Interior designer and author Joanna Gaines is a lot of things – a mom, a wife, a business woman, entrepreneur, and so much more. She is also half Korean. And while she fully embraces that side of her life now, it was not always that way for the reality TV star.
On the final episode of her podcast, The Stories We Tell with Joanna Gaines, she shared a tearful moment with her mom, apologizing to her for not fully embracing her Korean heritage when she was younger.
Gaines, 44, invited her mom, Nan, on her podcast to get a better sense of her heritage and ancestry. Gaines grew up with an American father and a Korea mother. However, the author admitted she has not always been accepting of her "halfness” — something she has carried guilt for.
“I don't know that I ever told you this,” she tells her mom, beginning to get emotional, “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.”
Getting choked up, she continued, “The culture that was half of me as a Korean little girl, as a Korean teenager, as a Korean woman. That I felt that guilt and that regret. Like dang it, that's my mother, this is her culture.”
She also recalled a time, in college, when the mother of five spent time in New York City, specifically Koreatown. She described that the neighborhood made her miss her mom as she saw “other mothers holding their daughters' hands.”
It was in that moment that she realized who she truly was, embraced the Korean part of her fully, and saw life through an entirely new perspective.
“I didn't fully own who I was until that moment,” she explains. “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.”
Earlier this month, Gaines spoke to PEOPLE about that first trip to Koreatown, confessing that the experience was truly eye-opening. “I saw more people that looked like me than ever before,” she said. “I left really understanding the beauty and uniqueness of Korean culture and for the first time I felt whole, like this is fully who I am and I'm proud of it.”
Gaines wrapped up her podcast, adding that finally owning her entire identity made her feel "so free," especially now seeing her daughters — daughters Ella, 16, and Emmie, 12 — embrace their Korean culture as well. The girls even took a trip back to Koreatown, according to an Instagram post on Nov. 16.
“I just wanted to tell you mom, that I now am fully in a place of just complete pride,” Gaines says as her mom sniffles in the background.
The emotional statements shouldn’t come as a huge shock to Nan who got a sneak peek of Gaines first memoir The Stories We Tell before it was published. According to Gaines, Nan was deeply moved by the book.
“When the manuscript was finished, I printed it out and I wanted [my mom] to be the first person to read it," Gaines shared on TODAY. “Every five seconds she'd call, ‘I'm crying!’”
Gaines continued, “I think I had to write it out to really explain it, but for her even to just hear what her little girl was processing…. It was a sweet moment for us.”