These days, Jessi is one of the most popular solo stars in South Korea, but she originally called the United States her home. Born in New York and later raised in New Jersey, Jessi had a difficult road to becoming a star when she moved to Seoul at the age of 15. That said, she also had a difficult time during her childhood, and it was all down to bullies who targeted her because she’s Asian. Jessi revealed all in a recent appearance on SBS‘s Tiki-TaCAR.

Alongside her incredible talents and fun music, Jessi is also known for her tough personality and no-nonsense attitude. However, she wasn’t always that way. Opening up about her time in the United States, Jessi revealed that she’s developed a strong mentality because of situations she’s faced in the past—for example, bullying because of her race.

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A lot of people say that I seem like a strong person. Yes, it’s true. I believe I’ve become mentally strong because of the things that happened in my past.

— Jessi

Recalling her youth, Jessi told the Tiki-TaCAR hosts that the area where she lived in the United States wasn’t very diverse. In fact, she was the only Asian student in her whole school. Jessi went on to reveal that her ethnicity led to her face constant bullying that lasted a total of around six years.

Jessi as a child

Revealing more heartbreak to her story, Jessi shared that she always kept her struggles from her mother as a child. “My life was tough,” she explained, “But I didn’t want my mom to worry about me.” As such, she acted like she was okay despite the constant racially targeted harassment she faced.

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I told my mom this all the time, ‘I’m okay, mom. Everything is fine with me.

— Jessi

For those six years,” Jessi explained, “An anger built inside me.” After shying away from facing the bullies for over half a decade, young Jessi decided she had to take a stand. One day, she explained, she finally stood up to the bullies and vanquished them for good.

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One day, I stood up against the bullies. Following that day, nobody bullied me anymore.

— Jessi

Thankfully, despite all her struggles, Jessi came out stronger than ever. She shared with the hosts that her mother always tells her how incredible she is for making it through all of life’s hurdles. “Even if I sink to the bottom,” Jessi said confidently, “I’ll always rise back up.”