The Magnolia Network co-founder revealed what the space meant to her during a conversation with Jeremiah Brent on the ‘Ideas of Order’ podcast
Joanna Gaines is sharing the meaningful way her mom honored their Korean heritage in her childhood home.
While appearing on Jeremiah Brent’s Ideas of Order podcast, the Fixer Upper star opened up about the early years of her life when she lived in a small town just outside of Wichita, Kansas. Though her family moved around a lot later on, Gaines, 45, tells Brent that she’ll always treasure her home in Kansas because of one particular room her mom decorated.
“One of the things I remember most is my mom had one room in the house that was the formal living room,” she says, adding that the space was usually “off limits” to her and her two sisters. “We weren’t really allowed to go in there, but of course, that was the room I was drawn to.”
She continues, “Now I understand what it was and the meaning of that room for her. Growing up we never got it. We were like, ‘why won’t she let us play in this room?’ This was the room that had all her Korean furniture in it. It had all of her little mementos behind the hutch with glass.”
After years of reflection, Gaines realized that the room was the one place her mom could “feel known and seen in her own way, even though she didn’t know how to articulate it then.”
“I think it was, for her, the only space where she felt like, ‘this is my story fully displayed here in this house.’”
She adds that having a room like that was really important to her mom because she had a “harder childhood” and she moved to the U.S. from South Korea when she was just 19 years old. Despite the tough journey, Gaines says that her mom always created a home that offered safety and peace for her daughters wherever they lived.
Gaines — who’s been running her Magnolia lifestyle empire for 20 years alongside husband Chip — has been open about learning to embrace her Korean heritage more in her 40s. During an exclusive interview with PEOPLE in Nov. 2022, the design expert revealed that the path wasn’t always easy, especially when she was teased as a child.
"We were literally the only Asians in our entire school," she said, referring to her sisters Mikey and Teresa. Joanna adds that students used to call her names and mock her for eating rice in the cafeteria at lunch.
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"It was deeply personal because that was half of my story," she shared. "I realized if this isn't accepted, maybe I need to hide it and play more into the other side of who I am."
She continued: "I just internally processed all by myself, which as a kid, we all know isn't healthy because what you end up doing is just shoving it somewhere. It ends up coming out at some point because we have to deal with it. So for me, sadly, it took years for me to wrestle with that."
Now, she says it's one of the things she's "most proud of."
“Fast forward to today and my Korean heritage is one of the things I’m most proud of," she said in 2020 when speaking about her children's book. "I’m trying to make up for that lost time – the culture is just so beautiful. I think discovering who you are and what you were made to do is a lifelong journey.”
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