Tarek El Moussa Turns 39! His Ups & Downs Over the Years: From Cancer & Divorce to Finding New Love
The HGTV star, now 39, has come a long way since Flip or Flop first premiered in 2013
Flip or Flop Fame
After receiving his real estate license at just 21 years old, Tarek El Moussa, 39, quickly became a real estate expert in his home state of California.
He met his now ex-wife, Christina Anstead, 37, through the real estate industry, and they married in 2009, creating an agency together shortly thereafter.
In 2011, the couple decided to send in an audition tape to HGTV, and the network signed them for a weekly show in 2012. Their popular home-flipping reality series, Flip or Flop, first aired in April 2013, launching both Anstead and El Moussa to fame.
Starting a Family
El Moussa and Anstead welcomed a daughter, Taylor Reese, now 9, in 2010. Their son, Brayden James, now 4, was born in 2015. Prior to Brayden's birth, the couple struggled to get pregnant. Anstead underwent IVF treatment and suffered a devastating miscarriage.
"When I have my babies I come home and can't help but smile," El Moussa has said of his love for his kids. "I smile because I know no matter what we all love each other and nothing can break our bond. I just adore these two."
The exes currently share custody of the kids. Anstead recently welcomed another son, Hudson London, 11 months, with her second husband, Ant Anstead, whom she married in December 2018.
Two Cancer Battles
El Moussa is a two-time cancer survivor. He beat thyroid cancer and testicular cancer, undergoing procedures for both in 2013.
A Flip or Flop fan first noticed a lump on his neck and wrote to the show's producers to say that she was a nurse and thought the HGTV star might have thyroid cancer.
Though his thyroid cancer battle was documented on the show, he remained quiet about his testicular cancer diagnosis. "Testicular cancer is more of a private thing," he told PEOPLE in March 2017.
"A lot of people said they got tested because I shared my [thyroid cancer] story," he said at the time, explaining why he was opening up about his testicular cancer as well. "I thought this was the time to come forward because it could save some lives."
A Dramatic Divorce
After seven years together, El Moussa and Anstead split publicly in December 2016 following a dramatic incident involving a gun and a 911 call. The couple had quietly separated almost eight months prior, PEOPLE confirmed at the time.
Anstead submitted divorce documents in August 2017, citing "irreconcilable differences" and requesting joint legal and physical custody of Taylor and Brayden. The divorce was finalized in January 2018.
They agreed to work to amicably co-parent their kids. They also continue to film Flip or Flop together and just finished shooting season nine.
A Home of His Own
In March 2018, El Moussa purchased a "bachelor-dad pad" — a contemporary, four-bedroom Costa Mesa, Calif., home for which he reportedly paid $2.28 million. The house was located just 2 blocks from Christina's home.
He told PEOPLE at the time that he was excited to decorate from scratch after his divorce: "I had nothing. When I left, I left. So I got to design and build most of the furniture."
The kids also got a say in their bedroom designs. Taylor's space featured pink walls and a mermaid theme, and car-obsessed Brayden had a racecar bed.
Traumatic Back Injuries
El Moussa first threw out his back playing golf in 2014, leading to multiple health issues.
While immobilized by his first back injury and subsequent surgery, the reality star told PEOPLE he lost almost 70 lbs.
"I looked like death," he said at the time. "I wasn't the happy, outgoing guy I once was. I was so miserable. It was a struggle just to wake up in the morning."
"Last time I hurt my back it took me a year and a half to recover," he told fans on Instagram. "As of today, I can barely walk…I honestly can't even believe this is happening, I feel like it's a bad dream that I will wake up from."
The HGTV star went on to say that he was "very down" because of the injury, however, he would "stay positive" and "fight to get healthy again."
Not long after, he underwent stem cell therapy surgery to improve his condition.
Believing in Love Again
After being single for three years, El Moussa met Selling Sunset star Heather Rae Young on the Fourth of July in 2019, after mutual friends brought them together in Newport Beach, California, where their boats were docked side by side.
According to the pair, it was love at first sight, and Young hopped on El Moussa's boat where he proceeded to ask her out for drinks (and she said yes!).
The pair were photographed kissing and cuddling on a yacht at the Portofino Hotel & Marina in Redondo Beach, California on July 28, 2019 — making their budding romance public.
Officially In a Relationship
El Moussa and Young confirmed their relationship with joint Instagram posts in August 2019.
"It's official!!!! After more than 3 years on my own, I'm so PROUD to say that this beautiful, sweet and talented young lady is my girlfriend!" El Moussa wrote, alongside a gallery of photos of the pair.
"I'll be honest and say I never thought I would meet someone special in my life after the last three years. Then…out of the blue @heatherraeyoung walked into my life," he continued. "The first time I saw her smile she 'did that thing to my tummy' and I knew right away I needed to get to know her."
Moving in With Heather
At the end of January, El Moussa took to Instagram to share that he and Young had officially moved in together. Tarek has since shared that they began informally living together "less than a week" after their first date.
"It's really fun because we live in two different places!" he wrote. "Our main spot is in Orange County but one or two nights a week we stay at our place in West Hollywood!" Heather films Selling Sunset in L.A.
A Solo Show
In July 2019, PEOPLE confirmed exclusively that El Moussa would be receiving a 14-episode solo series called Flipping 101 w/ Tarek El Moussa on HGTV.
First premiering in March 2020, the show follows the father of two as he mentors real estate up-and-comers, teaching them how to successfully flip a home and turn a profit.
"My new show is much different than Flip or Flop," El Moussa said at the time. "Before, you know, with my ex-wife, we'd rely on each other, we bounced things off each other. Now it's just me, and it all kind of falls on me," he says. "It's definitely more pressure, but I encourage it and I enjoy it. The show is honestly going to be great."
The show was renewed for a second season in July 2020.
A New Home for a Blended Family
In April 2020, El Moussa said goodbye to the first home that he bought after his divorce and went in on a home with his new love.
In just one week, the couple sold his Costa Mesa home off-market, found a new place to live in Newport Beach, packed up their things and moved — all in the middle of a pandemic.
They are currently renting their beach house, and plan to live there for approximately a year until they find their "dream home," they told PEOPLE at the time.
"This is our in-between house until we build or find the perfect house," El Moussa said. "But I mean, this is a super killer house. It's nicer than the house we were living in — it's right by the water and kind of looks like a hotel."
The pair celebrated their one-year anniversary with a boat trip to Catalina Island, California — and Instagram posts dedicated to each other.
"From the first day I met you, to our first date and our second date when we decided to commit 100% before we barely even knew each other. But we knew what we had was special. We had that butterflies in your tummy, can't eat, can't stop smiling soul mate love," Young wrote on Instagram.
In a post of his own, El Moussa wrote: "She is incredible in every way possible and most importantly she loves and adores Tay and Bray. @heatherraeyoung I just love you to the moon and back. You are my everything and you complete me. I'd be lost without you."
On July 25, El Moussa asked Young to for her hand in marriage — and she said yes!
He popped the question on their anniversary boat trip, getting down on one knee on the sand at the Descanso Beach Club with the sunset over the Pacific as his backdrop.
El Moussa had a neon sign custom-made to read "The Future Mrs. El Moussa" in hot pink lettering that shone down on the happy couple as they ate a post-proposal dinner in a beach cabana.
El Moussa told PEOPLE the reason he was inspired to propose to Young: "We were sitting on the boat one day and I looked over and she had Taylor in one arm and Brayden in the other arm and they're all three cuddling. That was the moment I knew I had to make her my wife and bring her into the family."