HGTV stars talk about network changes
Change is in the air at HGTV. Program executives are making a concerted effort to add new shows and make behind-the-scenes changes to ensure greater diversity and inclusivity. per The Hollywood Reporter.
After almost 30 years To be the leading network in “a TV genre that was once almost exclusively white,” The Hollywood Reporter told The Hollywood Reporter that HGTV executives strive to hire cast and crew that reflect and represent the audiences they serve. This comes after years of opposition from advocacy groups and entertainment execs over the network’s lack of diversity, and stars including Page Turner, Michel Smith Boyd and Egypt Sherrod have said they are noticing a shift.
Kathleen Finch, chair and chief content officer of HGTV’s parent company, Warner Bros. Discovery, told the outlet that their “several million viewers represent an increasingly diverse audience, so it’s critical that our networks reflect that diversity.”
Diversifying HGTV offerings with new shows and cast
HGTV’s star lineup is growing and changing rapidly, with the network adding many more shows featuring people of color and quickly renewing new shows or bringing back stars that have done well on the network.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the network’s latest series renewals — a 12-episode third season of Married to Real Estate and an eight-episode second season of Rico to the Rescue — both feature people of color living “in a TV genre that was once almost exclusively white.”
In May, HGTV will also debut a second season of rapper Lil’ Jon’s Renovation show ‘Lil’ Jon Wants to Do What?’ And while it hasn’t been officially announced by the network, former “Reno My Rental” host Carmeon Hamilton, who is black, said in December that HGTV also asked her to return in a new show that she started filming.
In June 2021, Denise Conroy, who was HGTV’s senior vice president of marketing, creative and research from 2011 to 2014, wrote a scathing and much-discussed essay on LinkedIn about the network’s lack of “meaningful action” to diversify its cast and crews. She expressed deep concern about the impact of the mostly white cast on the millions of fans who watch the network.
“First, it reinforces the ugly stereotype of a certain group of Americans that people of color (POC) can’t afford homes and aren’t proud of where they live,” she wrote. “Second, it tells POC that they are not part of the foundation of the famous American dream: owning a home.”
When restoration expert Rico León’s new show “Rico to the Rescue” premiered on the network in January 2023, he became HGTV’s only Latino host — three months after the Latino Donor Collaborative (LDC), a nonprofit organization founded by some of the most prominent Latinx companies US leaders have criticized the network for its “miserable” track record of hiring Latinos for on-and-off camera roles, despite the fact that about 20% of Americans are Hispanic.
“Rico to the Rescue” has consistently established itself as one of the top five non-news/sports cable programs across its key audience demographics throughout its run, according to HGTV. At the end of the freshman season, HGTV — which often waits many months before announcing a series’ future — announced that it had already greenlit a second season of the show for 2024.
“I’m proud of my Puerto Rican heritage and the strong family I grew up in,” León said in a network press release. “I have already achieved my dream of helping homeowners And Now I can present this important work on HGTV. I can’t wait to start a new season of Rico to the Rescue.”
HGTV stars say they notice and appreciate the network’s efforts to be more inclusive
HGTV’s efforts to diversify on and off camera haven’t gone unnoticed. in one Promo video produced for Black History Month In February 2023, “Married to Real Estate” talent Mike Jackson, who stars on the show with his wife Egypt Sherrod, said, “To be welcomed and to say ‘please be you’ is refreshing.”
“It’s a new world,” Sherrod added. “And this new world says everyone matters.”
during one Instagram Live session On March 13, 2023, Page Turner of Fix My Flip and Michel Smith Boyd of Luxe For Less, who also currently compete on HGTV’s Rock the Block, got into an intense conversation about the network’s effort to be more included.
Turner said she’s been working with the network since 2016, “when I was one of maybe two … of every type of people of color.” She said the “growth and the inclusion” she’s seen since then doesn’t just involve representation in front of the camera, but also considerations for her off-camera. One example she gave is when the network asks her who she wants to use for hair and makeup when she’s filming or giving press interviews.
“I look like Dolly Parton in the first season (of ‘Fix My Flip’) during my promos because they came out and didn’t know what to do with me,” she laughed. “And I was so new that I was afraid to say anything because I knew the opportunity was just… given to no one! So the inclusion (now) is amazing.”
However, the audience must also grow and adapt to the changes.
“I personally feel like the network is doing and has done so much,” she said. “But now we have to increase our audience because there are people who say I roll my neck too much or, you know, I’m loud. Okay, this could be who I am. Whether I’m a woman of color or not, or my culture and how we say things that are funny as hell to me that you might not understand, that’s because we’re from different cultures.
Boyd agreed, noting that he also felt the network’s executives were open to suggestions and constructive criticism.
“And when it challenges (something), I feel like I have an opportunity to … speak my mind, and I’ve seen some changes after that,” he said. “There’s a lot of great changes happening and I think there’s going to be more texture and more variety in the way it feels.”
Turner said she changed her mind while filming the second season of “Fix My Flip,” which premiered on April 6.
“We’ve got Black, we’ve got Asian, we’ve got Indian, we’ve had all these different types of souls and it’s been amazing,” she said. “You know, it was real inclusion. I love it.”
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