site The Hoopla.
Lattouf continued to diversify throughout her career. In 2015, she was appointed a lecturer of journalism at Macleay College. Two years later, she co-founded Media Diversity Australia, a non-profit organization designed to support and promote culturally diverse industry professionals. She was also named as an ambassador for the pre and post-natal natal well-being charity, Gidget Foundation Australia.
The journalist became inspired to work with the Gidget Foundation following her very own battles with post-natal depression. In fact, Lattouf has penned several pieces about her experiences over the years. One particular article also explored the relationship she had with her refugee mother and the inter-generational and intercultural problems they had to cope with.
Of course, Lattouf also continued to pursue her day job. In 2016 she moved back to ABC where she worked as a senior reporter. Two years later, she revisited another old stomping ground, taking on the role of senior journalist at Network Ten. And it was the journalist’s 2019 stint on the channel’s Studio10 show where she found herself in the headlines on two occasions.
The second set of headlines appeared in December that year when fellow panelist Kerri-Anne Kennerley made what appeared to be a disparaging remark about her co-host. In this particular episode, Lattouf sported a white playsuit that some would describe as skimpy. Sitting next to her, Kennerley asked, “Did you forget your pants today?”
Lattouf initially appeared to take the rather offhand comment in good humor. However, the rest of the panelists were left open-mouthed by Kennerley’s tactless and cutting remark. Co-host Angela Bishop then came to her colleague’s defense, arguing that the TV journalist “looks unbelievable.” But the drama certainly didn’t end there.
Indeed, referring to an earlier chat about the word in pop culture, Kennerley then claimed that Lattouf might be “thirsty,” which in the previous context meant desperate. As a result, many viewers took to Twitter to voice their displeasure at this apparent case of slut-shaming. “[Lattouf] deserves an apology,” wrote one particularly disgruntled fan, adding that Kennerley needed to “be put in the bin where she belongs.”
Thankfully, the furore soon blew over. According to a spokesperson for Network Ten, Kennerley and Lattouf had a “respectful” chat over the phone where they sorted things out. The former is even said to have said sorry for her remarks on the Studio10 episode, an apology which the latter accepted.
This incident may have seemed like a storm in a teacup in the grand scheme of things. However, just a month earlier, Lattouf had unwittingly found herself at the center of another news story which was far more important. In fact, it could even be described as life or death.
Indeed, after Lattouf had signed off from her regular Friday segment on Studio10, her editor received a message from a particularly eagle-eyed viewer. But this wasn’t a complaint. Instead, it was a piece of invaluable advice that may well have saved the journalist’s life.
The message began, “Has Antoinette Lattouf had her thyroid checked?” The viewer in question, Wendy McCoy, went on to clarify that she was speaking out of genuine worry and not sheer rudeness. She continued, “I am not being smart or trolling, just concerned with what I saw on TV today.”
McCoy also added that although she didn’t have a medical background herself, she did have some experience of the condition. The lump on Lattouf’s neck reminded the Studio10 viewer of a pal who discovered they had a cyst. The fan of the show, who resides in the Victoria suburb of Werribee, concluded, “I felt concerned and thought I should say something.”
Lattouf took to news site 10 daily to write about the correspondence that her editor had passed on. She began, “Being inundated with messages after a television appearance is nothing new for me. However, it’s usually my mother telling me my eyeliner is too thick, or a viewer who had an issue with my stance on an issue.”
The journalist also revealed that she’s often chastised by viewers whenever she pokes fun at fellow panel members. “But last Friday’s message was particularly peculiar,” Lattouf continued. “My editor called me over to her desk saying we’d ‘just received a strange message about you to our Facebook account.’”
Clearly, the message had an effect. A slightly dubious Lattouf then decided to review the particular footage McCoy had made reference to. In the article she penned for 10 daily, the journalist admitted, “I was taken aback and must admit, at first, I scoffed at the message. Then I watched the clip back.”
In the segment, Lattouf was talking about the controversial Virgin Mary sculptures created by Kyle Montgomery. The Australian artist had been in the news after being snapped up by designer fashion label Marc Jacobs. However, various religious groups argued that these particular works were both “unacceptable and disrespectful.”
And Lattouf soon realized why her appearance had attracted McCoy’s attention more than the subject that the panel was discussing on the show. She freely admitted in her 10 daily piece, “I was left shocked. It looked like I had an Adam’s Apple. Something was definitely protruding from my neck.”
With thyroid cancer in Lattouf’s family history, the concerned journalist decided to go and see her doctor. She subsequently underwent an ultrasound, no fewer than three blood tests and a CT scan. The TV star was then given an official diagnosis. And it was one which proved that McCoy’s advice was invaluable.
The test results showed that Lattouf had a large cyst above the voice box which required her to undergo surgery. The growth wasn’t cancerous, thankfully, but still needed to be treated before it caused any serious damage. In addition, medics found that the journalist also had a previously undiagnosed autoimmune disease.
