The Transformation Of Ty Pennington From Childhood To 57 Years Old

TV personality and celebrity carpenter Ty Pennington was born on October 19, 1964. The Atlanta, Georgia, native worked hard and rose through the ranks to become one of America's most beloved TV hosts. The former model is most well known for his role on "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition," but he had a long list of career accomplishments before landing a spot on the hit show.

Pennington perfected his skills through various jobs in construction and carpentry as a teen and young adult. In an interview with The List, the star spoke about his interest in carpentry and home renovation. "I think for me, I just seem to always be gravitated toward working with my hands on anything, " he shared. The "Trading Spaces" star also reminisced on some of those odd jobs he worked as a youngster. "My first job probably out of high school was landscaping, and then I was painting houses, and I was building houses, I was building furniture," he recalled. But while his résumé made it look like he was actively planning a long and fruitful future in the home furnishings industry, Pennington revealed this wasn't the case. "I don't think I ever intended on making a career out of being a carpenter, but it was the skills that I just sort of knew how to do," he said.

In 2019, Pennington released a book titled "Life to the Extreme" that detailed his tumultuous childhood experiences and previously unknown information about his eventful past. Ty Pennington has gone through quite the transformation from childhood to age 57.

Ty Pennington first met his dad at 5 years old

Ty Pennington was born Gary Tygert Burton Jr. The "Trading Spaces" star was originally named after his biological father, Gary, but later changed his name. He wanted to take on the last name of his stepfather, Nick Pennington. According to the TV host's memoir, "Life to the Extreme," he has a closer relationship with Nick than he does with his biological father. Ty's childhood was full of ups and downs due to his complicated relationship with his dad.

The star's parents separated when he was only 3 years old, and he did not meet his biological father until he was 5 years old, per People. In his memoir, Ty recalled how he met his biological dad for the first time in an arcade. Gary, who was a jazz musician at the time, approached the 5-year-old "several times," handing him handfuls of quarters. When Ty's mother, Yvonne Vickery, revealed the man was his father, Ty was less than amused. "Cool," the then-kindergartener responded, per "Life to the Extreme." "Can I have more quarters?" The TV host is not close with Gary, but it seems there is no bad blood between the two. In his memoir, Ty shares that his father is "a dreamer, but he isn't a great parent or a great financier."

He struggled with undiagnosed ADHD as a child

Ty Pennington struggled with the effects of undiagnosed ADHD growing up. He opened up about managing life with ADHD in an interview with HuffPost, explaining how it affected his confidence as a school-aged child. "Back then, they didn't even know what to call it," Pennington shared. "They put me on antihistamines to try and make me drowsy. They tried everything. It certainly affected my confidence and my belief in myself." Although school was a challenge for the star, he was able to find other creative outlets. "Once I figured out I was pretty decent at art and people were interested in hiring me, I realized I had a skill besides injuring myself," he revealed.

Pennington also shared that his mom was called in to observe him as part of her studies to become a child phycologist. She discovered the extent of her son's struggles during this observation. "She went to my elementary school to test the worst kid they had," the celebrity carpenter recalled. "They were like, 'Mrs. Pennington, you really don't want to know who that is.'" But she ended up watching her son, seemingly unbeknownst to him, as he caused total chaos in a classroom after being there for less than half an hour. "I stripped naked, wore my desk around, and swung on the blinds. I was just a complete distraction to all the other students," Pennington said. However, he told Access that he was not formally diagnosed with ADHD until age 17.

The TV personality earned a graphic design degree

Ty Pennington's love for art likely influenced his decision to major in art and history at Georgia's Kennesaw State University. With the help of a professor there, he changed career paths — and schools — in the middle of his studies, per After transferring to the Art Institute of Atlanta, he further honed his creative skills by studying graphic design. He eventually received his bachelor's degree from the institution.

Although Pennington struggled through grade school due to his ADHD, he was able to excel in college and soccer after receiving a proper diagnosis and medication. "I wasn't stoked about being told I had a mental disorder and needed medication," he told Access. "As a teenager, you don't want to hear that. But once I started, the first thing I noticed was that I started reading the soccer game and noticed where players were and saw it in a different way." He likened the change to a "lens that was dirty and unfocused finally [getting] focused" and explained how this newfound clarity drastically improved his game, benefitting both him and his team. "Suddenly, I'm where I need to be and you start scoring goals and it all comes together," he said.

