WASHINGTON (FOX 5 DC) - Her fans say she’s funny, insightful, and inspiring, so much so they’ve dubbed her “the Asian Oprah.”
But for Dr. Marissa Pei, the accolade hasn’t always been easy to accept. Born in a small German town in Canada, her Chinese parents told her to stop speaking Chinese at the age of 4 so she wouldn’t stick out. As a result, Pei learned to lie about who she was at a very early age, shunning her Chinese heritage whenever she was asked.
“I learned actually to lie about who I was. People would say are you Hawaiian and I'd say yes because Chinese was just not a good thing to be,” Pei explained.
Pei said she also struggled with the negative messages constantly told to her by her mother.
“I had a Tiger Mom and in an effort to motivate me she would say that I was fat, that I was ugly, and that I was clumsy,” Pei recalled.
Those messages set off an internal battle. Pei remembers always trying to prove her mother wrong.
“I started modeling and dropped 40 pounds in less than a year, and unhealthy. I was constantly trying to prove that voice wrong,” she said.
Pei later earned her Ph.D. and became a beloved professor. She got married and had two beautiful daughters, but all that still wasn’t enough because Pei said she still felt ugly on the inside.
It wasn’t until she realized that nearly 8 out of 10 adults suffered some type of trauma as children that Pei herself began the shift from blaming others to recognizing there is a role of pain in life.
“Pain chisels us into more and more good, more and more expansion, and more and more beauty,” she said.
From there, the sky has been the limit, Pei said. Her book, “8 Ways to Happiness: From Wherever You Are” is on Amazon's Best Sellers list.
Pei is preparing for a world tour called, “Think and Grow Rich” and she has interviewed the likes of Laila Ali, John Travolta and Halle Berry on her top-rated show.
“When I say this is Dr. Marissa reporting live from the red carpet, also known as the ‘Asian Oprah,’ it just immediately sets people at ease. They laugh. It’s just such an honor,” Pei described.
“One of my teachers is Michael Bernard Beckwith and he is a very good friend of Oprah and he introduced me to Oprah as, ‘This is the Asian Oprah,’” Pei recalled. “And she looked at me, she looked down, she looked at me and said, ‘nice pants.’”
Pei has the following advice for her fellow women.
“Many of us say, ‘I am my own worst critic, nobody is harder on me than I am,’ and my response to that is stop it,” Pei said. "Why are you doing that to yourself? You have to be your biggest fan. If you can't at the end of the day say I did a good job, who is?”
“You don’t have to constantly be angry at the things that are wrong. Why don’t we choose to be happy about the things that are right?” Pei continued. “We have the choice, that’s our muscle. And life is so amazing if we can see it.”