A native of California and a former United States. citizen, Holley relinquished his birth citizenship in 1997 in order to take South Korean citizenship. He returned to the country in 1982 to study at Yonsei University, and after graduating from West Virginia University in 1987 with a law degree, began pursuing a legal career in South of Korea. He founded the Kwangju Foreign School in 1996.
He began his rise to television stardom in the early 2000s, becoming well known for his spoken Korean which showed heavy influence from the Gyeongsang dialect spoken in his adopted hometown of Busan.