The 21st Show

Best of: The myth of the model minority and the pressure to be perfect

Professor erin Khuê Ninh is the author of

Professor erin Khuê Ninh is the author of "Passing for Perfect." Photos courtesy Temple University Press and University of California Santa Barbara

As a group, Asian American are often stereotyped as a “model minority,” and students often find their experiences are defined by markers of success and failure. Under the pressure, some have reached breaking points, taking extreme measures to cope. There’s the story of Azia Kim, who pretended to be a Stanford freshman, even going so far as to live in a dorm. There’s also Jennifer Pan, who hired a hitman to kill her parents so they wouldn’t find out she never received her high school diploma.

The 21st was joined by the author of a book exploring these stories and the myth of the model minority, as well as a clinical social worker and a student who shared her own experiences with the pressure often placed on Asian American students.

This conversation originally aired April 7, 2022.


erin Khuê Ninh

Associate Professor, Department of Asian American Studies, University of California Santa Barbara | Author, Passing for Perfect: College Imposters and Other Model Minorities

Rayna Wuh

Student, Computer Science and Philosophy, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign 

Nghia Le 

Clinical social worker | Therapist



Prepared for web by Owen Henderson

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