The type of lump that Lattouf was diagnosed with is known as a thyroglossal duct cyst. It occurs when the thyroid, a large hormone-producing gland in the neck, leaves a surplus of cells behind during the highly important womb development stage. And as the journalist later discovered, they can turn into life-threatening cysts.
Some of these cysts can be so tiny they don’t actually cause any noticeable symptoms. However, larger ones can have a significant impact on a person’s health and well-being. They can, in fact, interfere with both swallowing and breathing. As a result, the lumps will often require surgery to be removed.
The thyroglossal duct cyst is far more common in women than it is men. It can also affect bone health, muscle strength and heart rate, and has even proven to be fatal in some cases. Lattouf revealed that her particular cyst had most likely started developing from a young age.
Lattouf first took to Instagram to show McCoy her gratitude for the warning about a possible health condition. She wrote, “Thank you for caring, lovely Wendy!” But the journalist then contacted the viewer in person once she had been officially diagnosed. And she discovered that the Studio 10 fan had been debating whether to post her original message at all.
“I spoke to Wendy after my diagnosis and she said she was almost not going to say anything,” Lattouf revealed in her 10 daily post. McCoy was initially reticent because she “didn’t want to seem to be interfering or meddling.” However, the viewer went on, “Then I thought, bugger it, because it stood out like a dog’s hind leg.”
Lattouf then referred to another famous Australian face whose life was also potentially saved by a TV viewer. In 2009, Bree Amer, the Friday Night Live co-host, also appeared on camera with a lump in her neck. She then had it checked it out after a viewer got in touch to inform the presenter that it could be dangerous.
And just as McCoy was with Lattouf, this viewer was also right on the money. Indeed, Amer was later diagnosed with thyroid cancer after seeing a doctor about the lump. Following two different operations to remove the cyst, thankfully, the TV star, who shot to fame on Big Brother, made a full recovery.
In Lattouf’s 10 daily piece, she quoted Amer as saying at the time that she wants others to learn from her own health scare. She revealed, “Now, as cliched as it sounds, the whole experience has just made me want to campaign for further awareness.” The reality star also wanted to “urge women to be more in touch with their bodies.”
“There’s no etiquette guide as to how to broach a medical concern with a loved one, let alone a stranger,” Lattouf wrote for 10 daily. The journalist then paid another compliment to the viewer who potentially helped save her life. She added, “However, I think we would all benefit if we were more like Wendy and took on her ‘bugger it’ approach (and then politely share your concern).”
Lattouf then further encouraged readers to act on their instincts. She continued, “It’s that good ole, ‘if you see something, say something’ message. It’s not about playing a pseudo-surgeon, or becoming the human face of Dr Google. All you need to do is encourage the person to seek medical advice.”
“Worst case, they’ll call you a rando; best case, you’ll save someone’s life,” Lattouf claimed to her readers. She added, “So to Wendy, I say, thank you for caring enough to reach out to me, a complete stranger, and urging me to see a doctor. Your random act of kindness probably saved my career.”
Lattouf and Amer, however, aren’t the only celebs to have had similar experiences. In 2013, HGTV viewer Ryan Read was bingeing the first season of Flip or Flop when she noticed something unusual about the presenter’s neck. The registered nurse then contacted the show’s producers to inform them that Tarek El Moussa’s health could be at risk. After visiting a doctor to check a lump in his throat, the host was diagnosed with thyroid cancer.
In a 2013 episode of talk show The Doctors, Read revealed why she felt compelled to get in touch with the producers. She said, “You get that gut feeling, you know? Half-way through an episode during the marathon I saw it and stopped the TV, rewound it and watched it again. I watched a few more episodes and I’m like, ‘There’s definitely something there. I need to get the message to him.’”
El Moussa had previously been told that the lump was benign and therefore harmless. But following his cancer diagnosis, he underwent surgery to remove the thyroid. Sadly, this operation also revealed that the cancer had reached the host’s lymph nodes. As a result, he needed further treatment, this time with radioactive iodine.
The presenter later revealed to ET Online how grateful he was to Read for contacting producers. He said, “If it wasn’t for TV and [Read] noticing this huge lump on my neck, I would still be moving forward with my life, with cancer in my body and probably never done anything about it.” El Moussa and his wife eventually met Read to thank her in person.
Then there was the case involving former Liverpool footballer Mark Lawrenson. While watching preview show Football Focus on the BBC, Dr. Alan Brennan noticed that the pundit had a dark blemish on his face. The viewer then emailed the series’ producers to advise that Lawrenson should get it checked out.
Lawrenson later revealed that he’d previously noticed the blemish. However, he believed it was due to his one-time habit of spending time in the sunshine without any protective cream. Thankfully, the ex-sportsman got the all clear from his doctor after taking Brennan’s advice. But he was still grateful for the viewer’s concern.
In fact, like El Moussa, Lawrenson also ended up meeting the viewer who encouraged him to seek medical advice. And as the pair shared the screen on BBC Breakfast, the former footballer admitted, “Like a typical 60-year-old bloke, I had been putting it off rather than sorting it out. Your man gave me the kick up the backside to get it sorted.”