Change is in the air at HGTV. Programming executives are making a concerted effort to add new shows and establish behind-the-scenes changes to ensure greater diversity and inclusivity, per The Hollywood Reporter.
After nearly 30 years of being the leading network in “a TV genre that was once almost exclusively white,” The Hollywood Reporter said HGTV executives are striving to hire casts and crews that reflect and represent the audience they serve. This comes after years of pushback from advocacy organizations and entertainment executives about 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 “multiple millions of viewers represent an increasingly diverse audience so it’s crucial that our networks reflect that diversity.”
HGTV Diversifying Lineup with New Shows & Casts
HGTV’s lineup of stars is growing and changing rapidly, with the network adding many more shows starring people of color and quickly renewing new shows or bringing back stars that have performed 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 for “Rico to the Rescue” — both feature people of color “working 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 though it hasn’t been officially announced by the network, former “Reno My Rental” host Carmeon Hamilton, who is Black, said in December that HGTV has also asked her to return in a new show, which she’s begun 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-buzzed-about essay on LinkedIn about the network’s lack of “meaningful action” toward diversifying its cast and crews. She expressed grave concerns about the impact its mainly white lineup was having on the millions of fans who watch the network.
“First, it reinforces the ugly stereotype with a certain set of Americans that people of color (POC) can’t afford to own homes and don’t take pride in where they live,” she wrote. “Second, it tells POC that they aren’t part of the foundation of the storied 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 backed by some of the most prominent Latinx business leaders in the U.S., called out the network for its “abysmal” track record on hiring Latinos for on-and-off camera roles, despite the fact approximately 20% of Americans are Hispanic.
“Rico to the Rescue” has ranked as a top five non-news/sports cable program among key demographics throughout its run, according to HGTV. As its freshman season ended, HGTV — which often waits many months before announcing the future of a series — revealed 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 press release from the network. “I’ve already realized my dream to help homeowners and now I get to showcase this important work on HGTV. I can’t wait to get started on a new season of ‘Rico to the Rescue.’”
HGTV Stars Say They’re Noticing & Appreciate Network’s Efforts to Be More Inclusive
HGTV’s efforts to diversify in front of and behind the camera have not gone unnoticed. In a video promo produced for Black History Month in February 2023, “Married to Real Estate” talent Mike Jackson, who stars in the show with his wife Egypt Sherrod, said, “To be welcome and say ‘Please be you’ is refreshing.”
“It’s a new world,” Sherrod added. “And this new world says that everybody matters.”
During an Instagram Live session on March 13, 2023, Page Turner of “Fix My Flip” and Michel Smith Boyd of “Luxe For Less,” who are also currently competing on HGTV’s “Rock the Block,” got into a deep conversation about the network’s efforts to be more inclusive.
Turner said she’s worked with the network since 2016, “when I was one of maybe two … of any type of people of color.” She said the “growth and inclusion” she’s noticed since then don’t only include representation in front of the camera, but considerations made for her off-camera, as well. One example she gave is that when she’s filming or doing press interviews, the network asks who’d she like to use for hair and makeup.
“I look like Dolly Parton in season one (of ‘Fix My Flip’) during my promos because they came out and they didn’t know what to do with me,” she laughed. “And I was so new, that I was scared to say anything because I knew the opportunity was only given to … nobody! So the inclusion (now) is amazing.”
However, she said, the audience also needs to grow and adjust to the changes.
“I feel, personally, that the network is doing and has done so much,” she said. “But now we have to grow our audience because there are people who say that I roll my neck too much or, you know, I’m loud. Okay, well that might just be who I am. Whether that’s me being a woman of color or not, or my culture and how we say things that’s funny as hell to me but you might not understand, that’s because we’re from different cultures.”
Boyd agreed, pointing out that he also feels network executives are open to suggestions and constructive criticism.
“And when there (something in) question, I feel like I have the opportunity to … speak my mind and I’ve seen some changes thereafter,” he said. “There are a lot of great changes happening and I think that it’ll be, you know, more texture, more diversity in the way that it feels.”
Turner said that while filming the second season of “Fix My Flip,” which premieres on April 6, they were also “cognizant” of working with clients who represented a variety of cultures and backgrounds.
“We have Black, we have Asian, we have Indian, we had all these different types of souls on and it was amazing,” she said. “You know, it was true inclusion. I love it.”