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Home » Asian Doesn’t Start with A+: Olivia Lai at TEDxPhillipsAcademyAndover (Transcript)

Asian Doesn’t Start with A+: Olivia Lai at TEDxPhillipsAcademyAndover (Transcript)

Olivia Lai

Here is the full transcript of Olivia Lai’s TEDx Talk on Asian Doesn’t Start with A+ at TEDxPhillipsAcademyAndover conference.


Look at me. I’m Asian – Chinese to be precise. And in middle school, I had perfect grades. I’m good at drawing. I’ve played piano since I was seven.

My childhood dream? Becoming a doctor. This is no surprise to any of you, of course.

After all, Asian-Americans are stereotyped as the model minority, which means we’re thought to achieve a higher degree of success than the average population. We’re good at math, we play instruments, we treat a B+ as an F. It’s expected of us. These stereotypes seem like a good thing After all, shouldn’t it be a compliment to be stereotyped as hardworking and successful?

I started thinking about these questions a couple of years ago, and I found that the model minority stereotype permeates the lives of Asian-American students far beyond the surface level.

I remember vividly this one time I had to play at a piano recital. I made a mistake – several actually – and I remember just feeling absolutely terrible. It was only just enough to be noticed, but it seemed like the end of the world. The problem was that my standards were too high. I’ve been conditioned to accept for myself nothing less than perfection.

This is a common experience shared by so many of my Asian-American peers. I’ve seen friends crumble under the pressures of not doing well on a test, at a math competition, in a class. Our standards for ourselves are set so incredibly high, merely as a result of the model minority stereotype. Living up to the highest standards that come with being Asian, it is often overwhelmingly stressful. And students suffer psychological, emotional and even academic costs.

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