By Jae-Ha Kim
Tribune Media Services
March 15, 2011
Born in Seoul, South Korea, to an African-American father and a Korean mother, Pittsburgh Steelers’ wide receiver Hines Ward was raised in Atlanta by his mother after his parents divorced. Because he looked “different,” it was challenging to make friends. But football became the great equalizer and suddenly no one cared what color the young phenom was. Now 35, Ward is the first Korean-American to have won the Super Bowl MVP Award. He’s hoping that his agility on the gridiron carries over to the ballroom. Ward is one of the contestants competing on ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars” this season.
Ward, who splits his time between Pittsburgh and Atlanta, has set up the Helping Hands Foundation to aid children in need here and overseas.
Q. What is your favorite vacation destination?
A. That’s a hard question to answer. I have been blessed to have gone to so many great places all over the world. Last year I went to the island of Anguilla and that was great. But I always love going to Walt Disney World with my son because he loves it so much.
Q. You took your mother back to South Korea after winning the Super Bowl in 2006. What was that experience like?
A. It was amazing. At first I was skeptical because for all these years my mom told me how bad she was treated because of me being biracial. I really didn’t trust the fact that Koreans were proud of me. But when I went back it was totally different. The whole country welcomed us with open arms and embraced me as one of their own. They even gave me an honorary citizenship to Korea, which was special to me. It was really an emotional experience for me and for my mom and one I will never forget. I am very proud to be Korean. I really didn’t know much about my Korean side until that trip and now I try to go back there every off-season so I can learn more about my heritage.
Q. Where are your favorite weekend getaways?
A. I don’t really get away much on my weekends, especially now that I am doing “Dancing with the Stars.” One of my favorite spots is Vegas. I really enjoy myself playing golf and gambling a little there. I don’t go crazy — just playing the slots a little has been fun.
Q. What are your favorite hotels?
A. The Eden Roc Renaissance in Miami, the Bellagio in Vegas and many others.
Q. What are your favorite restaurants?
A. I always enjoy good food and am not really picky about what I eat. I like the Capital Grille in Pittsburgh. I enjoy all the Korean barbecue places in Seoul. For casual dining, I enjoy Pappadeaux in Dallas. And every now and then, if the time feels right, I enjoy a good fish fillet sandwich from McDonald’s.
Q. When you go away, what are some of your must-have items?
A. I don’t really have a lot of must-have items. It really depends on where I am going and what I am doing. I guess I always have to have my iPod, my phones and my diamond studs.
Q. What are your five favorite cities?
A. Seoul, of course, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Atlanta.
Q. What kind of research do you do before you go away on a trip?
A. It depends on where I am going and what I am doing there. I usually like to research the hotels, the hot spots, the famous landmarks and the restaurants.
Q. Where would you like to go that you have never been to before?
A. I would actually like to some day take a trip around the world with my mom. To visit places like Rome, Australia, South Africa. … I think that would really be meaningful for my mom and me to enjoy.
Q. What is your best and/or worst vacation memory?
A. I have been blessed to have been all over and to have experienced a lot in my lifetime so far. So I try to make the most of every vacation I take. But I will tell you that my best vacations are usually with my son and/or mom. Family means everything to me.
© 2011 JAE-HA KIM
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