Born to her American father Jerry and Korean mother Nan (who met when Jerry was stationed in South Korea with the U.S. military), the Fixer Upper star grew up in Rose Hill, Kansas — a small town outside of Wichita — with her two sisters, Teresa and Mary Kay a.k.a. “Mikey.”
As a student, Gaines remembers being called names and getting teased for eating rice in the cafeteria at lunch.
“It was deeply personal because that was half of my story,” she shares.
Gaines says, “My early memories, a lot of the things that come up are the moments where I switched off and I thought to myself, ‘Oh, I can’t be this,’ or ‘I shouldn’t be this’ or this won’t be approved. Like I won’t get the approval, you know, that you want as a kid.”
“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,” she continues. “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.”
It was only after leaving her small town for a college internship in New York City that she began gaining a whole new perspective.
“I saw more people that looked like me than ever before,” she says. “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.”
But Gaines still had to process the deep-rooted insecurities she had been quietly living with for years.
“There were a lot of things I believed that weren’t true,” she explains. “I had to go back and cross those out and say, ‘This is the truth. You are worthy. You are enough.’ My biggest regret is not owning it earlier and really loving who I am.”
The Magnolia Network star addresses the process of undoing those falsehoods in her first solo memoir, The Stories We Tell, out Nov. 8.
“I had to actually go backwards and say, ‘This is the lie I believed for 21 years, and now I have to rewrite that,'” Gaines shares. “When we really take hold of our story and write it down, there’s so much healing that can come from that.”
“When I finished the book, I looked up and I just remember thinking, if I wouldn’t have done that, I wouldn’t hold what I’m holding now, which is empathy, perspective, and clarity,” she says.
Gaines’ memoir, The Stories We Tell, hits bookshelves on Nov. 8.