The stunning transformation of Christina Anstead

Christina Anstead has become one of HGTV's most popular personalities, thanks to the success of hit renovation series Flip or Flop. Launching in 2013, Flip or Flop followed Anstead, who was originally known as Christina El Moussa, and then-husband Tarek El Moussa as they purchased run-down properties and transformed them into stunning dream homes they could then sell at a profit. 

When the couple filed for divorce, the show continued as the exes maintained their professional relationship even if their personal had one crumbled. Following the split, it didn't take long for Anstead to bounce back, with the next few years bringing a new husband, the arrival of a baby, and a new HGTV hit of her very own.

Christina Anstead's story is one of intense highs and lows, making her newfound happiness all the sweeter. Yet her journey from anonymity to television stardom has been far from typical. There are a lot of things you don't know about Christina Anstead. Find out more about this fascinating media personality by exploring the stunning transformation of Christina Anstead.

Christina Anstead grew up in the O.C.

According to the California Birth Index, Christina Anstead was born Christina Meursinge Haack in California's Orange County, the setting for Fox's hit teen drama The O.C, on July 9, 1983. The oldest of two, Anstead has a sister, Carly Haack, who is ten years younger than her, but, as Anstead wrote on Instagram, they're "friends for eternity" despite the decade-long age difference.

As a teenager, Anstead attended Canyon High School in Anaheim, and she has kept up with her high school friends since leaving school behind. According to E! News, in 2017, she attended an Anaheim Ducks home game at the Honda Center, where a source said she was joined by "some old friends from high school" during the game. The account noted that Anstead and her old friends "had a great time." Sounds like Anstead formed lifelong friendships as a teen! 

After high school, noted Good Housekeeping, Anstead attended San Diego State University. Upon graduating, she wasted no time jumping into the business world by landing a job in a real estate office. It was there, she detailed in a 2014 promotional video for Flip or Flop, that the then-22-year-old met the man who would be her future husband and TV co-star.

Christina Anstead met Tarek El Moussa, and they became a house-flipping team

While working in a real estate office, Christina Anstead met Tarek El Moussa, an ambitious young realtor who earned his real estate license when he was just 21 years old, according to his website. "We met at work and we've always been working together," she told Entertainment Tonight of how she met her future husband. Their romance was a whirlwind. "The day Tarek and I officially started dating, which was October 9, 2006, we moved in together," Anstead explained in an interview with Good Housekeeping.

Anstead embraced El Moussa's philosophy of dreaming big. As she told Good Housekeeping, the pair crafted a dream board that they placed in their office, featuring a wedding ring, an extravagant home with a pool, a Bentley, a private jet, and "some Mercedes" El Moussa had is eye on. "The weird part is, by the time I turned 31, we had all of it," she said.

In 2009, the couple got married in a ceremony held on Coronado Island off the coast of San Diego, Calif. They were partners in life and in business, with Anstead noting in an HGTV promo video that they had simply "started [their] relationship working together."

Christina Anstead's career in flipping took off

Hit hard by the recession of the late 2000s, Christina Anstead was among many in real estate who were affected when the housing bubble popped. As she and then-husband Tarek El Moussa told The Orange County Register, they were forced to downgrade their lifestyle significantly. Gone was their home with the mortgage of $6,000 a month; instead, they moved into a $700-per-month apartment they shared with a roommate.

That was when Anstead first got into house-flipping with El Moussa, buying houses at foreclosure auctions, fixing them up, and selling them at a profit. Along with their business partner, Pete De Best, the couple purchased their first investment property for a relatively modest $115,000. After flipping the home and divvying up a $34,000 profit, they kept at it.

Anstead's house-flipping endeavors with her partners were not easy. Sometimes the people about to be evicted would trash the place before they left; Anstead recalled one property they purchased in which the residents poured concrete in toilets, shattered windows, and bashed hardwood floors with a hammer, causing $30,000 in damage.

Christina Anstead joined the HGTV family

After bouncing back from the recession with their house-flipping success, Tarek El Moussa and Christina Anstead thought their lives as husband-and-wife flippers would make a great premise for an HGTV series. According to The Orange County Register, El Moussa decided on a whim to make a demo tape of the pair, using a borrowed camera and enlisting a friend to edit it. As Anstead told Good Housekeeping, she was seven months pregnant at the time.

After sending out the demo, the couple received a response from Pie Town Productions, which produces such HGTV hits as House Hunters and spinoffs like House Hunters International. The company was interested and signed the pair to buy, renovate, and flip 13 houses in 13 episodes. The show was titled Flip or Flop, with the Register revealing the couple was paid $10,000 per episode for that first season. 

As Anstead recalled to Good Housekeeping, it all happened so quickly she could barely process it. "I just remember driving to an auction and thinking there's just no way this is really going to happen," she said. "Then, all of the sudden, HGTV wanted a pilot [later named Flip or Flop], and the pilot got picked up and it was a series, overnight."

