Joanna Gaines is opening up about a formative experience she had in her twenties.
On Wednesday, the Fixer Upper star, 44, shared a powerful video of herself and her two daughters walking through Koreatown in New York City. In her Instagram caption, she wrote how meaningful the neighborhood is for her when it comes to her Korean heritage.
“I was 21 the first time I walked through Koreatown. I’d just moved to NYC and was missing home, and everything about these streets—the food, the smells, the language—reminded me of my mom,” she wrote. “It was the first time I can remember truly feeling connected to a culture I grew up believing I needed to hide. It was beautiful to watch people live out the fullness of their story,” she wrote.
She continued: “Finally, I was seeing the beauty of being unique and realized that what made me different was actually the best part about me.”
Twenty years later, the Magnolia Network star documented walking those same Koreatown streets with her two daughters, Emmie Kay 12, and Ella, 15. In the video, they wander the sidewalks, visit a local grocery store and share a meal around 32nd Street.
Joanna Gaines Struggled with Insecurity After Getting Bullied as a Child for Her Korean Heritage
In a November cover story with PEOPLE, Gaines looked back on her journey to embracing her heritage.
Born to her American father, Jerry, and Korean mother, Nan, (who met when Jerry was stationed in South Korea with the U.S. military) the Fixer Upper star grew up in Rose Hill, Kansas — a small town outside of Wichita — with her two sisters, Teresa and Mary Kay a.k.a. “Mikey.”
“We were literally the only Asians in our entire school,” Gaines recalled of her childhood.
As a student, she remembers being called names and getting teased for eating rice in the cafeteria at lunch.
“It was deeply personal because that was half of my story,” she said. “I realized if this isn’t accepted, maybe I need to hide it and play more into the other side of who I am.”
Looking back, Gaines said, “My early memories, a lot of the things that come up are the moments where I switched off and I thought to myself, ‘Oh, I can’t be this,’ or ‘I shouldn’t be this’ or this won’t be approved. Like I won’t get the approval, you know, that you want as a kid.”