He worked in construction while in college

Ty Pennington did not come from wealth, so he had to get creative when figuring out how to fund his education. The carpenter took on various odd jobs during the daytime and attended classes at night. Pennington explained how these jobs gave him the tools to succeed in the home renovation space. "In America, as [a] young man, you have several choices for jobs. I was originally in landscaping then eventually moved on to work construction and I realized you can really learn a trade that way," the star said, per IndyStar. "Construction allowed me to go to art school at night."

He also utilized his interest in woodworking to land gigs. It seems the former "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" star still dabbles with woodworking as a hobby because he often shares photos and videos of his projects on social media. In 2020, he took to Instagram to document the process of turning tree trunks into seats.

The TV host was a model

According to Ty Pennington's website, the carpenter's days of working long hours in the sun at construction sites came to a pause when his modeling career took off. "After graduating college — not going to tell you when that was — I took the advice of a model scout who convinced me to give my looks a shot in the spotlight. I know, I know, it was a bit of a crazy turn in my career at the time," Pennington said of his unexpected career shift. "Looking back though, I have to say that my modeling career gave me the travel bug and opened up a ton of new worlds and possibilities in my life."

The star went into further detail on how he became a model in an interview with Fox News. He explained that his first meeting with a modeling agency did not go as planned. Only one scout was interested (Pennington's rat-tail hairstyle and lack of experience were a bit of a turn-off). The scout who had faith in the carpenter-turned-model flew him out to Japan to launch his career. That was when he began booking commercial after commercial, but not because of his superb modeling skills. "I asked them, 'Why did you guys book me four times for different commercials? Is there something about me that's amazing?'" he told Fox News. "They're like, 'No, you make everybody else look good!'"

Ty Pennington started out as a set designer

Following the end of his modeling career, Ty Pennington gained show business experience by working as a set designer. He put his design skills to use to land a job on the set of "Leaving Las Vegas" in 1995. There is still evidence of the star's humble beginnings on his IMDb profile, which lists him as "Additional Crew" for the film. While working on the movie, Pennington balanced being in a relationship with his frequent travels. He wrote about this time in his life in this book, "Life to the Extreme." "I'm around thirty years old and doing a lot of traveling back and forth between California and Atlanta, having followed a girlfriend out to the Golden State and finding work with the art department on Leaving Las Vegas," he shared.

According to Pennington's memoir, his job as a set designer aligned with his goal of becoming a commercial art technician after leaving college. "Pursuing some sort of career in visual arts makes perfect sense for me. For the next year, I take evening classes at the Art Institute of Atlanta with the goal to become a commercial art technician," the star wrote.

He got his big break on Trading Spaces

Ty Pennington landed his first big TV gig with TLC's "Trading Spaces" in 2000. In an interview with The List, Pennington revealed he had almost given up trying to land auditions when his agent called him about the possibility of starring on the show. "So the funny thing about this is I got this call from my agency and they're like, 'Hey, there's a show that you should audition for. They're looking for a carpenter that's half funny and half knows what they're doing.' And I was like, 'Well, I'm half of that.' And so I went and auditioned," the TV personality recalled. After showing off his wicked sense of humor by pretending to measure interior designer Frank Bielec for a coffin, he landed the role that almost seemed tailor-made for him. It seems this opportunity marked a turning point in Pennington's life. "It all sort of changed after that," he said.

Although Pennington's time on "Trading Spaces" came to a pause in 2004, the show was rebooted in 2018. The star spoke on his decision to return for the reboot in an interview with The Chicago Tribune. "When they came to me and asked (if I would do the reboot) I said, of course I'll do it because it's family — the family that gave me my start. Not to mention, to me, it's still one of the most fun formats I've ever been involved in."

Extreme Makeover: Home Edition made the star a household name

In 2004, Ty Pennington landed his most memorable role to date as a host and celebrity home renovator on the hit TV show "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition." The show rewards deserving families with the home makeover of a lifetime. These dramatic transformations are finished within a week. Pennington spoke on the fast-paced process in an interview with ABC News. "Anyone who's ever done this knows we have to make decisions so fast, whether it's going to be cabinet choices or decking," the star said. "Because we have to fly this from the hip once we get here." It seems the speedy renovations were just as stressful as one might think.