Christina Anstead was shocked by her husband's health scare

During a marathon broadcast of the first season in 2013, viewer Ryan Reade — a registered nurse — noticed what appeared to be a lump on Tarek El Moussa's neck. Figuring it was "something that needed to be brought to his attention," Reade told Today that she contacted the show's producers urging El Moussa to see a doctor. When the Flip or Flop star was examined, he received a sobering diagnosis: El Moussa had stage 2 thyroid cancer. To make matters worse, he was also diagnosed with testicular cancer, although he didn't make that diagnosis public until years later.

Understandably, this period proved to be a trying one for Christina Anstead, particularly given how the couple was also raising a 2-year-old daughter in the midst of her husband's cancer treatments. "I was just feeling totally overwhelmed about losing him, him having to go through treatments, our daughter," she admitted to Today.

Christina Anstead's complicated path to parenthood

While viewers watched Christina Anstead banter her way through home flips on HGTV with Tarek El Moussa as Flip or Flop grew in popularity, the reality that they faced when the cameras turned off was very different. In the midst of El Moussa's cancer treatment, the two were also trying to have another baby via in vitro fertilization. In 2014, Anstead became pregnant, only to suffer a miscarriage. She told People in 2017, "We went through a lot in a short amount of time."

After that heartbreak, Anstead finally conceived, and in August 2015, she gave birth to son Brayden, as reported by PopSugar. However, what should have been a joyous time was far more fraught than outsiders may have realized. As Anstead told People, the demands of their business and a hectic Flip or Flop schedule led her to return to work just four weeks after giving birth. "It was too soon for me," she admitted. "I was overwhelmed. The tension between me and Tarek was high."

As she revealed to People, communication with her husband had become difficult as they found themselves drifting apart. "It got to the point where we weren't even driving to set together," Anstead recalled.

Christina Anstead found television stardom

While Christina Anstead's personal life was filled with the turmoil unleashed by her husband's cancer battle, a new baby, and a demanding work schedule, Flip or Flop was becoming a major hit for HGTV. 

During the show's second season in 2014, Multichannel News reported that a broadcast of the show garnered Flip or Flop's highest rating to date, attracting 1.7 million viewers for a single episode. Not only was that a new record for an episode of Flip or Flop, but it was also the network's highest-rated primetime episode in a year. 

Ratings just kept on growing. According to a subsequent report from Multichannel News, viewership continued to climb, with more than 16 million total viewers watching Flip or Flop's fourth season. In fact, the show had officially become the highest-rated cable series in its Thursday night time slot among viewers 25-54. There was no denying that Flip or Flop was quickly becoming one of HGTV's most popular series, and Christina Anstead was among the network's most recognizable and beloved personalities. Yet in the midst of all that success, a storm was brewing behind the scenes that threatened everything.

Christina Anstead experienced trouble in paradise

In May 2016, Us Weekly reported that 11 deputies were called to Christina Anstead's home after she and then-husband Tarek El Moussa had an "explosive fight," responding to reports of a "possibly suicidal male with a gun." Police seized several weapons from the home. El Moussa later told police he "had no intention of hurting himself."

In December of that year, the couple jointly announced they had separated. "Like many couples, we have had challenges in our marriage," the statement read. "We had an unfortunate misunderstanding about six months ago and the police were called to our house in an abundance of caution. There was no violence and no charges were filed." The statement also revealed they attempted marriage counseling, but had ultimately decided to call it quits. "We will continue to work through this process civilly and cooperatively," the statement concluded, "and plan to continue our professional life together."

Looking back at that turbulent time, Anstead told People she felt completely overwhelmed. "I felt like I was drowning. I was just trying to stay above water, just doing whatever I could to just get through the day."

Christina Anstead got divorced

Tarek El Moussa filed for divorce in January 2017, although he and Christina Anstead had secretly separated several months earlier. When the papers were finally filed, she told People that she didn't feel sadness. Instead she felt relief. "I think the separation process begins long before people actually separate," Anstead explained. "So by the time we officially did, I felt like a weight was lifted off me." Plus there were a few reasons why the Flip or Flop stars divorced.

Anstead tried to look at the positive side of the situation. Instead of seeing an ending, she preferred to think of her situation as a beginning. "It's invigorating to know I am starting over," she added. "It's fun to be able to create my own destiny right now."

She expressed similar sentiments in an interview with Good Morning America's Michael Strahan. "Despite of everything, I'm doing really, really good," she said, insisting that the "primary focus" will always be their two children. "We're just normal, nice people who just, you know, want to be the best parents and coworkers that we can be."

Christina Anstead's split from Tarek El Moussa marked "all new territory"

With Christina Anstead and Tarek El Moussa divorced, fans of Flip or Flop were understandably curious about the fate of the show. While the couple's separation statement indicated they would "continue [their] professional life together," the question on viewers' minds was, "How's that gonna work?"

