Mina Starsiak Hawk, the latter half of the dynamic mother-daughter duo of the HGTV show “Good Bones,” was enjoying a cup of coffee on a beautiful blue-sky morning in May near downtown Indianapolis. All around were the fruits of her labors. Down the street from the coffee shop, she could see four houses she and her mom, Karen E Laine, had previously renovated in the revitalized near-southside neighborhood so near and dear to where the 36-year-old lives with her husband, Steve, and their two children.
Starting work on a possible seventh season on HGTV, the DIY-star is no D-I-V-A. Comfortable in holey jeans, T-shirt and work boots, she’s wholly a Hoosier — hard working, plain speaking, community minding.
Her busy schedule includes overseeing the home renovation company — Two Chicks and a Hammer — she and her mother started 14 years ago and its offshoots: a new company store (Two Chicks District Co.), a branded line of affordable home goods, and a nascent 501(c)3 nonprofit foundation. She is especially pleased to talk about the nonprofit because its goal is to help fixed-income neighbors affected by rising property taxes that come with the revitalization of old worn-down neighborhoods that Two Chicks works in.
She also has her hands full raising Jack, who’ll be 3 in August and is in the diaper-shedding stage, and newborn daughter, Charlotte. But she paused long enough to talk to Indiana Connection editors Emily Schilling and Richard Biever by phone about the popularity of the show; new projects, including becoming an author of a children’s book; and her love of Indianapolis. Here is part of the conversation. (To read more, visit this story online at IndianaConnection.org.)
INDIANA CONNECTION: You were renovating homes with your mom for seven years before the production company’s talent scout stumbled across your Facebook page and reached out to you. Was it your company’s moniker, your personalities, or what that encouraged them to find out more about you?
MINA HAWK: Probably the name was catchier than some others. Just “Mina’s Renovations” or something probably wouldn’t have been as interesting. And then when they looked, I’m sure I had some videos on there. So, it was pretty obvious that it was me and my mom. We’re both redheads. So, I think those few things piqued their interest.
IC: Did you think that you and your mom’s relationship and what you were doing to revitalize Indianapolis would make an interesting show?
MH: Not so much the construction aspect. But throughout my life, high school on, my family, our interactions, crazy things have happened. I’ve been told by plenty of people, “Oh my God, you guys need a TV show. This is ridiculous!”
So, I really think it’s more the personal aspect than the renovations. There are so many people that renovate homes, but that are sticks in the mud or boring. What really makes the show work is, yes, you get like a good renovation, and there are fun demo scenes. But, for whatever reason, people like us on a personal level, or they either love or hate us. Some people think my mom’s laugh is like daggers in their eyes, but they keep watching because they’re interested.
IC: Who came up with the name “Good Bones?”
MH: It’s definitely a construction term, but we didn’t name the show. It was given to us. And it is not applicable at all to the homes we buy because they did not have “good bones.” When we first got the name, we were halfway through filming the season. And I thought my producer was playing a joke on me because I’m fairly easy to rile up. I was like, “No, no, I’m not falling for that.” She was like, “No, it’s ‘Good Bones.’” And I was like, “I’m not even gonna get mad. That’s dumb. That makes no sense.” And she said, “You say that now. But in a year from now, you won’t be able to imagine it being called anything different, and she was right.
I don’t know why it works that way. But what we kind of lean into is the “good bones of the neighborhood.” You can renovate anywhere. But if you’re renovating in a neighborhood that doesn’t have neighbors that care, it’s just going to get run down again immediately. So, our neighbors and our neighborhoods have “good bones,” not necessarily our houses.
IC: When you graduated from Indiana University, did you ever dream you’d be doing what you were doing?
MH: I had no idea what I would be doing. I just didn’t want a desk job. But I didn’t know what that was going to look like so I was still just waiting tables, while I gave myself time to figure it out. After I renovated my house, I was like, “Oh, this is fun. This is going to be different every day, and I don’t suck at it. I did all right on my first tile install,” and things like that. I don’t know how much I believe in fate or a universal plan or anything like that. So probably a combination of having certain intentions in life, and then things just falling into place in the right way worked out well.
IC: Do you renovate homes throughout the year or just during the season?
MH: The season is all year. We haven’t had downtime between seasons since Season 2 and 3. And since then, they’ve always given us the go-ahead to start the next season before we’re done with the previous one. So right now, we still have three reveals left for Season 6, and we started filming for a possible Season 7. It takes 10 months to film the season, if not a little bit more, so we’ll get a break again eventually … when the show is canceled.
IC: Why are you so passionate about Indianapolis and the state of Indiana and spotlighting the local and state businesses you do?
MH: I never wanted to live anywhere else. I went to IU in Bloomington for school and got to travel a bit out of the country. So, it’s not that I haven’t been anywhere. I just really like Indy. I like the size of it. I like that we’re actually really big, but it feels like a small town. People are friendly in the Midwest. I wanted to stay and raise my family.
A lot of times, it feels like making TV, you’re just kind of like a dancing monkey. There’s not a whole lot of meaning to it. The things that do make it feel a little more important, in the big picture, are being able to help someone else’s success. We do get to spotlight local artists and cool people doing cool things.
IC: And that’s something that the producers were on board with?
MH: From the beginning, they wanted Indianapolis to be a character in the show — which is awesome. One of the things that’s particularly nice about our show is you feel you could do what we do: You’re buying a $30,000 house; you’re putting $100,000 into it, compared to LA. I could afford a toilet … maybe. So, it seems very realistic and attainable in an identifiable place.
