By Winnie Hsu
Joanne Lee Molinaro, aka the Korean Vegan, is now a New York Times best-selling author. Molinaro explored her career change from a law firm partner in Chicago to a social media influencer with 3 million followers on TikTok.
Molinaro’s TikTok videos are one of a kind. She talks about her personal stories as she prepares her original plant-based Korean recipes. Her stories are usually about her family who immigrated from North Korea, her childhood growing up as an Asian American and her career and relationship experiences. Molinaro says giving up a career of 17 years is not easy, but her purpose of making the world a better place has motivated her to make a unique change.
(MOLINARO: My grandmother is the strongest woman that I have ever known, one of my earliest memories)
NARRATION: SHE’S KNOWN AS THE KOREAN VEGAN. AND NOW THIS FAMOUS FOOD BLOGGER AND TIK TOKKER – IS ALSO A NEW YORK TIMES BEST-SELLING AUTHOR. MEET JOANNE LEE MOLINARO. IN HER SO-CALLED “STORY TIME VIDEOS,” SHE TALKS ABOUT HER PERSONAL STORIES AS SHE PREPARES HER ORIGINAL PLANT-BASED KOREAN RECIPES. MOLINARO HAS NOW ATTRACTED ABOUT 3 MILLION FOLLOWERS ON TIKTOK.
MOLINARO: I started sharing my stories about my grandparents…
(MOLINARO: My mom once told me the story of how her family…)
MOLINARO: …because I was hoping that through the use of food, people might be a bit more receptive, to just a little peek, into the Asian immigrant family here in the United States.
NARRATION: SHE USUALLY TALKS ABOUT HER CHILDHOOD, FAMILY, VIEWS ON RELATIONSHIP, LIFE AND SOCIAL ISSUES.
(MOLINARO: Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger…)
NARRATION: THIS ALL STARTED IN 2016 WHEN SHE MET HER HUSBAND, WHO CONVINCED HER TO BECOME VEGAN.
ANTHONY MOLINARO: Honestly, watching Joanne work, very, very dedicated, determined, goal-oriented
(MOLINARO: You could switch this out for scrambled tofu, which couple of things, zero cholesterol…)
NARRATION: AND THAT DEDICATION TOWARDS MAKING THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE HAS LED MOLINARO TO QUIT HER FULL-TIME LAWYER JOB IN CHICAGO.
MOLINARO: I didn’t feel comfortable. How could I? I am a child of immigrants – the notion of dismissing a steady paycheck is offensive to some people. You know what I mean? But in actuality, I have always been driven by making the world a less racist place. That’s been my heart desire since I was a little girl.
(MOLINARO: Someone’s going to tell you that if you want to belong…)
MOLINARO: I have now been given this opportunity to do it in a much direct way, like I can literally see people’s hearts changing from the kind of work that I do.
NARRATION: EVEN FOR MOLINARO, SHE SOMETIMES FINDS HERSELF IN A TRAP.
MOLINARO: You know I have actually been spending a lot of time the past couple of weeks sort of recalibrating what it means to be successful.
(TV broadcasting: The videos are one of the kind, blending deeply personal observations with stunning food preparation…)
(TV broadcasting: …that is taking social media by storm…)
MOLINARO: There is always another goal, right? My husband calls it the ‘moving goal post syndrome,’ and I was very much falling into that trap.
NARRATION: BUT SHE NEVER GIVES UP ON HER PURPOSE…
MOLINARO: The purpose of the Korean Vegan, is to continue spreading the message of compassion and empowerment, finding purpose and joy. The reason why I started sharing these stories, is personal, but also kind of like, I want to make the world a better place, right? However silly that sounds, at the end of the day, that’s what’s important to me.
Winnie Hsu is a Video and Broadcast graduate student at Medill. You can follow her on Twitter at @winnieuu0316.