Joanna Gaines Emotionally Remembers Mother’s Struggles As an Immigrant

by Amy Myers

Imagine just a year after graduating high school, you uproot your whole life to restart in a new country. At just 19 years old, this is what Joanna Gaines’ mother did to give herself and her future family better opportunities. She emigrated to the United States in order to chase the American Dream, and now her daughter is part of the successful and renowned home remodeling duo with her husband

. But when she first arrived, the future Fixer Upper‘s mother faced many obstacles while trying to start her life.

Originally from South Korea, Nan met her husband, Jerry Stevens, while he was serving overseas during the Vietnam War. The two fell in love over love letters, and Nan decided to move to Jerry’s hometown of Wichita, Kansas so the two could marry.

They would go on to raise three daughters in Texas. But when Joanna Gaines’ mother first arrived, she didn’t speak any English. She also struggled initially to get her driver’s license. So for a while, she rode her bicycle everywhere. In rural parts of the country, this is no short ride to get to the grocery store.

Joanna Gaines and Husband Reflect on Mother’s Sacrifice

Now, because of her mother’s brave decision to move across seas for love and opportunity, Joanna Gaines has built her remodeling empire with her loving husband, Chip Gaines. Together, the couple has their own show, network, children’s books, memoirs and, most importantly, five beautiful children to continue Nan and Jerry Stevens’ legacy.

The Fixer Upper star often reflects on her mother’s many sacrifices for her and her two sisters. In an interview with Hoda Kotb on the Sirius XM show, “The Hoda Show,” Gaines shared a sweet moment with her husband in which they thought about her mother’s journey as an immigrant. At the time, their new network, Magnolia Network, was just coming to fruition.

“A couple of years ago, in 2014, when this all started happening, [Chip and I] were at this lounge area that looks over Central Park, and we took it in for a second and we both started crying,” Gaines shared. 

“When I think about how much she fought for the family, for all the things, the dreams… when she talks to me now, she says ‘never in a million years would I think that I would have a daughter [who gets to do these things],’” the 43-year-old design star continued.

And Joanna Gaines is infinitely grateful to her mother for the opportunity she had to live her dream.

“Through the lens of all that she’s been through — the hardship, the fight — I think, for her, I think for both of us, it’s that thing of like, ‘Mom, you set me up well. You set me up well because of the way you fought for this, your passion, now I get to kind of live in that wake,’” she said.