Joanna Gaines Reveals She Was Bullied as a Child for Being Asian

If Joanna Gaines’ life looks like the perfectly designed, magazine spread-ready life every woman in America aims for, she wants you to know it hasn’t always been that way. The 39-year-old Fixer Upper star said in a recent interview that she struggled with confidence growing up.

“I don’t think confidence has ever really been one of those things that came naturally for me,” Gaines, who is expecting her fifth child with husband Chip, told Darling magazine in a 2016 interview for Issue 15, recently released online. “If people thought I was confident, it was really just the way I masked my insecurity, because I didn’t want people to really get to know the real me.”

The designer continued, revealing that her insecurities stemmed from experiences she had early on in school.

“If you haven’t heard my story, my mom is full Korean and my dad is Caucasian,” she said. “Kids in kindergarten would make fun of me for being Asian and when you’re that age you don’t know really how to process that; the way you take that is, ‘Who I am isn’t good enough.’”

But her discomfort came to a point when she moved to a town in Texas with a new, much larger school.

“In the lunchroom everyone was a blur and I was thinking, ‘How do people do this? How do you find that one person to sit with?’” she said. “So I literally walked in the lunchroom and walked out and went into the bathroom. My fear and my insecurities just took over and I felt like I’d way rather sit in the stall than get rejected.”

Her family moved again — this time to her current hometown of Waco, Texas — and she said this time the close-knit community allowed her to feel at home.

“It was easy to make friends there,” she said.

Her self-esteem grew until it was tested once again, this time during her last semester in college, which she spent in New York City.

“I was by myself again where it was just me in a big city, and I remember that came back up again — just the thought of, ‘Am I good enough?’” she recalled. “For six months I wrestled with my identity and the themes of, ‘Who am I?’ and ‘What’s my purpose?’… and I kept remembering that time in the bathroom.”

“I discovered that my purpose was to help people who are insecure because I didn’t like the way it made me feel, in that stall; that’s not who I am,” she said. “So while I was in New York I really felt like God was telling me that I would be able to help women who weren’t confident, who were looking for guidance or who were lonely.”


Whether that means helping homeowners build their dream home or simply sharing little ways to tackle everyday tasks through her magazine, books and product lines, she also embodies that mission by passing along the message through her kids, Drake, 12, Ella, 11, Duke, 9 and Emmie Kay, 7.

“I always tell my kids to look for that kid on the playground who’s not playing with anybody, to go reach out, ask them their name, to look for the kid in the lunchroom who isn’t sitting by anybody, be their friend,” she says. “That experience grounded me in that I want to look for the lonely, the sad, the people who aren’t confident, because that’s not where they’re supposed to stay.”