They were one of HGTV’s most famous couples, and then suddenly the two called it quits. But behind closed (renovated) doors, Tarek El Moussa and Christina Anstead were having trouble in paradise, and they’re revealing what was really going on behind the scenes.
Tarek’s Challenging Past
This story of a celebrity marriage gone sour started way before either of the HGTV stars began filming their TV show. Not all celebrities begin their careers living out of their parent’s garage, but Tarek El Moussa did. When he was 22 he was “so broke” that he lived in their unfinished garage.
And this was not some sort of flipping project. “I went from selling kitchen knives to cleaning diesel trucks to eventually getting to where I am today,” El Moussa said in an interview with Fox News. But everything was about to change for him, and a life of fame, health scares, and run-ins with police was about to begin.
Tarek eventually moved out of his parent’s garage and moved on with his life. He got his real estate license and began working at a new office when he was 24. And that’s when he saw 22 year old Christina Haack across the office.
“The day we met, we pretty much connected right away and, you know, we built a life together,” El Moussa said. From the moment they met, things moved pretty quickly. Before long, they had moved into a home together and began to plan for the future. But nothing could really prepare either of them for the tabloid-obsessed drama that was to come.
The Big Crash
With two real estate licenses in the family, the two began a business together in the housing market. But after two years of working in the industry, the housing market crashed in 2008. “The couple felt the sting of the housing bubble’s burst,” the Orange County Register wrote. And that was an understatement.
With barely any funds left, the two had to move out of their $6,000 a-month home and downgrade substantially, ending up in a $700 a-month apartment instead. They switched out their nice cars for more modest options, and went from dining at California restaurants to sharing subway sandwiches. But this, they’d find out, would be the easy part.
Wedding (And Alarm) Bells
The housing market crisis shattered everything the couple had built. But it also had another effect: it brought Tarek and Christina closer. In 2008, amid all the chaos, El Moussa proposed. And in 2009, three years after meeting, the two were officially married.
After surviving a housing crisis and coming out stronger from it, not to mention married after it all, any onlooker would be lead to believe that this couple could weather anything. And as their business began to pick up again, Tarek and Christina also believed their love would outlast even the hardest challenges. But they hadn’t seen anything just yet.
The couple continued to flip houses, but it was not always easy. At one point, the two bought a home in foreclosure in Anaheim Hills. When they arrived, the found that the evicted family had poured concrete into the toilets, shattered every window, and broke the wood floors with a hammer, causing $30,000 in damages.
And amid all this stress, Christina was dealing with something else entirely. She was having trouble getting pregnant and turned to Vitro fertilization, which ultimately worked. By September 2010, the El Moussa family welcomed their daughter Taylor Reese. Their lives seemed perfect. What could possibly go wrong?
Wanting Something More
Christina and Tarek had their hands full. They were flipping a few homes one minute and changing diapers the next. But throughout it all, they had their sights set on something more. And so with their next house flip, they came up with an idea that was so crazy, they thought it just might work.
Tarek borrowed an old video camera from a friend and began to bring it to their latest project. From this camera, Tarek recorded every step of the process, from changing floor layouts to picking new tiles. He recorded interviews of himself and his wife explaining every single step, hoping that his project could possibly become something bigger.
Pitching A Crazy Idea
Tarek spent weeks recording the entire process of flipping a home, including interviews with himself and his wife. He sent everything he recorded to a friend to edit at home. Together, they packaged all the home video footage into a demo reel.
As soon as everything was done, Tarek began sending the video to any network that he could think of. The pitch: audiences would get to see homes go from ruins through renovations and out the other side as places that anyone would want to live in. And the all-American married couple who flipped these homes (and yes, would engage in a few arguments along the way) would keep viewers coming back for more. What could possibly go wrong?
Getting Their Own Show
With fingers crossed, Tarek and Christina sent the tape to production studios. And in July 2011, they heard back from Pie Town Productions, which wanted to film a pilot episode and send it to HGTV. And it worked. “The studio loved it so much, they signed us before it even aired,” El Moussa wrote on Realtor.com.
“They liked the fact that we were poor and were trying to make something of ourselves,” Christina said in an interview with The Orange County Register. But soon, money would come pouring in. And that kind of money was enough to change anyone’s lives. But, eventually, it would also doom them as a couple.
