Growing Up Gretzky

Paulina Gretzky—super model mother, designer, actress—has intentionally waited her whole life for her closeup. Now, in an exclusive story for KIND, she’s decided the time is right for her shine.

Paulina Gretzky was raised in the strobe lights of Los Angeles and came of age as children of celebrity parents with high cheekbones turned their last names into brands. Paulina did things a bit differently. She sang and acted in movies, modelled and maintained a profile on Instagram, but the daughter of the Great One and Janet Jones, the actress, who starred in The Flamingo Kid and A League of Their Own, and the wife of Dustin Johnson—winner of more World Golf Championships than anyone other than Tiger Woods—has been more reticent. Thoughtful. Wary. She says she admits feeling society’s tug for her attention, but intuited, for her family, that she had to be patient before telling the universe who she intended to be. She first had to find out for herself.

“Growing up in the 90s, there was this pressure on us as if we had to do it now, but I had to find myself—find my true happiness, first,” the 35-year-old says from her home in North Palm Beach, which she shares with Dustin and their two kids, eight and five. Her parents live ten minutes away and they often have Sunday dinner and play softball as part of a neighbourhood league. Family, she says, comes before branding; comes before fortune and fame. However, leaning into her routine as a wife, designer and mother and a healthy lifestyle built around clean eating, mental health check-ins and CBD, she’s also learned a few things on her road from model to mom and thinks, today, that she has something to share.

“I was stuck in this, ‘What is Paulina Gretzky going to do?’ But like, I don’t always know and it’s OK to not know—not many of us do—but at the same time, I like who I am—I love who I am—and I’m ready to venture out now. Positive energy, surmounting roadblocks and just thinking about How to Be Happy, especially for women. I feel like women can be our own harshest critics and everyone wants to tear us apart, but sometimes we do it to each other. I’ve learned over time that it’s OK to be upset. Let’s just process it in a healthy way.”

The Health & Wellness issue of KIND always begins with a long list of professional athletes. When we think about health, we imagine big muscles, white teeth and the Wheaties box cover. But now more than ever, certainly than when Paulina’s dad brought hockey to the US the way Messi is doing today with soccer, sports are impossible to detangle from mental health. From Simon Biles at the Olympics to the world’s best tennis players, Naomi Osaka and Coco Gauff, athletes are showing the rest of us how important our mental and emotional well being is to our overall physical health. It’s less about alley-oops and abs and more about empathy and communication. Paulina says she arrived at this coming out moment after a reflective pandemic and turbulent postpartum years.


“Pregnancy was tough and I’m not going to lie, adjusting to my new body, it took a toll,” she told KIND, “but then I realised I had to pull myself out of this for my children. But then I realised again, that that wasn’t quite right either—I had to pull myself out of it for my relationship with Dustin. I had to pull myself out of it for me.”

In Walter Gretzky’s basement, Paulina remembers looking around at her father’s memorabilia as a child and feeling shivers in her bones. Big skates to fill, she’s uniquely aware of the pressure faced by her own children. She knew of all her father accomplished—hockey’s all-time leader in goals and assists, the player simply known as The Great One. However, it was her time at her grandfather’s house in Brantford, Ontario—her grandfather, a former Citizen of the Year, who passed away in spring, 2021, and Paulina tearfully will discuss—where she learned about the true legacy of her dad. He changed the Canadian game with skill and dedication but his embodiment as a teammate and ambassador is what showed Paulina, her sister and four brothers, how to live.  

“Growing up in the family I did, I was constantly surrounded by sports, but we’re not hard on ourselves. The lesson is always to do the best you can and have fun,” says Paulina, who plays golf, tennis and hockey, in addition to the family softball outings and loves swimming and running, but also adheres to the lesson of all busy people—she gets her exercise wherever she can. “You do what you can with the environment that you’re given and so even if I’m just walking on a golf course, everything is about staying active: start small, set little goals and try to build healthy habits for consistency over time.”  

Paulina has always been thoughtful and introspective and after spending time with the television personality, in her home and with her team, it’s clear she believes a sports hero is someone you admire, a father is someone you love. After twelve years with Dustin, it’s not the slapshot that she most admires about Wayne Gretzky.
It’s the way he still looks at her mom. 

