Interview with Riya Goel of AsiansLead



Introduce yourself!

My name is Riya Goel. I’m a first-generation Indian American, who did a bunch of things that you can read in the bio. But really, I’m a people person. I try to take my experiences, and use them to make change that we can all benefit from. Of course, I feel accomplished when I get something done, but my greatest accomplishments are listening, learning and gaining new perspectives. It’s all about the perspectives because once you can open up your world to different perspectives, your thought process changes. 

What’s the story behind your organization, AsiansLead? What inspired you to start it?

Pretty much, I was sitting in a hotel room at one of my sister’s soccer tournaments, and I was about two weeks out of the GirlUp leadership summit that really inspired me. Anyway, I was kind of having one of those reflect on life moments where I was just thinking back on my experiences and what I could really do to make a change in society and something that I could relate to. And then, I realized that a part of my identity that I never really embraced was being Indian, and it was always something that I ran away from because I never really saw anyone like me out in the world and being successful other than my family. So I called up one of my fellow teen advisors who is Asian as well, and we just planned this new project out over FaceTime. I knew that I couldn’t take this on alone not only because life happens but because I wanted to address the struggles of the entire Asian demographic, and I knew that I couldn’t do it alone. 

What do you hope to accomplish with your organization? What goals do you have?

Right now, I feel like the goal that the organization has is to really bring awareness to the issues that Asians face all over the world, especially with the recent coronavirus. A big focus for us right now is storytelling, because we want to keep our audience engaged and aware of what is going on in the world. Other than that, our goal is to really start at the grassroots level by starting high school and college chapters, young professional networks and spaces where people can talk about their experiences, and learn from each other. Another huge goal that we have is to support our Asian community. A significant issue that goes unaddressed for Asians is mental health, as Asian families typically don’t encourage it even though Asians are a very pressured group of people. So whether that means providing services or places to talk, or scholarships to pursue a “non-traditional” career, AsiansLead wants to be there for whatever you need, and whatever you want to do so that we can see more of “us” out in the world. 

Who are your biggest inspirations in activism and in everything?

Two huge inspirations for me are Nadya Okamoto and Deja Foxx. Hearing their stories and seeing how they took their situations and issues they were passionate about despite the stigma. They made these issues national movements despite the odds stacked against them really inspires me to do better, be better, and never make excuses for why i can’t do my work because I am lucky to be where I am. I need to use the resources that I do have available to me to really make an impactful change. 

What do you find the most fulfilling about being involved in activism?

Activism gives me a purpose. Before getting involved in all of the amazing movements and projects that I am working on, I always felt like something was missing from my life. When I started getting involved in activism, I started to feel like I was part of something greater, something more than just myself, which is a really powerful feeling; to make a change in someone else’s life. Another great thing that I pick up almost every day through my activism is new perspectives, and this might be my favorite thing about activism. As I meet new people, hear more stories, and just listen to people, I get to think about things in another way and put myself in someone else’s shoes. Gaining these perspectives is so valuable because it really allows you to see the world in a lens other than your own. 

What do you find the most challenging about being involved in activism?

I think just keeping up with it all is hard. Asians Lead is definitely my number one right now, but balancing all aspects of my life, and being good at all of these aspects is challenging. I’m a high school student, athlete, and activist, which all require time to see results. I think something that I have learned the importance of this year, my junior year, is really balance and time management, because sometimes you need to cut a couple of things to gain some things. Even though that was a hard pill to swallow for me, I think that is a lesson moving forward, and something to keep in mind for anyone and everyone.

 What do you consider your biggest accomplishment?

I don’t know that I have the “biggest accomplishment”. This seems like something that should pop into my head immediately, but for me, every small victory is a big accomplishment, because, in that moment, I could feel good by even making myself a sandwich, and that’s a win for me. 

What do you think are the biggest challenges facing Asian women today? 

I think that Asian women and girls are starting to see and know their worth in society today. I feel like one of the only things that are holding us back is representation, especially in non-traditional fields such as the arts or media. When we see people that look like us, the possibilities are endless, and it is easier to put yourself in that same situation. I mentioned girls in here, because I’m of the opinion that girls are often grouped under women and that girls should be included in the conversation. 

What’s next for you? Any exciting new projects?

Right now, I’m just focusing on building AsiansLead. I want to make sure that people are educated and aware of the stigmas and stereotypes against the Asian minority, and honestly keep the balance between being a student, athlete, and advocate right now. 



Riya Goel is a junior at West Orange High School in West Orange, New Jersey. She is a student-athlete and student activist. Riya is a rower and a fencer and started her school’s fencing team, GirlUp club, and Meatless Mondays. She is a teen advisor with Girl Up at the United Nations Foundation, a girl advocate with the Working Group on Girls to the United Nations, and serves as an alternate to the Beijing 25+ youth task force to the UN. Riya co-founded and is the CEO of Asians Lead, a youth-based nonprofit that aims to Redefine, Inspire, Create, and Educate (RICE). She is also a national club leader and voter registration captain with DoSomething and is a fellow at CivicsUnplugged. Riya was also the former director of research at the Princeton Student Climate Initiative, and New Jersey Climate Advocates. Riya is also a proud Girl Scout, and writes STEM curriculum for the organization, and also serves as a youth liaison to her town’s environmental commission.

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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.

We hope you’ll join us.

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