Joanna Gaines Apologizes to Mom for ‘Not Fully Embracing’ Korean Heritage

In her final podcast episode, Joanna Gaines spoke honestly about her early struggles to embrace her Korean roots.

Sitting down with her mother, Nan, for an emotional interview on the Nov. 28 episode of “The Stories We Tell with Joanna Gaines,” the “Fixer Upper” designer talked about grappling with embracing the heritage passed down to her from her mother, who is Korean.

“I don’t know that I ever told you this,” she began her conversation with her mother. “But I always wanted to say I was sorry for living in halfness. And not fully embracing the most beautiful thing about myself, which was you. The culture that was half of me as a Korean little girl, as a Korean teenager, as a Korean woman.”

According to Country Living, Gaines has described her father as half Lebanese and half German, while her mother is Korean.

Looking back at her mother's life, Gaines went on to tearfully tell her mom how an experience walking the streets of Koreatown in New York City as a senior in college altered her mindset.

“I didn’t fully own who I was until that moment,” she said. “That I am this culture, this Korean history, this Korean story, my Korean mother, my Korean grandmother. That’s the richest part of who I am. And walking in the fullness of that really changed the narrative for me.”

“I just wanted to tell you mom, that I now am fully in a place of just complete pride,” she added.

On Instagram, Gaines went on to share a family photo featuring her alongside her mother and two sisters.

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“Chatting with my sisters about shared experiences growing up on last week’s podcast was sweet and somehow therapeutic,” she captioned the post. “And on today’s final episode, my mom is joining me to share her incredible story. A story that I’m honored to be a part of. You can listen to The Stories We Tell on your favorite podcast platform!”

In response, comments of empathy filled the home renovation expert’s post, with many sharing their own experiences of learning to embrace their cultures.

“Thank you for these stories! I love seeing more stories like yours and @jbrekkie out there,” one user commented. “Because growing up half Korean I never felt ‘enough’ of one side or another. I didn’t feel like I fit or could claim to be Asian American, and it took until my 30s to really embrace my cultural identity!”

“Listened to your podcast with the sisters. I hope you girls don’t feel so bad because the world was different when you were growing up as opposed to your daughters,” another noted. “There is more acceptance of not only Asian culture but also mixed cultures. Mixed kids used to have to pick a culture unless you had any African American in you then you were just black. Now you can be accepted as both parents’ culture.”

“Very touched. I’m also moved to US from Asian country by myself,” added another fan in the comments. “It was so hard for first few years. It took 10 years to get the point that your mom was talking about. Thank you for sharing.”

Gaines recently explored the experience of growing up biracial in rural Kansas in her recently released memoir, “The Stories We Tell,” and appeared on TODAY to recall the experience.

“I tried my best to fit in, acting as though I didn’t get their jokes about my slanted eyes or hear their whispers when I’d opt for rice instead of fries in the cafeteria line,” she wrote in the book.

“I think a lot of people can relate to the idea of being teased,” Gaines said to TODAY while promoting her book. “The biggest thing for me was because it wasn’t dealt with, it resurfaced in different ways.”

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