"Growing up in my town, I was one of the only Asian kids and I'd skipped a grade," Yang recalls. "And I did get called 'chink' and 'gook' a fair amount. So I wound up getting into fights that I would lose."
Things got a little better for the teenaged Yang after transferring to an elite boarding school in New Hampshire, but he still felt like an outsider.
He got by with teenage pop culture "escape hatches" — music, video games, and comic books.
Now he's a successful entrepreneur, family man, and presidential contender who won the endorsement Rivers Cuomo, the Weezer frontman who wrote anthems about surviving teenage loneliness.
Andrew Yang, the 2020 Democratic hopeful running a surprisingly successful outsider campaign based on giving every adult in the US a monthly basic income of $1,000, recently spoke with Insider about his lonely high school years.
Yang was raised in the suburbs outside New York City, where he says he faced physical bullying and racist harassment.
"Growing up in my town, I was one of the only Asian kids and I'd skipped a grade, so I was very scrawny and felt small and out of place," Yang recalls to Insider. "And I did get called 'chink' and 'gook' a fair amount. So I wound up getting into fights that I would lose typically."
After two years of high school, he transferred to the elite Phillips Exeter Academy. Even though it was a better environment and a great place to learn, the New Hampshire boarding school was a long way from home and not much more welcoming socially to the teenaged Yang.
"Showing up in 11th grade wasn't easy because most people in the school had been there already and it was fairly well-established in terms of social circles," he says. "I would go to the music center and just play piano for an hour or two. There was a local arcade in town that I would go to play video games. There was a comic book store I went to every week. Those were the teenage things I would do that were kind of escape hatches."
Now that Yang's a presidential contender, a number of prominent pop culture figures have thrown their endorsements to him: including comedian Dave Chappelle and actor/writer/rapper Donald Glover (a.k.a. Childish Gambino).
But perhaps the greatest last laugh for a bullied 90s kid is the endorsement of Rivers Cuomo — the bespectacled Weezer singer/guitarist who wrote anthems about surviving teenage loneliness — who also performed at an Iowa rally for Yang.
When asked to choose between Weezer's first two classic albums, Yang told Insider his choice is the band's self-titled "Blue Album."
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