The Birth Of A Celebrity Couple
From that moment on, there was no stopping Tarek and Christina’s trajectory to fame. The first episode of their show Flip or Flop premiered with high viewership and incredible reviews. Audiences loved seeing homes totally transformed, but many were even more transfixed on HGTV’s newest on and off-screen couple.
But the couple’s workload had quadrupled. They had to flip 13 homes in 10 months, and the stress was mounting. Signing on to become television stars “happened so easily, like it was fate,” Tarek recalled in an interview. But the easy parts were now behind them, and fate would soon have other, more frightening plans.
Seeing All The Bad Signs
The houses were not the only things being flipped. Between flipping homes and being flown across the country for interviews and appearances, Tarek and Christina’s lives were turned upside down. The couple was receiving more and more attention. But there was something else entirely that was grabbing the attention of one viewer.
As Ryan Reade, a registered nurse and avid HGTV fan, watched a marathon of Flip or Flop, she had to stop and pause the television for a second. She was not exactly sure if what she was seeing was what she thought it might be, but she immediately decided to email the show. Her concern, she wrote, was urgent.
Things Get Scary
During one of the episodes of Flip or Flop, Reade noticed a strange lump on Tarek’s neck. Maybe it was nothing, she thought. But then when she saw it on another episode, she knew she had to reach out to the network. Tarek’s life could be at risk, she worried.
HGTV passed the message along to Tarek, who took the nurse’s warnings seriously and made an appointment to see a doctor. It had only been weeks since his new show premiered, and he was happier than he had ever been as he rode the wave of his newfound success. He worried that all of it, and his entire life, could come to a screeching halt.
A Dangerous Diagnosis
Tarek had noticed the lump in his neck, but dismissed it as being nothing of concern. It wasn’t painful or uncomfortable, and it didn’t seem to get in the way of his life. But after an anxious appointment with the doctor, Tarek found his worst fears were coming true.
The nurse who had written in was right, the lump on Tarek’s neck was a sign of thyroid cancer. But during his examination, doctors also found “other irregularities” with Tarek’s health. In one year, Tarek and Christina had experienced their highest high, and now they were facing their lowest low. Or so they thought.
Putting Life On Hold
Tarek and Christina’s dreams of being HGTV stars seemed to end almost as quickly as they began. With Tarek battling cancer, and Christina offering support to her family, the network decided to put Flip or Flop on hold. And so began months of Tarek’s grueling road to recovery.
But after a few months, Tarek had received incredible news about his health. He had survived his battle with cancer, and doctors clearing him to film once again. For anyone on the outside looking in, it seemed that the couple was once again happy and successful. But behind the scenes, another battle was being waged.
Trouble In Paradise
Behind closed doors, Christina was quietly having health problems of her own. Just as she had with her daughter, Christina was having difficulties getting pregnant and turned to IVF. But the process was taxing, and her high-risk pregnancy meant that she couldn’t work, lift heavy objects, or even walk, and the two began to fight more often.
In 2015, Christina gave birth to the couple’s son, Brayden. Through pictures and in interviews, the family of four seemed happier than ever. Their show was back, and their family was expanded. But then, news headlines would suddenly shatter the pristine image that America had of Tarek and Christina, and showed that the couple was living a double life.
The Infamous “Incident”
Everything changed for Tarek and Christina in May 2016. For months, their marital problems had remained private. But this time, they were all over the tabloids. Police vehicles were flooding the El Moussa’s driveway, and police helicopters circled above. Reports said that Tarek had run off from home, and Christina feared for his life.
Christina reportedly told police that after an argument, Tarek had gone into his safe, put his gun in his backpack, and abruptly left home, disappearing onto a hiking trail. She worried that her husband had gone off to take his own life. It was a climactic event that shocked HGTV fans, and for Christina, it marked the beginning of the end.
The Final Straw
After that incident, there was no turning back. Christina would later admit that this was the moment she knew she had to end her marriage. “It just made me realize that us being separated was healthier for both of us,” Christina said in an interview with People Magazine.
On screen, fans saw a couple enjoying their lives and business together. But off screen, the couple were moving their children to live with a nanny for six weeks. Over the years, they had gained a following across the country, and their fans were demanding answers. And when Tarek’s explanation came, they were left even more confused.
Tarek’s Strange Explanation
In interviews, Tarek seemed to push blame for the entire alarming incident on his wife, calling her infamous 9-1-1 call “a huge misunderstanding on her part.” According to Tarek, all he wanted to do that night was go on a hike, and he brought a firearm with him to fend off any animals.
