Growing up in Gore in the 1980s, the only time Mike Puru thought about the fact he was Māori was when someone pointed it out to him.
"I was one of only three Māori at my school, and my family were not really involved in any of the culture or the reo - it just wasn't a part of my life," the co-host of The Hits Drive radio show says.
One of those times was when he was announced head boy at St Peter's College.
"A lady said to me, 'Oh, you've done so well for a young Māori boy, haven't you.'
"I don't think she meant to be condescending.
"But God it made the hairs on my neck stand up. I thought about it for a long time, of identity and stereotyping, and why she had to put 'for a Māori' into that sentence."
Now Puru, at 45, is embarking on a journey to restore that lost connection.
He and his co-hosts Stacey Morrison and Anika Moa, who are also Māori and grew up in Te Wai Pounamu/the South Island, have all recently told their stories in a podcast about reconnecting with te reo in their lives.
Morrison, who grew up in Ōtautahi/Christchurch, had no experience with te reo until her 20s, and realised she wanted to strengthen her connection with her culture.
She's since become a reo Māori champion, co-written best-selling books with husband Scotty and regularly acts as a guide for anyone wanting to learn about and experience the culture.
While Moa, who also grew up in Ōtautahi, has retained a strong connection with her culture.
She's covered in tā moko (tattoos) and makes a huge effort to use the language in her normal vocabulary.
But Puru has almost no experience with te reo Māori or his culture, and is striving for that connection.
Puru's mother Diana is Pākehā, with his Māori side coming from his father, Wayne, who grew up in Ōpōtiki, of Te Whānau-ā-Apanui and Ngāpuhi descent.
But largely due to living at the bottom of the South Island, where his parents moved for work, an area dominated mostly by "Pākehā farmers", there was little Māori culture in the upbringing of Puru and his two sisters, apart from a few trips north.
Even his name, Puru, had been mispronounced most of his life - more often like the country Peru.
It was attending the tangi of his nana in Ōpōtiki, not long after he'd moved to the North Island in the mid-1990s, that proved a big moment in wanting to reconnect with his Māori identity.
"My aunty brought me along, and we went to our marae, and I realised that I didn't know anything.
"I realised I wanted to be that person in my immediate family who, for the first time, can bring a bit of Māori culture, know our whakapapa, our protocols."
Due to that disconnected upbringing, Puru said he'd struggled with the feeling of being Māori, but not knowing te reo, or even things like waiata and haka.
"I've had to come out twice," he says.
"A 'gay Māori from Gore' - the odds were against me."
Even on air, he admits to avoiding saying Māori names.
"I feel a lot of pressure, as Māori, as representing my family in mainstream media, and struggling with my reo."
It's a form of whakamā, embarrassment, or even a feeling of shame at not knowing one's culture and reo, and in today's society strongly tied to colonisation and assimilationist policies that suppressed Māori culture.
"There are times when people are doing a haka, and I just shrink into the corner," Puru says.
"It's not that I'm embarrassed about doing it, it's that I'm embarrassed for not knowing it."
It's always been there though, that drive to reconnect.
He recalls moving to Tauranga and starting out on radio in 1995, when mispronunciation of the city's name was almost a point of pride.
"Everyone was saying, 'Towel-wrong-ah', and I was like no, it is Tauranga. There was pushback, but I made a real effort to keep saying it correctly.
"And six months later it was normal among all the presenters."
Along with those personal experiences, the revitalisation movement and hearing the experiences of others had helped encourage Puru to start his own journey.
"It really resonated with me when John Tamihere spoke about the struggles of urban Māori, made me feel safe in who I am, that I am still Māori, and that I am on my own journey.
"Before that, when there were things like tribal settlements I felt not a part of it, a little lost.
"I think society expects things from you, and I spent my whole life doing that, and Māori culture was never part of [that expectation].
"When I was 20, if I knew te reo I don't think anybody would have cared.
"Now I go back to my secondary school and see kapa haka, and everyone embracing it. I just wish we had that when I was at school.
"It is beautiful watching the language develop - it is one thing we have as a nation that is unique to us."
He also draws inspiration from fellow mainstream media presenters like Jack Tame, Melissa Stokes, Miriama Kamo and Guyon Espiner.
"They are all out there in the mainstream, and speaking te reo."
He also notes the unique opportunity he has at The Hits, alongside Moa and Morrison.
"Three Māori in mainstream media, doing a show together."
His aim is to start night reo classes, along with regular practice with his co-hosts, and in a year return to his marae, and be able to do a mihimihi, personal introduction.
"I just don't want to be in a position where I am at another tangi, and I can't speak.
"I want to be the person in my family who does that."
He hoped by sharing his story he could help others start their own reo Māori journeys.
"The aim of sharing this, is that we are all on our own unique journeys, not to be judgmental, but the key is to just start."