Panda Express was co-founded by CEOs Peggy and Andrew Cherng, first-generation Chinese immigrants who created the biggest Chinese fast food restaurant in the country. Peggy Cherng is one of America’s richest self-made women, making the Forbes Top 40s ranking of the country’s most successful self-made women entrepreneurs and executives.
When I was 5, I went on vacation to London. I was a talkative child, and said hi to everyone I walked past. Naturally, they cooed over me and asked me my name and where I was from. I said I was from Sri Lanka. Cue confused glances at my parents – Is that one of those African countries, they hesitantly ask. When they were informed that it was in Asia, they seemed to grow even more confused, but politely left it at that, bidding us well wishes and to enjoy our trip. They seemed nice. Maybe they don’t know our country well, 5-year old me reasoned.
When I was 12, I went on a school trip to Australia. Introduced myself and my friends to the students of the school we were visiting, only to be met with hushed whispers frantically asking each other where in the world I was from. I proudly addressed their worries by announcing that my friends and I were from Sri Lanka, which was in Asia – South Asia to be specific. One brave student spoke up from the back of the class, “So why aren’t you guys Chinese? You don’t look like the girls on TV, my mom watches Asian shows sometimes and they don’t look like you!” I was about to argue back when their teacher hurriedly rushed us into our seats and decided to change her planned class into an impromptu lesson about Asian Geography.
When I was 15, our school was busy hosting exchange student from Korea and Japan. Wow! We were all excited to meet these other students, as we had never been able to interact with foreign students before. To our disappointment, some of them stuck their noses up at us, saying we weren’t pretty so they wouldn’t want to hang out with us. “We’re prettier than you because our skin isn’t dark and our hair is shiny and straight. Your hair is so tangled and your skin is so dark!” We were shocked but as gracious hosts, we smiled and tried to make them feel comfortable in our school.
When I was 19, I went on a semester exchange to New York. The students there were warm, and helped me adapt well. However, they flat out refused to believe that I was Asian, because I didn’t look Asian enough for them. I wasn’t light skinned, I didn’t have straight long hair, and oh my goodness, Asians are slim and petite, not chubby and broad-shouldered! I didn’t even know how to explain my way out of that, except to meekly pull up the world map on my phone and attempt to show them that Sri Lanka was indeed part of Asia.
Now that I am 25, I politely explain to anyone that is willing to listen, that South Asia IS indeed a part of Asia, and not all Asians are petite fair skinned long-haired damsels or buff yet pretty idol-singer looking types. There is no single cookie-cutter image that defines Asians, we come in all sizes, shapes, skin tones, and height, from all different countries, cultures, backgrounds and traditions. We may have different clothing styles, music, food and even behaviour that makes us unique from other Asian countries and cultures, none of which is either above or below each other. And whichever region we may hail from, be it East, South, Central or Southeast Asia, and whichever country within these regions, the most important thing is that we are all, in our hearts, proud to be Asian.
Overachiever Magazine was started by Rehana Paul in October of 2018 to give a platform to all Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities.
Our name is poking fun at the stereotype that all Asians are overachievers, especially Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. It’s also in recognition of all of us who have had no choice but to be overachievers: managing societal expectations, family obligations, and educational opportunities, all while fighting the patriarchy.
We have grown since then, putting out bimonthly issues (we are contributor powered: apply to write for our next one!), and weekly reviews of culture, and news that is important to us.
You can find announcements, more news, and get to know our staff on social media: give us a follow, and learn how you can get involved today!
We do not claim to speak for all Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. We are just here to give them a place to speak for themselves.