“The way he loves my mom and respects her is a huge part of everything and not just for me, but for all of us kids,” she says, and also recalls seeing that same kinetic romantic camaraderie in Walter’s home in Brantford when she was an impressionable little kid. Sports are terrific, as are accolades and big paydays, but when she thinks of success and happiness, it’s not money or Instagram followers she sees. It’s the way Paulina imagines Canada, to see the very best of us and how she wants to move forward with her step into the public sphere: the way her father and grandfather treated the women they loved. They listened. And always treated them with respect.

“It’s the same way my dad is with Dustin, and how he is with all his grandkids, both of my parents set an amazing example and it comes down to paying attention and treating each other kindly, being present, and I also need to point out how great Dustin is with our kids.”


When the KIND crew arrived in Florida to photograph Paulina—photographer, assistants and a team of stylists from the trendiest corners of LA—the team took a moment to process our surroundings: was one of history’s greatest golfers taking a nap on the couch?
“Hi, everyone,” smiled Dustin, who, on a Sunday afternoon, looked more like the little league coach that he is than the holder of 24 PGA Tour wins. By the front door stood his TaylorMade clubs and a middle-aged dad could almost see himself in the golfer’s legendary spikes. “Make yourself at home,” said Dustin, who then resumed his spot on the couch.

Paulina looked at her husband and smiled. She said she was originally nervous to start a family with a professional golfer, someone who spends half of his life out of a suitcase, competing in tours. But she herself grew up the child of an actress and professional athlete, and says what she sees in Dustin is patience, attention, tenderness and care.

“The example I set for my kids with Dustin is we have to do it together. We’re not always on the same page, but we trust each other enough so that I know he’s doing right by our children and he knows I’m doing right by our kids—we talk about it, but at the fundamental level is trust,” she says, and marvels at Dustin’s ability to focus. When he’s on the golf course, he’s golfing. Every other time, he’s with her and the kids.

“His patience is fantastic. No ego, and it was funny seeing the kids realise who their dad is, and who my dad is, but we don’t want them to be raised differently. Of course we want them to know that they’re special, everyone is. But around the house, my dad is grandpa and Dustin is dad.”

Around the house, Paulina also likes CBD. Once gifted to her at a party, she says she uses it as massage ointment and in bath bombs and the healing nature of the cannabidiol helps her with breathing exercises and sleep. “CBD has been life changing,” she says simply. “It helps my body relax and since sleeping is so vital to everyone’s health and overall wellness, after the first time I tried CBD, I never looked back. It’s definitely part of my overall health and wellness routine.”

Today Paulina is feeling herself—healthy, radiant, alive. She has her good days and bad, like everyone. On the weekends, her kids might not eat broccoli at each meal and she has cheat days just like everyone else. She knows she needs to drink more water and she can get tired and testy and twist herself up into knots. These are conditions, however, she’s come to accept. They’re fleeting. And today she’s feeling empowered and comfortable—even in times of self-doubt and fear. “If I’m having a moment, I know not to put that energy around other people,” she says. “As you get older, you realise it’s about consistency, making little changes and not becoming overwhelmed. Focus on one goal at a time and take care of yourself. You have to tell yourself: ‘You’re worthy, you’re perfect, you’ve got this.’ Anything you need to feel lighter, more present, to feel in control.”  


So maybe now Paulina will go into television or return to the movies. Maybe she’ll cut a record, release a CBD line or work on her own designs. Maybe she’ll do all the things.
She cites Vera Wang as an influence—a designer who launched her brand at 40 and became one of the wealthiest female CEOs in the world—and thinks about what she wants to do with her platform. She’s seen her peers navigate their own lives and realises the power she wields and how it affects her inner-circle. A child of the tabloid 90s, Paulina Gretzky has worked all her life to reveal herself completely, authentically, in the fall of 2023. 

“There’s no start and end to me, if I want to start now, I can,” says Paulina Gretzky, again flashing that winning smile, which isn’t gloating, but rather calm and content. “You get to a point where you’re hard on yourself and you shouldn’t be—we’re the only ones who put limits on ourselves and I think now’s the time for my new chapter—not a new me, but a me that’s evolving. I want to help in any way possible, especially when it comes to sending positivity and love.”