‘Secret Celebrity Renovation’: Nischelle Turner Teases Tears, Fears, and an NSYNC Cameo (VIDEO)
Some of the biggest names in sports and entertainment are returning to their roots and thanking the people who’ve impacted them most in Secret Celebrity Renovation. Kicking off with Let’s Make a Deal‘s Wayne Brady on July 9, the new CBS reality series will also feature everyone from Paula Abdul and Eve to NBA All-Star Chris Paul and NFL legend Boomer Esiason. (While it sounds like a certain new HGTV series, Renovation executive producer Robert Horowitz has said the concept was initially tested in the CBS weekend afternoon sports block three years ago, with athletes and their hometown hero or mentor.)
Helping these stars turn their visions into reality are improvement contractor and television personality Jason Cameron (Man Cave, While You Were Out) and interior designer Sabrina Soto (Design Star, Trading Spaces). The show is hosted by Nischelle Turner, who made history in 2021 as the first black woman to anchor Entertainment Tonight. Here, this trailblazer talks about why Secret Celebrity Renovation strikes an emotional cord.
We’ve seen renovation shows before, including HGTV’s Celebrity IOU. What makes this show stand out?
Nischelle Turner: The concept for this show was around before Celebrity IOU. We pushed back production due to COVID for a long time. We paused for almost a year. This is a show with a lot of heart. Here, you get a really deep look at the celebrities profiled. What we’re doing is going back to their hometown and meeting these people before they became these A-list stars we know.
And you’re starting with a fun one in Wayne Brady, who makes over the home of his Aunt Lilly, who helped raise him.
I say to Wayne Brady, “I feel like I’m seeing your superhero origin story.” And it’s true. Because you’re seeing these celebrities in a way you’ve never seen them before. We’re meeting childhood friends, going to the family’s house, having meals with them, playing cards with families on game night. The celebrities didn’t just throw money at it and write a check. They were in the trenches doing the work on these renovations. It is such a beautiful story at the end of the day. It really makes me happy because in the time we’re in, this is pure goodness from start to finish.
We are the first to share that NSYNC’s Joey Fatone will appear in Wayne’s episode (watch a sneak peek below). How does he get involved?
I do know Wayne’s family and his aunt to whom he is giving his renovation. I know Wayne and Joey have been really good friends for a very long time. What is kind of cool is they went to the same high school, but not at the same time. Dr. Phillips High School has this amazing performing arts department there. The woman in charge shaped Wayne’s and Joey’s life. Joey kids he did everything after Wayne did. He went to Dr. Phillips after, and went to Universal and played a Power Ranger after. They became friends through that Orlando connection. We were in town. Joey lives there. Joey decided to pop in and say hi. We really got to walk down memory lane with them, and what it meant to them and how it shaped who they are.
Logistically, how do you pull off the secret part of the renovation?
Some celebrities don’t tell their family members anything about the renovations they are doing. They just say, “Trust me.” That happened with Chris Paul with his grandparents. His grandmother is like, “Oh, I don’t know about this.” Chris is nervous because he is like, “My granny is very particular.” He took the risk of not telling them anything. They are sent off for two weeks. Sometimes they are in a hotel. Sometimes they are with the family. I will say all of our recipients were so good. They stayed away. Sometimes people tell them a little bit. A lot of times it’s a simple question of if you were going to do something to the house, what would you like to see?
That brings a lot of pressure to do a good job.
It’s a risk as well. I know with the Eve episode, her mother Julie is fantastic but very particular. Eve was so nervous about picking things for her mother because she didn’t know how she would respond. If she didn’t like it, she would let Eve know she doesn’t like it. It was scary and exciting all at once. It really comes from the celebrity that really knows the person they are giving the renovation to.
Who out of this group impressed you with their skills or design prowess?
Wayne surprised me in the fact that he could even pick up a power tool. He got into it. Chris Paul, I knew he was excited to do the renovation on his grandparents’ house as they’ve been there for 51 years and it has never been touched. Seeing him get involved and seeing how he was excited and how he started bragging to his grandparents during the reveal saying, “I cut this. I did this.” He was a ball of tears. It was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. “Boston” Rob [Mariano] knows construction. I think he was the one who really got down and dirty. He was part of every bit of it. Paula Abdul came in with a design plan from the start. We redid a dance studio for her dance teacher who started it all for her. When she walked in, it was the first time I’d ever seen a celebrity tell the design team exactly what was going to happen in that room and the materials to be used. She was on point.
How did it feel to put on the producer hat for this?
It is the first time I worked from the inside out and not just been the host. I loved being part of the creative process. I really respect the process of producing too because there is a lot to it. I hope it’s just the beginning of a long career with Nischelle 2.0 when I start getting behind the camera more.
Earlier this year, you made history as the first Black woman to host Entertainment Tonight. What did that mean to you?
To have this all start happening when I’m 46 years old. Being a Black woman, a woman of a certain age—all of these things being recognized now means the world. I’ve spent 25 years in this business. I worked my butt off. I’ve gotten so much good feedback. I’m excited at how the audience is taking in this next chapter with Kevin [Frazier] and me as a team. I also hear from so many young girls, young black girls especially, saying to me, “We look up to you. We see you. We’re proud of you. We stand with you.” I stand on the shoulders of some giants. To know that some young girl is ready to stand on my shoulders, really makes me emotional. I know I may be the first, but I’m also working my butt off to know I won’t be the last, because we are seeing the fruits of diversity and inclusion. Not only am I a Black woman, but I am also the best woman for the job.
Secret Celebrity Renovation, Series Premiere, July 9, 8/7c, CBS