Joanna Gaines Reveals the ‘Most Beautiful Thing About Herself’ Is Her Mom and Korean Heritage

According to Joanna Gaines, she didn’t always “fully embrace” what she now calls “the most beautiful thing” about her. And that’s her mother’s Korean heritage.

The Magnolia icon was born and raised in the U.S., but her mom followed her heart from South Korea in the ’70s. Joanna confessed she spent part of her life living in “halfness,” not entirely leaning into the culture. But she only ended up with regret.

Now she’s learned new ways to honor “the richest part” of her and to walk in the “fullness” of who she is.

Joanna Gaines, pictured with Chip in 2021, said the most beautiful part of her is her Korean heritage, which comes from her mom.
Chip and Joanna Gaines | Nathan Congleton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank

Joanna Gaines’ mom moved from South Korea to marry her dad

On an episode of Joanna’s The Stories We Tell podcast, he mom, Nan, talked about meeting her dad, Jerry, and falling in love. He was in South Korea as an American soldier in the Vietnam War. And Nan shared she knew she would marry him as soon as she saw him for the first time at a “pot party.”

So, when Jerry later wrote Nan a letter asking for her hand, she flew to the U.S. and left her home behind for a new life at 19. And once she arrived, she felt she was not welcomed by other women but in competition with them.

Adjusting to life in a new culture wasn’t easy for Nan. And Joanna admitted there was something for which she wanted to apologize.

Joanna Gaines said her mom and Korean heritage are the ‘most beautiful thing’ about her

Joanna talked to Nan about her childhood on The Stories We Tell and confessed she felt she owed her an apology for not honoring her Korean heritage more growing up (People). She told her mom, “I don’t know that I ever told you this, 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 Magnolia Network co-founder said she ended up with “guilt and regret” for not fully leaning into “the culture that was half of [her] as a Korean little girl, as a Korean teenager, as a Korean woman.”

“Like, dang it, that’s my mother,” she declared. “This is her culture.”

Joanna Gaines said visiting Koreatown in New York City helped her embrace her heritage

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When Joanna was 21, she visited Koreatown in New York City for the first time and experienced something new. “I saw more people that looked like me than ever before,” she said on her podcast (People).

The mom of five “left really understanding the beauty and uniqueness of Korean culture” and said, “For the first time, I felt whole. Like this is fully who I am, and I’m proud of it.”

“I didn’t fully own who I was until that moment,” she added. “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.”