As much as people adore the iconic interior design and decor couple Chip and Joanna Gaines, there’s recently been this unshakable charge of racism and homophobia looming over their heads, especially over the past year. So when the mixed-race couple financially supported a school-board candidate (who is also Chip’s sister) who is vehemently against teaching children about racism, it made headlines and made us pause, but it didn’t seem to really make a difference to their legion of fans and followers. The couple didn’t comment on the matter. But now as cover stars of the latest issue of The Hollywood Reporter, the topic of racism and homophobia in their staffing practices and show talent is on the table yet again.
“Sometimes I’m like, ‘Can I just make a statement?’ ” Joanna says to The Hollywood Reporter, tearing up a little. “The accusations that get thrown at you, like you’re a racist or you don’t like people in the LGBTQ community, that’s the stuff that really eats my lunch — because it’s so far from who we really are. That’s the stuff that keeps me up.”
Besides saying accusations “eat her lunch,” Joanna still doesn’t really address the issues, and we know that’s about all we’re going to get from the very public yet very private mom of five. Joanna admits that she’s hardly ever asked about her racial background, but she has been vocal about her own lineage as violence against Asian Americans continues throughout our country. Her mother, Nan, emigrated from Seoul, South Korea, in 1972. Growing up in Kansas and Texas, she’s no stranger to the sting of racism. “My mom is so tough, but with one look or comment, I would just see her shut down,” she says. “That’s why she didn’t know how to help me when I would come home and say, ‘So-and-so called me this.’ It was also happening to her. Growing up as half-Asian, half-Caucasian, I get what that feels like to not be accepted and to not be loved. That’s the last thing I want anyone to ever feel.”
Though same-sex couples have never been featured on their original HGTV show Fixer Upper, Chip and Joanna agree that they’d rather be judged by their actions and by the choices they’re now making on their Magnolia Network and their new roster of eclectic talent including a personal favorite, Atlanta-based farmer Jamila Norman of Patchwork City Farms. It’s true that many of the series on their network are hosted by and star people of color (at least from the preview shows we’ve personally seen), and on their Discovery+ launch day on July 15, there’ll be at least one show with openly queer talent at its center. “As an American white male, it’s hard to be perfectly diverse,” Chip tells The Hollywood Reporter. “In our own company, we’ve got nearly 700 employees, and one of our biggest passions is making this group represent all people.”
It was just over a year ago that Chip Gaines took the initiative to reach out to former NFL pro Emmanuel Acho about his video series Uncomfortable Conversations With a Black Man. After watching the episode with his wife and five children, the family appeared on the third episode to confront their “blind” spots when it comes to racism, and what they’re doing to change. That 10 minute clip has garnered over 2.7 million views to date, so it seems like it was an important conversation not only for the Gaines family, but for their fans and followers as well.
With the Gaines’s support of his sister Braun’s campaign, financial or otherwise, it would hint that they are supporting her ideas and ideals. We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that the Gaines family did make a sizable donation — a total of $200,000 to racial justice organizations like the Waco NAACP and the Thurgood Marshall College Fund — and announced plans to implement diversity and inclusion training for their employees.
“There is much work to be done,” they said in a joint statement from 2020. “We are eager to walk forward in humility, with open hands and hearts.”
These celebrity parents aren’t afraid to teach their kids about racism.