Identical twins Emily Bushnell and Molly Sinert shared a number of unforgettable experiences on the recently-concluded The Amazing Race season 34, from propelling down the side of a castle in Dordogne, France to mastering the Arabic alphabet in Jordan.
However, some of their most cherished moments weren’t shown on television. It was the interactions that happened off camera, whether it was the late-night talks at the hotel or belting every lyric to Queen on a long drive, that were most vital to their sisterly bond.
After all, they had 36 years of catching up to do.
Bushnell, who was raised in Yardley, and Sinert, of Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, didn’t know that the other existed until early 2021. All the twins knew growing up was that they were born in South Korea in 1985 and adopted shortly after birth. Thanks to the DNA testing site 23andMe and the curiosity of Bushnell’s daughter about her mother’s Korean heritage, they received the unprecedented news.
Sinert felt inclined to take a 23andMe test following a health scare because, being an adoptee, she had no family health history. She was surprised to see someone — Bushnell’s daughter — show a 49.9 percent match to her own DNA, with 23andMe predicting her to be Sinert’s daughter. Sinert immediately sent a message to this interesting match, who passed it along to Bushnell. The two compared notes and realized that they were separated at birth.
“That was the moment I knew this person that is supposed to be my daughter is actually my identical twin’s daughter,” Sinert told The Times. “Apparently, we were born in a birthing center in Gyeongju, South Korea and per their records, we were separated immediately.”
Both were adopted and raised by loving Jewish families, neither of which was aware of their child’s sibling. In March 2021, on the date of their 36th birthday, Bushnell and Sinert met face-to-face for the first time on the set of Good Morning America. This was only about 20 days after those 23andMe results came through.
Shortly after, the pair was contacted by The Amazing Race casting team, though neither exactly jumped at the opportunity.
“It just seemed unreal that they would consider us seriously,” reflected Sinert. “We’re not made-for-TV people.”
However, Sinert grew up watching the CBS series with her mother, whom she described as an avid traveler. Sadly, her mom became suddenly ill and passed away about a week before final interviews were set to take place.
“It felt like the right thing to do to honor her,” said Sinert. “And also just knowing that we’re never gonna have the opportunity to take a full month off together and just get to know one another. It’s definitely something my mom would have wanted to see us do.”
For most of the race, the twins were seen as the underdogs, especially after Bushnell’s leg injuries. She struggled to walk, let alone run, for weeks, later discovering that she had fractured both tibias. Despite the pain, she powered through each leg with the support of Sinert, with the team finishing in second place after Big Brother couple Derek Xiao and Claire Rehfuss.
Bushnell was flooded with comments on social media that accused her of being an actor and “hamming it up,” but she assured The Times that the pain was all too real. In fact, after a particularly difficult journey through France, she woke up the next morning immobile and a wheelchair was needed to transport her to the bus. Luckily, there was a lengthy break before the next leg of the race, allowing her to curb the swelling and rest. Her legs are now fully healed.
Bushnell and Sinert may have only known each other about a year prior to embarking on the journey of a lifetime, but they appeared to be in better sync than some teams who boasted multi-decade bonds.
“We’re different people based on our experiences. But I think at our core, we are essentially the same person. I mean, we’re identical twins,” Bushnell said. “There was just this immediate recognition. I could see a lot of myself in Molly. There’s just so much respect and just wanting to care for and nurture one another.”
“We may have been a little too kind to each other. We could’ve pushed each other a little more on the race,” Sinert said with a laugh. “But it was simple. It was effortless, mindless to get along. She’s a reflection of me and vice versa.”
Looking ahead, they’re excited to enhance their sisterly bond, something that can be somewhat challenging since they missed out on each other’s childhood, teen and young adult years. But they know that will come with time as they make memories.
“We still have yet to spend Thanksgiving or Hanukkah together. There’s still a lot of catching up on those life experiences that we have ahead,” said Sinert. “And it doesn’t have to be anything grand. Of course, we’ll take our trip to Australia that we won [for coming in first place in leg three]. That will be pretty incredible.”
Bushnell and Sinert also see a trip to South Korea in their future, as well as working to support the adoptee community.
“We’ve come to realize that adoptions are not always this beautiful thing. We were lucky to be part of loving, supportive families. But there is also a trauma. There’s abandonment, loss and grief that we have to come to accept,” said Sinert. “We want to bring more visibility to the trauma that surrounds adoptions and make sure that there’s the right infrastructure to support and create healthy adults from adoptive situations.”
Earlier this month, they shared their story via Zoom at the third annual Adoption Day program of Linda Bobrin, Bucks County Register of Wills and Clerk of the Orphans’ Court.
Samantha Bambino can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org