Joanna Gaines Opens Up About Internalizing Negativity Growing Up Half-Korean In Rural Kansas And How It Took Years To Move Forward

joanna gaines on today in 2022
(Image credit: NBC)

Joanna Gaines (and her husband, Chip) have been extremely busy over a number of years now. The empire that began for them with a real estate firm, eventually turned into the hit HGTV series, Fixer Upper, and a whole host of other businesses, including their Magnolia line of home goods, and, by early 2022, the debut of their own cable television network. While the author and cooking show host has certainly been appreciative of fans for helping to give them the success they’ve enjoyed, Gaines has now opened up about how growing up half-Korean in rural Kansas affected her as a kid and an adult, and how long it took her to finally move past the negativity.

What Did Joanna Gaines Say About Moving Past Childhood Pain?

While the businesswoman has already written several books, she’s now released her first solo memoir, The Stories We Tell, which goes deeper into her upbringing and the bullying she got for being part Korean, particularly while her family lived in rural Kansas. In the book, she notes how she “tried my best to fit in” by ignoring the mean, racist comments and looks that she got on a regular basis, because she “watched it play out with my mom as well, in how she pretended not to notice,” adding that she grew up without fully dealing with feeling “embarrassed.” 

During a chat with Today about her new memoir, she noted that, when starting the book, she wasn’t interested in going so deeply into her personal pain, but changed her mind as time went on, saying:

When you’re open to share your story, hopefully that inspires other people to feel open, to be vulnerable. I think that’s where healing is, that’s where connection is, that’s where community is. When you want to hide, that’s where isolation is, that’s where loneliness is…I think a lot of people can relate to the idea of being teased. The biggest thing for me was because it wasn’t dealt with, it resurfaced in different ways.

Gaines revealed more in her book, and said she believes that her drive for perfectionism as they began to grow their TV shows and Magnolia brand was really about control and attempting to hide her many fears as they worked to get several businesses off of the ground. Years of that led to her feeling “isolated” as she “was exhausted by my own obsession with trying to hide our reality and keeping all the balls in the air” while she “controlled the way our life looked” because she couldn’t control how she felt.

It was in writing the book, she told the outlet, that she finally realized her problems with perfectionism were caused by the bullying and “those days of the initial seed that was planted, that I decided not to weed out.” The Fixer Upper: The Castle host admitted she now has to work daily to keep from slipping back into her perfectionism habit because of feeling afraid or lacking confidence. She added:

You have to be open, and you have to share the ugly parts, the beautiful parts, all of it. Not just the facade that you’re wanting to present…That is the journey to me, that has brought healing. Going back, revisiting it, feeling it, but then rewriting it with truth. Sometimes I'll carry a lie with me for years, but realize it's something that is coming out of a place of insecurity that started back when I was 6, 7 or 8.

Luckily, she’s now fully aware of how she’d previously been trying to cope, can spot it when those old instincts crop up, and is working to right her personal ship.

Adrienne Jones
Senior Content Creator

Covering The Witcher, Outlander, Virgin River, Sweet Magnolias and a slew of other streaming shows, Adrienne Jones is a Senior Content Producer at CinemaBlend, and started in the fall of 2015. In addition to writing and editing stories on a variety of different topics, she also spends her work days trying to find new ways to write about the many romantic entanglements that fictional characters find themselves in on TV shows. She graduated from Mizzou with a degree in Photojournalism.