Celebrity Then And Now
Posted by Jake Frost
Celebrity Then And Now
Publication: Stanton Daily. Posted by Jake Frost
October 19, 1964
2003 - 2012
Currently Known For:
Television Personality and Host, Artist, and Carpenter
Extreme Makeover: Home Edition
“I was the kid who was drawing on tables or removing the legs of furniture.” Instantly recognized by his enthusiasm and his keen eye for design, Ty Pennington left hundreds of homeowners and millions of viewers in tears week after week as the host of ABC’s popular series, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, which aired from 2003 to 2012. Making dreams come true for many while pursuing his greatest passion and talent in design, Pennington first got his start as a carpenter on TLC’s Trading Spaces before taking on a bigger role with Extreme Makeover. From there, he launched his own line of furniture and has since expanded his reach to include his passion for the culinary arts as the cohost of American Diner Revival where, once again, Pennington works with his hands as he helps save struggling diners around the country. So, how did the 53-year-old Georgia native get his start in carpentry and what led him to television? Put down your hammers and take off your tool belts as we share Ty Pennington’s then and now Hollywood story!
The youngest of two sons born to a school psychologist, Gary Tygert Burton came into this world on October 19, 1964 in Atlanta, Georgia. Shortly after Ty’s birth, his father abandoned the family and left his mother to raise Ty and his older brother, Wynn, on her own until she remarried with her new husband adopting the boys and giving them his last name of Pennington. Even as a kid, the young Ty showed an early interest in working with his hands and was dubbed a “jack of all trades” as he often repaired things at home and at school, at least as much as his parents and teachers would allow. “I think I went to the first design school when I was 10 years old,” he recalled of his early training. Then, after he graduated from Sprayberry High School in Marietta, Georgia, he attended Kennesaw State University before graduating from The Art Institute of Atlanta with his degree in commercial art.
Honing his talents as a carpenter while taking classes at the Atlanta College of Art, Pennington worked at a design studio and won a handful of awards in addition to taking on odd jobs as a landscaper and construction worker before he was approached by a modeling scout from Japan. “In America, as a young man, you have several choices for jobs,” Pennington said of his early career. “I was originally in landscaping then eventually moved on to work construction and I realized you can really learn a trade that way. Construction allowed me to go to art school at night, but I also ended up doing print modeling, getting scouted by a Japanese scout and went to Japan. Over time, I got comfortable with being in front of the camera, so I went back to the States, did some graphic design, won some awards and started to realize that I was going to sit behind a desk for the rest of my life.”
Moving to New York City to improve his chances at a career that wouldn’t involve sitting behind a desk, Pennington modeled for brands like J Crew, Swatch, Macy’s and Levi’s before realizing that walking the runway and posing for photoshoots weren’t advancing his career. “So, I went back to Atlanta and was renovating a warehouse and said I was done with it all and, of course, right when I said it, I got a call to audition for a show. I did the audition, there were all these really handsome tall guys and I was just thinking, ‘I have to get back to work.’ I didn’t care whether I got the job, but then the next thing I know, I’m on Trading Spaces. Life is funny like that.”
Quickly making a name for himself thanks to his unique sense of humor and incredible creativity, Pennington became a fan favorite on Trading Spaces, which is exactly why the ABC network invited him to California to discuss a new show with him as the star. First asking him, “What do you think about building a house in seven days?”, Pennington and the executives threw around a few ideas before Extreme Makeover: Home Edition was born. “I wanted to do something like Make A Wish, you know, maybe build three-story treehouses for kids who are battling some huge illness,” Pennington said. “I wanted to make a wish of theirs come true. So, we got to playing around with different ideas. They came up with building a house in seven days with six or seven designers, and then chaos ensued…”
Pennington quickly transitioned from star carpenter on Trading Spaces to the star and host of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, which was first pitched as a 13-part television special. However, as the show transformed the homes and lives of deserving families, viewers couldn’t get enough as ABC extended the show year after year as Pennington skyrocketed to stardom from 2003 to 2012. “That’s what’s great about the show: it kind of creates itself,” Pennington admitted. “While the original show they’d planned was more about the chaos of building a house, it evolved into what it is now, which is the type of show where everybody gets involved. It really is phenomenal. It’s the greatest job I think I’ll ever have.”
With Pennington’s dedication to the series, he spent an upwards of 250 days each year working on projects and rebuilt over 200 homes throughout the show’s nine-season run. After the series wrapped in 2012, he left Los Angeles and settled down in New York City where he joined the lifestyle talk show, The Revolution. Although the series was canceled only six months later, no failure could deter Pennington from following his dreams especially after launching his own product lines including Furniture Unlimited and Ty Pennington Style as well as books like Ty’s Tricks: Home Repair Secrets Plus Cheap and Easy Projects to Transform Any Room and Good Design Can Change Your Life: Beautiful Rooms, Inspiring Stories.
Today, the 53-year-old continues to make waves in the industry as he manages his various product lines in addition to cohosting the Food Network’s American Diner Revival where he lends a hand in saving struggling diners around the country. Beyond that, the talented carpenter, creative artist and beloved philanthropist lives and works by his mantra, “It’s about the joy of doing things for others.”