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From cookbooks to TV, magazines and more, Candice Kumai is a well-known name in wellness. In fact, she’s known as the Golden Girl of Wellness. She beautifully weaves her advice for healthful living into stories about her life and heritage, all with a mission to inspire a new generation of wellness lovers and creative artists.
I have so many questions for Candice. What has the journey been like for her? What messy middle moments taught her the most? How is the wellness space changing and what does she think of it all? And really, what’s it like to judge a cooking competition on Food Network?
She’ll share it all, and give you her tips and secrets based in Kintsugi Wellness. Here is Candice Kumai.
Candice and her sister grew up in a multicultural household, with a Polish-American father and a Japanese mother, who was proud of her heritage — something Candice carried into her own life. Professionally, she’s a model turned chef turned journalist, and you may have seen her on the Today Show or other TV programs. Candice says, though, that those programs don’t always show her “weird” side.
Candice is also a massive advocate for women, with six books written for women about health and cooking, and now her new book focused on Japanese culture.
“I’m a woman-lover, I’m a supporter, I’m a girlfriend, I’m a pro-bridesmaid, and I’m just that multicultural girl who wanted to share a lot of pieces of my past and my future with the world, with the only intent of wanting to help others,” as Candice summed herself up.
With so many pivots in her career, moving between the very different words of model, chef, author, journalist, and beyond, I wanted to know how she navigated those shifts. How does Candice continue to reinvent herself between all of these different titles?
Candice credits a lot of her dedication to hard work and learning how to pivot to watching her parents. Both of her parents had to learn and relearn a new culture and language when they moved to the United States. Her mother immigrated to the US in the 1980s and had to raise two daughters. Her father was a dedicated and hard-working nuclear auditor. Candice saw first-hand what hard work looked like.
“There’s a saying in Japanese that translates in short to: Children learn by watching what their parents do, not by what they say,” she explained.
Candice continued, “My sister and I had really good entrepreneurial parents that went out of their way to make something of themselves when they came from nothing.”
She told me that although she had nothing to complain about as a child, being the only Asian student in a predominantly white and Hispanic classroom was challenging and often hurtful. However, as she got older, she learned that she could use her skillset to build the life she wanted. Modeling paid the way through culinary school.
“I used the skillset that I knew I had to bring another skillset,” Candice continued, “What I suggest to a lot of girls who want to reinvent themselves, is you have to put yourself in the position where you can learn different skills. It’s going to be uncomfortable. You’re not going to get paid a lot. And it’s not going to be glamorous.”
The Book She Didn’t Want to Write
I read back to Candice an excerpt of her new book, Kintsugi Wellness, that really spoke to me. Press play to hear the full segment that essentially says there’s beauty in repairing what is broken, and often what’s repaired is more beautiful than it was before it ever broke. It’s on page 12 of the book if you’re following along.
I asked Candice to walk me through what those words meant to her. “I was probably at the world point in my career when I wrote that book. Kintsugi Wellness was the Japanese art of golden repair, and it’s a book that I never wanted to actually write,” Candice began.
Candice explained Kintsugi further, saying that it’s the art of repairing something like a vase or cup that’s been completely shattered. The pieces are resealed with a lacquer and then the seams are dusted with a golden powder.
She thought she’d be writing wellness and health books forever, but her publisher encouraged her to embrace her differences and talents, and push past the fear of what others might think. The scars of her childhood and enduring shame and ridicule for her Japanese culture were still there.
“I was so afraid to write something different about my culture because of the painful memories of my childhood in the US,” Candice shared. But when she went back to where she came from, literally and figuratively, and put the pieces of who she is back together, she found herself.
“I’ll continue to figure out what my path is by doing hard things, by pioneering, and by creating new ideas and new artistry, and writing better content. And I’ve shifted my career from chef to journalist because I have to become the change I wish to see,” Candice told me.
Honoring Your Culture
“If you look up your lineage, you’re going to be blown away by what your grandparents survived,” Candice started. “I knew that I came from a family of very strong individuals who fought for others, who shared artistry with others, who connected dots and traveled the world without being afraid.”
When Candice began to explore her lineage and learned more about where her parents and grandparents were from, and how they live their lives, she realized even more than before that she was from a very different family.
Learning those things and finding herself in the stories and experiences of her family’s lineage, allowed her to more easily weave in those stories in her work and her life. “When you dissect the pieces of your story and put them back together, you have this beautiful a-ha moment,” Candice shared.
More from Candice Kumai
If you want to learn more from Candice Kumai as she shares the stories of her career and life, press play on the episode above. You can also connect with her on Instagram @candicekumai and get her newest book Kintsugi Wellness.