At the same time the couple announced their separation, HGTV issued a statement indicating that, despite whatever was taking place between the show's stars, it was business as usual for Flip or Flop. "We admire and appreciate Tarek and Christina's great work on Flip or Flop," read a statement issued to Us Weekly. "When it comes to matters related to their own family, we respect their privacy and honor any decision that works best for them and their children. HGTV is currently airing episodes of Flip or Flop and the series will continue production as scheduled."

As it turned out, HGTV actually leaned into the couple's split when promoting the 2018 season. "It's all new territory," said Anstead in HGTV's press release at the time. "When our marriage fell apart it was more public than we could have imagined. But we're picking up the pieces and we'll still work together to support our kids."

Christina Anstead learned to work with her ex

When the seventh season of Flip or Flop debuted in 2018, all the off-camera drama that had been filling the pages of tabloids led to a lot of curiosity about how Christina Anstead and ex Tarek El Moussa would interact after their split. That curiosity led to even bigger ratings, with HGTV revealing that viewership for Season 7 had risen 18 percent over the previous season. The co-stars, it seemed, were more popular divorced than they were married.

In fact, the show had become so successful that the network announced it was ordering 15 more episodes for that season. "We're eager to see how they continue to run their flipping business, co-parent their children and start new chapters in their professional and personal lives," said HGTV president Allison Page in the announcement.

Ironically, the ex-spouses actually got along better after their divorce than they did when they were married. "Tarek and I are in a really good place right now," Anstead told E! NewsAs she told Good Housekeeping, despite the split, she and her ex still managed to work well together. "We met at work, and we actually probably get along best at work," she explained.

Christina Anstead found new love and got herself a new name

At the end of 2017, Christina Anstead — then known as Christina El Moussa — met British TV host Ant Antstead through mutual friends, and sparks flew. They were a full-fledged couple when she sent him a sweet Instagram greeting to mark his 39th birthday in March 2018. In December of that year, the couple tied the knot in a secret "winter wonderland" wedding, as reported by People, to which Anstead wore a totally unique wedding dress. As she later wrote on Instagram, "Life has a funny way of letting things fall into place when you least expect it."

With Christina Anstead taking her new husband's name, the two blended their families, with her two children and his two children (from his previous marriage) all moving in together into a new home. "All of the kids are so excited," she told People. "I love all the chaos of a full house."

Meanwhile, the couple had even more news to share when they later revealed they were expecting their first child together. In September 2019, the Ansteads welcomed a son. "Ant and I are so excited to welcome Hudson London Anstead into the world," she wrote on Instagram along with a photo of their new arrival. "Our hearts are SO full of love and joy!" 

Christina Anstead went solo with Christina on the Coast

After landing a new husband, welcoming a new baby, and buying a new home, Christina Anstead then moved on to launching her own show for HGTV. While she and ex-husband Tarek El Moussa would continue to film Flip or Flop, she debuted her solo effort, Christina on the Coast, in spring 2019. There was no house-flipping in the new show, which instead focused on her fledgling design business, with Anstead using her flair for creative design to reinvent spaces in clients' homes. 

As HGTV pointed out in its announcement, the show also offered viewers something that Flip or Flop didn't: a glimpse into her personal life, including behind-the-scenes footage of her wedding to Ant Anstead. "I had a lot going on last year, and I thought it would be interesting to show a little bit more of my real life," she told the New York Post.

Viewers loved what they saw, and HGTV declared Christina on the Coast to be a ratings smash, drawing 12 million total viewers in its first season. In August 2019, Christina Anstead took to Instagram to reveal that the network had ordered a second season. "SO BEYOND excited," she wrote of the Season 2 renewal.

Christina Anstead has always made time for her BFF

Through all of Christina Anstead's ups and downs, there's been one constant in her life: best friend Cassie Zebisch. According to House Beautiful, the BFFs have known each other for more than 20 years. Zebisch is not only Anstead's publicist, but she's also godmother to the Flip or Flop star's daughter, Taylor. 

Back in 2015, Anstead took to Instagram to share a throwback photo of the duo in the back of a limo to celebrate Zebisch's birthday. "True friends are hard to find... I am lucky to have you by my side through thick and thin!!" Anstead wrote in the caption, adding, "This shouldn't need to be stated but this is an OLD PHOTO!!!!"

When Anstead launched Christina on the Coast for HGTV, the first project she took on was for Zebisch, who revealed on Instagram that the designer was transforming her "childhood home into a gorgeous California Contemporary dream home." Describing what it was like to be on camera with her bestie, Zebisch told House Beautiful the process was organic. "Christina and I have such good chemistry in real life, and we just did our thing, like we do every day together," she said.

Clearly, once you're in with Christina Anstead, you're in for life.