IC: How do you and your family cope with being “those celebrities” in the big city that’s like a small town? Are you recognized and have you had any awkward encounters?
MH: None awkward. I’m always kind of just like head in the sand working or going to the next thing, so my peripheral attention span doesn’t really exist. But we’ll be walking and my husband will be like, “That girl is freaking out …” like a 12-year-old that doesn’t want to come ask for pictures. But everyone, I think again partially because it’s just the Midwest mentality, has been super friendly and not weird or overbearing or overstaying their welcome.
I’ll be at dinner and someone will come up and just say, “I really love the show. Thank you so much for what you’re doing for the city.” And it’s a nice exchange. There’s not ever been anything where I felt like it was too much.
IC: You and your mom have such great chemistry on the show. Have you always been that way?
MH: We’ve always had a very up-and-down mother-daughter relationship which a lot of people can probably relate to. At various points in my adolescence and adulthood we didn’t talk much, and then there have been times where we were probably dysfunctionally close. So, it’s still just kind of that. We have a lot of fun together, and we also annoy each other a lot. That’s just, I think, part of the charm of the show.
IC: So, when you’re talking to each other on the show, kind of kidding each other … that’s not scripted. That’s just you?
MH: Yeah. They do try to script us sometimes because we do what’s called “pickups.” They’ve edited most of the episode, and maybe in one of our interviews, we — shocker — are long-winded about explaining something. And so they give us this list of lines to re-say so it’s short enough to fit into the slot they need. If it’s given to Mom ahead of time, she marks the whole thing up and edits it.
IC: With your mom’s retirement, not from the show but from Two Chicks, has she slowed down at all when it comes to renovating homes?
MH: She’s doing the fun, retired woman stuff. She’s not doing a lot of the floor plan work and the design build out stuff with me. She’s just enjoying semi-retired life.
IC: And how are the kids?
MH: Oh, they’re so good. I was doing a little recording with Visit Indy yesterday for some convention folk. We were over at the store, and Jack and Charlotte and Steve were there, waiting for me to wrap up. Jack is in the potty training phase. At one point, he dropped his shorts and pulled his diaper off and is running around in the background. Thank God his shirt was long enough that you don’t actually see anything. That’s pretty much his MO right now. Charlie’s a little over 8 months, and just got her first tooth …she’s really cranky. But they’re both just really sweet kids.
IC: You recently wrote a children’s book. Is writing something you thought you would do and would like to pursue maybe in the future, too?
MH: I really enjoy it. I actually have a Google Doc called “Ramblings.” And that’s what it is. But I don’t get enough time. The kids’ book was a more manageable version, because it’s short; it’s for kids.
It’s called “Built Together.” And it’s the two things I know: Construction and non-traditional family structures. The subliminal message is that you can build your family just like you build a house: Any way you want — as long as you have the right foundation and the right tools.
IC: Is that something you’d like to explore in a book for adults, too?
MH: There are so many self-help therapeutic books. I hate the word “memoir” — I’m 36 — I don’t want to write a “memoir.” But I think my adult book, eventually, would be just sharing the whole story. Anyone that’s on TV or in the spotlight, you get this very small snippet of their life. The show is a very accurate representation of a very small chunk of my life. There’s all this other stuff that if you knew would make you feel better about your own life, but they don’t show any of that.
That’s why on social media I try to be super open. That’s why I was public about my plastic surgery. [Mina had a “mommy makeover” in December.] When I see pictures of people in swimsuits, I’m like, “Oh, my God, they had three kids. Why do they look like that?” And now that I had a tummy tuck, I know: “Oh, because they had a tummy tuck.”
So, when I post my family vacation pictures next month, I don’t want some other moms thinking, “I’m just not working out hard enough like she obviously does.”
IC: Tell us more about your 501(c)3?
MH: It’s called “Two Chicks Give Back.” The gist of it is to help bring something positive to the potential negative effects gentrification can have. The negative part of gentrification is that you’re pricing people out of the neighborhoods who have been here forever. For the most part, that’s people on a fixed income, like Social Security.
I can talk until I’m blue in the face about how the positives [of home restoration and neighborhood revitalization] outweigh the negatives. But that doesn’t mean that the negatives don’t exist. For us, the negatives aren’t necessarily something we can fix by just stopping renovating homes because we’re not living in a bubble. There are other people doing that, too.
You think it’s good that you’re raising their property value for them, but that also raises the property taxes. For a lot of people, if they’re simply existing, that is make or break. And while we can’t necessarily fix that, what we’re trying to do is offer assistance to the neighborhoods we work in.
So, if it is the older couple with a dog that keeps escaping because they can’t afford to fix their fence, they can apply for funds from the 501(c)3. Or, if they care for their grandkids who live in the home and need help with schoolbooks or winter clothes or really any need in the neighborhoods that we function in — that’s the overall idea.
IC: There must be a great sense of accomplishment to look around the old neighborhoods near downtown Indy knowing that you, your mom and your company have helped revitalize so many of these old homes that will now live on for another century.
MH: I am in one of our neighborhoods right now. I can see four of our houses from the parking lot I’m sitting in. It’s just nice because I remember what they looked like before we did them. Not that we fixed up the house and then the neighbors are going to automatically fix theirs up, but it does seem to have this impact on the neighborhood in general.
Catch season 6 of ‘Good Bones’ at 9 p.m. Tuesdays on HGTV this summer.
For more information about Two Chicks and a Hammer, check out the website 2chicksandahammer.com.
Enter to win an autographed copy of Mina Starsiak Hawk’s new children’s book, “Built together.” indianaconnection.org/talk-to-us/contests