The show received a great deal of criticism over the years due to the aftermath of the multi-million dollar home makeovers, and Pennington was not afraid to respond. "There's a couple of stories that families lost their home," he told The Wrap. "We left them with a financial adviser. However, if the family chooses to triple-mortgage their house to start a business that they've never done before just to see if they can get into it, that's their own demise." Now, what about those hefty property taxes the families are left with? Pennington addressed this as well. He told The Wrap that the property tax "probably went up a little because the value of the house went up," after explaining that the show essentially left families "without any debt whatsoever" because it paid the college tuition of participants' children.

Ty Pennington joined a daytime show

When "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" came to an end in 2012, Ty Pennington relocated from Los Angeles to New York to star in ABC's daytime show "The Revolution." Somewhat similar to the "Extreme Makeover" franchise, "The Revolution" focused on women seeking confidence and lifestyle makeovers. The show's lifestyle experts guided these women throughout their revolutionary journeys.

During an interview with ABC News, Pennington shared that he'd made a home out of his dressing room on the set of "The Revolution" after his long-distance move. "It's sort of my home now. I'm a traveling gypsy and luckily I'm used to that right now. I'm living right here, which is great," He revealed. The new opportunity also gave the star more free time. He admitted he'd been thinking about starting a family and settling down. "I've sort of become distant because I've been working so much," Pennington said. "So, I'm really excited to be able to still continue to help people, but also have a little bit of time so that I can focus on, you know, my family."

He took a break after The Revolution was canceled

Unfortunately for Ty Pennington, "The Revolution" was canceled after only six months on air due to low ratings, as reported by Variety. It seems Pennington took a brief break from television following the end of "The Revolution" in 2012, so perhaps the show's lack of success had a negative impact on the star. In 2014, he returned to TV on the TNT cooking competition "On the Menu," and he stuck with the culinary theme one year later when he co-hosted the Food Network series "American Diner Revival." But in 2021, he starred in what is perhaps his most notable post-"Extreme Makeover" project: HGTV's "Ty Breaker." The eight-part series followed families as they decided whether to stick with their current properties or renovate a new home. Pennington was joined by celebrity renovation experts Alison Victoria, Grace Mitchell, and Sabrina Soto.

The star spoke on his long-awaited return to television in an interview with "I am so happy to be back in my element on Ty Breaker – helping people to not only love their space but showing them how to LIVE in it," he shared. "We'll address challenges that families face every day, but we'll mix it up with friendly competition from my super-talented friends. You'll see us having a lot of fun and creating killer designs!"

Ty Pennington got engaged and married in 2021

The timeline of Ty Pennington's personal life is not as romance-heavy as those of many of his fellow reality TV stars. It seems the "Life to the Extreme" author was primarily focused on his career for much of his life. This all came to an end when Pennington got engaged and married in 2021. People reported that the star tied the knot with social media manager Kellee Merrell in his home state of Georgia. The couple's wedding took place on a property they were in the process of restoring.

According to People, the couple first met in 2010 but did not begin dating until 2020. They soon tested the waters of married life by deciding to quarantine together. "I have admired Kellee from afar for years," Pennington told the outlet. "She's a beautiful person inside and out, Luckily our paths finally crossed at the right time. It's one of those things where you just feel happy being around a person. I never thought I would get married, but she changed that. Glad I waited for the one." The couple first announced their engagement in July 2021 with an Instagram post showing off Merrell's ring. Pennington playfully captioned the pic, "It's the 'yes' for me ..."

He was body-shamed

In 2022, 57-year-old Ty Pennington was body-shamed when he posted a video filmed at the beach. The "Trading Spaces" star can be seen jokingly dancing in his swimwear in the clip. Pennington seemed to be enjoying his time at the beach, but unfortunately, internet trolls decided to share their unwarranted opinions on the star's body and age. The TV personality's Instagram comments were quickly flooded with hate regarding his appearance.

Pennington defended himself against the hurtful comments in a later Instagram post where he penned a message for his haters. "I posted a video recently of myself dancing on the beach, with my shorts hiked up. What was an honest moment of just trying to make my wife laugh, was then picked apart by strangers — with a lot of views, comes a lot of hate!," he wrote. "Comments like 'disgusting,' 'gross,' 'omg he's so old now,' 'grandpa,' 'he got fat' (which btw I'm pushing my stomach out but ok)," the star continued. "And I wondered, if I was still young and fit, would I be getting the same comments?" Pennington closed out his message with a reminder that he chooses to embrace the knowledge and wisdom that comes with age. "Anyways, all this to say: I'm human and I have feelings. Yes, I am older but I think it's pretty cool," he shared.