An Interview with Rehana Paul

As part of our month-long collaboration with Overachiever Magazine, we interviewed the #bosslady behind this amazing platform. Rehana Paul is the founder and editor-in-chief of Overachiever.

TFFs: Hey, Rehana! We want to thank you for doing this interview with us. It’s always a great privilege to speak with women such as yourself who empower other women through creativity and social activism. We’re so inspired by the things you do with Overachiever and we’re excited to see more from you and your amazing team.

Let's start the interview, shall we? Please introduce yourself to our readers.

Rehana: I’m homeschooled—I’ve never gone to a school in my life!—and want to study political science in college and become a diplomat or lawyer. I’m also first generation Punjabi American: I was born in the US, but my parents immigrated from Punjab in India. When I’m not working on Overachiever Magazine, I’m probably rewatching Gilmore Girls or The Good Wife—I love, love, love Kalinda Sharma—with my mom, or studying.

TFFs: We love Gilmore Girls too! Anyway, how did you come up with the idea for Overachiever Magazine? And why did you choose to use the term “overachiever?”

Rehana: I was out to dinner with my mom when we came up with the name. We were talking about what all Asian women have in common: because I was sure this was going to be a magazine for all Asian women. We talked about names, words in languages, plants, pretty much everything! Finally, we settled on Overachiever: partly because of the stereotype that Asians are overachievers, and partly because of the traditional role of Asian women in society: many women were expected to manage the house, raise the children, manage finances, and even work outside the house. Many of us have had no choice but to be overachievers

TFFs: What do you hope to achieve with your platform?

Rehana: To sum it up: Make Asian women feel proud of who they are and where they come from.

TFFs: Do you identify as a feminist? Why?

Rehana: Definitely. I think it would be a little bit silly to not be a feminist, actually! Feminism is about equality. Everyone should be a feminist.

TFFs: Just a follow up for the previous question, are there any misconceptions about feminism or feminists that you wish to remove from people’s minds?

Rehana: We really do just want equality. I do not believe that women are superior to men in any way. I want to be able to live my life without my gender being an impediment, and I want this for every woman.

TFFs: In your experience, what negative consequences does the term “model minority” have on Asian-Americans?

Rehana: In my opinion and experience, there are three particularly negative consequences. The first is, of course, the incredible pressure we are under to conform to a certain ideal. I’ve seen this and felt this firsthand, we are told not only by our communities but by our entire culture that we are essentially worthless if we don’t, well, overachieve.

The second is how our achievements are invalidated because it’s what people expect of us. A friend of mine, who is Japanese-American, was accepted to a prestigious university, and she worked very, very hard to get there. People take it for granted that she was accepted, because “She’s Asian, it’s easy for them."

The third is the wedge that it drives between us and other minorities. Asians are considered the good ones, the “model minority”, and used to put other minorities down. This disgusts me. Minorities need to work together and support each other, which includes overcoming biases in our own cultures. This is a central value at Overachiever Magazine.

TFFs: What challenges do Asian-American women commonly struggle with? And how are they different from the challenges that women from other minority groups face?

Rehana: I think we struggle a lot to be taken seriously, and to be seen as actual people! Asians are all grouped into one well-educated, piano-playing mass. Additionally, there’s this idea that Asian women have to be submissive.

TFFs: Is there a famous Asian-American woman who inspires you? How does she motivate or influence you?

Rehana: There are so, so many! If I had to pick one, it would be Huda Kattan, the CEO of HudaBeauty. When I saw her, it was the first time I had seen someone who looked like me, who was successful. It was the first time I saw someone who looked like me being an entrepreneur, pursuing her passion. I saw her being praised for her business sense, her work ethic, her drive, and how beautiful and talented she was. Representation matters.

TFFs: What, for you, is the best thing about your culture and Asian heritage?

Rehana: My culture places a great value on family: not just biological family, but close friends as well. I think—I hope!—I’ve inherited that love of people and ability to make friends wherever I go.

TFFs: What advice do you want to give to younger Asian-Americans who find it hard to see themselves beyond the “model minority” stereotype?

Rehana: You don’t owe anyone anything. You’re not betraying your family or your culture if you pursue something they disapprove of. There isn’t a right or wrong way to be Asian.

TFFs: That's a really great advice, Rehana. Thank you again for granting us this interview! We're looking forward to seeing all the things that you and Overachiever will accomplish in the future.

If you haven't already, follow Overachiever Magazine on Instagram and check out their website by clicking here. The latest issue of their online magazine, The Entertainment Issue, featuring an interview with pianist, composer, and journalist Charu Suri, is out now!

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