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HGTV’s Biggest Breakout Stars: Chip and Joanna Gaines and More

Thanks to HGTV, real estate agents, general contractors and interior designers have become household names — with some even involved in A-list romances like any other Hollywood star! It’s an impressive “flip” for a cable channel that seemed like a risky bet 25 years ago.

Kenneth Lowe, a “frustrated architect” who would later become CEO of Scripps Networks Interactive, dreamed up HGTV in the early 1990s, according to Architectural Digest. “Home building [and] home design 20 years ago was this deep, dark mystery,” he told the magazine in July 2019. “People just didn’t understand it, and a lot of what HGTV has done is educate the public. It used to be just shelter — you need a home. Now it’s more about, ‘What’s my lifestyle, what’s my family’s lifestyle, and how’s my home going to best fit and serve it, and how can I design it?’”

Lowe got $25 million to launch Home Garden Television in 1993, and HGTV hit the airwaves the following year. “Honestly, there were low, low expectations,” Lowe recalled. “I’ve had a lot of doors slammed in my face by cable operators who said, ‘This is too small of an idea, nobody’s really going to watch this, we just can’t see it.’”

But as home improvement became a booming industry, so too did renovation shows. HGTV surpassed CNN as the third most-watched cable channel in 2016. The channel’s slate of affable hosts and stars — including husband-and-wife team Chip and Joanna Gaines and ex-spouses Tarek El Moussa and Christina Anstead — only boosts its popularity.

Scroll down to see some of HGTV’s breakout stars from its first three decades on television.