“The next thing I know there’s a sheriff’s helicopter circling and I’m like ‘Geez, what are these guys doing?’ and I’m like, ‘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,” he said of the incident.
“Like I was Living In A Movie”
“Sure I was having a rough day, and I was trying to blow off steam, and that’s what I did.” Tarek admitted of the police-involved manhunt. “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 in a movie.”
But the movie was far from over. In December 2016, Tarek and Christina announced that they were separating. At that moment, Tarek said he hit “rock bottom.” “It was the lowest, lowest, lowest point of my life to the point where I could barely get out of bed,” Tarek said. But everything was about to get even lower.
A Celebrity Marriage Ends
Only a month after separating, Tarek and Christina divorced in January 2017. But with the end of this chapter came the beginning of a new chapter of speculation. What could have possibly gone so wrong with this celebrity couple? Tabloids began to publish headlines describing the El Moussa’s “house of horrors,” detailing a couple who fought nonstop.
Fans were not sure what to believe. Could it be that this pristine couple could have so much chemistry on screen but be so miserable once the cameras stopped rolling? At first, both Tarek and Christina stayed tight-lipped about their marriage. But soon, the floodgates opened, and fans were able to get a peek inside this failed marriage.
Driving Separate Cars To Set
After a few months passed, Christina was finally read to break her silence. “Like any couple, we had our fair share of issues,” she said. One of which was that she felt she had to go back to work after having her son before she was ready. As their marriage was reaching its end, the two would fight frequently, often as cameras rolled.
“It was too soon for me,” she said. “I was overwhelmed. The tension between me and Tarek was high. We weren’t able to properly communicate anymore. It got to the point where we weren’t even driving to set together.” But in other interviews, Tarek had a much different story to tell about his failed HGTV marriage.
Slowly Being Ripped Apart
In interviews of his own, Tarek also admitted that he and his ex-wife were having communication issues, but he also claims that fame and fortune took a toll on their marriage. “There’s so much going on with TV and the notoriety and the finances and so many different things happening at one time and it slowly pulled us apart,” he said.
“We bought a house, remodeling the house…my hormonal levels were off and I wasn’t feeling really well a lot of the time, and I wasn’t being the best person I could have been,” he added. His explanation was nothing salacious, but the rumors of their real reasons for splitting up certainly were.
The Tabloid Rumors
Tabloids, and even some fans, were not buying these simple explanations for Tarek and Christina’s divorce. And so as time went on, so did rumors of what the two were really like behind the scenes. Some articles blamed what they claimed were Christina’s wild spending habits, while others would report on screaming arguments on set.
One neighbor told reporters that the couple fought so frequently, that the neighbors would hear screaming from their home day and night. Crew members reported hearing the couple accusing one another of cheating, spying, or lying. No one knew what was true anymore. And then came another unexpected announcement.
A Flip Or A Flop?
Months after Tarek and Christina announced their divorce, HGTV had another announcement to make. Despite the leading couple’s split, Flip or Flop had been signed for yet another season. But with the previous season airing a few less-than-flattering fights between the two, audiences didn’t know what to expect.
“It was up and down, up and down,” Tarek told The Today Show about the choice to return to set. “We’ve been doing this a really long time and its part of who we are.” But people were still skeptical about how awkward the reunion would be. And off screen, the exes would face even more awkward circumstances.
Christina’s New Life
Christina moved on fast after her split with Tarek. A year after their divorce was finalized, she began dating British TV personality Ant Anstead. “It was very, very difficult [to see Christina move on],” Tarek said. But he would have to get used to it, because in December 2018, Ant and Christina got married.
Four months after their wedding, the announced they were pregnant with a boy, Hudson, who was born in 2019. “I’m glad that she found someone,” Tarek said in a statement, punching back at the tabloid headlines that said he was heartbroken. And soon the tabloids would learn that Tarek had a secret new life of his own.
Tarek’s New Life
Tarek had all-but-dismissed marriage until in 2020, he proposed to his girlfriend of one year, Heather Rae Young. Besides having what some have noticed is a striking resemblance to his ex-wife, Young also happens to be a real estate agent and reality television star as well, appearing on Netflix’s Selling Sunset.
Both Tarek and Christina have announced that they will each have their own solo shows on HGTV. And who knows, maybe Tarek’s new real estate partner will join him to create the next big HGTV couple. “It’s invigorating to know I am starting over,” Christina said. “It’s fun to be able to create my own destiny.”
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