Yumi Hogan is America’s first Korean-American first lady. A native of Jeollanam Province in rural South Korea, she brings an artist’s perspective to this very public role. LGM is delighted to share this with readers as well as her reflections on the power of art, domestic violence, motherhood, and her biggest extravagance—spending time in her art studio.
By Mary Ann Treger | Photography by David Hartcorn | Produced by Kymberly Taylor
Looking Good Magazine: You and your husband received praise from everyone for the courageous way you handled his illness. Did being so public about it come easily?
Yumi Hogan: It was one of the most difficult moments of my life to watch my husband tell the people of Maryland about his diagnosis, but we believed it was the right thing to do. My husband fought his cancer with prayers and cheerful messages from so many people. We were blessed when he became 100 percent cancer free. We were lucky to have the opportunity to meet numerous patients during and after his cancer treatment and form lasting relationships with many of them and their families.
LGM: You teach art classes to cancer patients and believe in art therapy. How does that make a difference?
YH: Art therapy gives patients a chance to non-verbally express the often-intense emotions that come with a cancer diagnosis and treatment. While drawing or painting, children and adults can forget about their pain. Patients can focus on the positive side of the arts and find a moment of happiness.
LGM: You’ve said you are first an artist, then first lady, that your goal is to instill a love of art in Marylanders of all ages. Why is this important?
YH: Art acts as bridges in the community. Whether poor or rich, young or old, men or women, regardless of ethnicities, art makes everybody equal. The arts can harmonize and unify people. I have made it a priority to visit art county councils and museums and to meet with fellow artists and art supporters. Without art, this world would be nothing but darkness.
LGM: You were born on Christmas Day in 1959 in South Korea, the youngest of eight children and raised on a chicken farm. Before meeting the governor you were a divorced mother of three supporting yourself and three daughters by teaching in your basement and working as a cashier. How have these life experiences shaped the way you approach being first lady?
YH: I was the youngest of eight children and I was raised by my loving parents. I grew up with so much love from my brothers and sisters. However, as a single mom raising three daughters, I went through many difficulties. But I became stronger and more independent through these challenges. Through my life experiences, I have a better understanding of the difficult situations so many hardworking people encounter.
LGM: What issues facing Maryland women do you consider the most important? Do you have “pillow talk” with the governor about them?
YH: I am particularly interested in helping women who are victims of domestic violence, especially those who raise children as a single mother. I am proud that my husband has proposed his Justice for Victims Initiative, which includes additional protections and resources for victims of domestic violence, and I am proud that part of his initiative was based on an idea proposed by our daughter Jaymi. When my husband comes home from work, we talk about things that happened during the day and the issues we currently face. I often offer my perspective and advice on issues, especially those impacting Maryland families and children.
LGM: We’d love to know a little about the personal side of you—what is your greatest extravagance?
YH: My time in my art studio.
LGM: What is the trait you like most about yourself?
YH: I am very determined and diligent. I do not give up on my dream, I study constantly, I keep on trying to achieve what I want to accomplish with patience and strong will.
LGM: If you could go back in time what advice would you give to your younger self?
YH: I believe that my generation would agree with me on the fact that we were very busy constantly studying and working and we didn’t have much leisure time. I am a little bit sad that I could not experience so many of the different activities young people do these days. My advice to my younger self [would be] to enjoy what you can while you are young!
LGM: What is your most treasured possession?
YH: My bible.
LGM: If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be?
YH: I am proud of how I raised my three daughters, but I was a very strict mother. As a single mom, not only was I their mother but I also had to be their father. Our three daughters never did a sleepover at their friend’s house. I feel a little bit sorry for my daughters.
LGM: What advice do you give your daughters?
YH: I tell them not to give up and do their best, never stop until they succeed, and save their money.
LGM: Where is your favorite place in the world?
YH: My homeland of South Korea, which has many similarities with Maryland. Both regions have the four seasons and a beautiful natural environment. All of my family still lives there.
LGM: How do you want to be remembered?
YH: As a person who always does her best, never gives up, and tries to help people in need.
Mary Ann Treger writes for many magazines and journals and is
LGM’s Beauty, Health and Travel Editor.