Nora Lum (Chinese: 林家珍; pinyin: Lín Jiāzhēn; born June 2, 1988), known professionally as Awkwafina, is an American actress, comedian, writer, producer, and rapper. She rose to prominence in 2012 when her rap song "My Vag" went viral on YouTube. She then released her debut album, Yellow Ranger (2014), and appeared on the MTV show Girl Code. She later co-hosted Girl Code Live (2015) and a talk show, Tawk (2015 to 2017), and was featured in the documentary Bad Rap.
Awkwafina in 2018
June 2, 1988
Stony Brook, New York, U.S.
|Alma mater||University at Albany, SUNY|
She has played supporting roles in the comedy films Neighbours 2: Sorority Rising (2016), Ocean's 8 (2018), Crazy Rich Asians (2018), and Jumanji: The Next Level (2019). Her second album, In Fina We Trust, was released in 2018. She played a leading role in the comedy-drama The Farewell (2019), for which she won a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical, becoming the first woman of Asian descent to win a Golden Globe in any lead actress film category. Awkwafina currently stars in Comedy Central's Awkwafina Is Nora from Queens, which she writes and executive produces.
Lum was born in Stony Brook, New York, on Long Island, to a Chinese American father, Wally, and a Korean American mother, Tia, a painter who immigrated to the United States from South Korea in 1972. Lum grew up in Forest Hills, Queens. Her mother died from pulmonary hypertension when Lum was four, and she was raised by her father and paternal grandparents, becoming especially close to her paternal grandmother. One of her paternal great-grandfathers was a Chinese immigrant in the 1940s who opened the Cantonese restaurant Lum's in Flushing, Queens, one of the neighborhood's first Chinese restaurants.
Lum attended LaGuardia High School, where she played the trumpet and was trained in classical music and jazz. At age 16, she adopted the stage name Awkwafina, "definitely a person I repressed" and an alter ego to her "quiet and more passive" personality during her college years. Lum majored in journalism and women's studies at the University at Albany, State University of New York. From 2006 to 2008, Lum attended Beijing Language and Culture University in China, where she studied Mandarin.
Awkwafina states that Charles Bukowski, Anaïs Nin, Joan Didion, Tom Waits, and Chet Baker were early influences. Prior to her career in entertainment, she was an intern at local New York publications Gotham Gazette and the Times Union newspaper in Albany, and was a publicity assistant for the publishing house Rodale Books. She later worked at a vegan bodega after being let go from the publishing house when they discovered her music videos.
Awkwafina began rapping at age 13. She got her start producing music with GarageBand but eventually learned Logic Pro and Ableton. In 2012 one of her songs, "My Vag", went viral. She originally wrote the song while in college as a response to Mickey Avalon's "My Dick". Due to the nature of the lyrics, she wore glasses to mask her identity, but was still subsequently fired from her job at a publishing house when her employer recognized her voice.
Her solo hip-hop album Yellow Ranger was released on February 11, 2014. The album consists of 11 tracks and includes a number of her previous singles released via YouTube, including the title track "Yellow Ranger", "Queef" and "NYC Bitche$". In 2016, she collaborated with comedian Margaret Cho on "Green Tea", a song that pokes fun at Asian stereotypes.
Awkwafina is profiled in the 2016 documentary Bad Rap, which was an official selection at the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival. The film puts the spotlight on her as well as other fellow Asian-American rappers such as Dumbfoundead, Rekstizzy, and Lyricks.
She released an EP called In Fina We Trust which consists of 7 tracks on June 8, 2018.
In 2014, Awkwafina was in the third season of Girl Code, appearing in six episodes of the third and fourth seasons. In 2015, she served as co-host for the spin-off titled Girl Code Live on MTV. She was the host of the short-form talk show web series Tawk for the digital production company Astronauts Wanted from 2015 to 2017. The first season premiered on YouTube and was later picked up for exclusive streaming on Verizon's Go90 platform. The show was an Official Honoree at the 2016 Webby Awards and was nominated for a 2016 Streamy Award in the News and Culture category.
In 2016, Awkwafina played a supporting role as Christine, a member of Kappa Nu in Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, and voiced the role Quail in the animated comedy film Storks. In 2018, she starred in the indie comedy Dude, playing Rebecca, one of four best friends in the film. She was part of the principal cast in Ocean's 8, the all-female spinoff to the Ocean's Trilogy. She then co-starred in the film Crazy Rich Asians, directed by John M. Chu. She played Goh Peik Lin, a Singaporean college friend of lead character Rachel Chu (Constance Wu).
She has a recurring role in the Hulu original series Future Man in 2017. She hosted the 2018 iHeartRadio MMVAs. She hosted the October 6, 2018, episode of Saturday Night Live, becoming the second East Asian-American female celebrity (after Lucy Liu, whose episode Awkwafina cites as her inspiration to one day be famous enough to host SNL) to host the show. Her celebrity impression for the episode was Sandra Oh (who also became the first East Asian-Canadian female celebrity to host an SNL episode within the same season and the third East Asian-American female celebrity to host overall).
In 2019, she starred in the film The Farewell, directed by Lulu Wang. The film received critical acclaim and she played the lead role of Billi, a writer who visits her ill grandmother in China. It earned her a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Comedy or Musical. This made her the first person of Asian descent to win a Golden Globe Award in any lead actress film category, after being only the sixth woman of Asian descent to be nominated in the lead actress in a musical or comedy category. In the same year, she starred as avatar Ming Fleetfoot in the film Jumanji: The Next Level, which turned to be a commercial success.
In July 2019, Awkwafina was revealed to have been cast in Marvel Studios' Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, alongside actors Simu Liu and Tony Leung Chiu-wai. The film is slated to be released in February 2021.
She stars in the comedy series Awkwafina Is Nora from Queens; she is also writer and executive producer of that show. As part of the promotional campaign, she recorded new announcements for the 7 train of the New York City Subway, making jokes, such as "This is Hunters Point Avenue, a friendly reminder that seats are for people, not your bag" and "This is 46th Street, which is a lucky number, I just learned that on the internet. Also learned that pigeons and doves are the same thing, WHAT?!", at every stop. These recordings were used until the series premiered on January 22.
In the mediaEdit
Awkwafina has expressed support for Time's Up, a movement started by Hollywood celebrities against sexual harassment. She has also advocated for the need for more female directors and against the stereotyping of Asians in media.
In 2015, she released the guidebook, Awkwafina's NYC.
|In Fina We Trust||
|"My Vag"||2012||Non-album single|
|"NYC Bitche$"||2013||Yellow Ranger|
|"Mayor Bloomberg (Giant Margaritas)"|
|"Come Stop Me"|
(featuring Margaret Cho)
|"Pockiez"||2018||In Fina We Trust|
|Denotes films that have not yet been released|
|2016||Bad Rap||Herself||Salima Koroma||Documentary|
|Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising||Christine||Nicholas Stoller|
|Storks||Quail (voice)||Nicholas Stoller
|Ocean's 8||Constance||Gary Ross|
|Crazy Rich Asians||Goh Peik Lin||Jon M. Chu|
|2019||The Farewell||Billi Wang||Lulu Wang|
|Paradise Hills||Yu||Alice Waddington|
|The Angry Birds Movie 2||Courtney (voice)||Thurop Van Orman|
|Between Two Ferns: The Movie||Herself||Scott Aukerman|
|Jumanji: The Next Level||Ming Fleetfoot||Jake Kasdan|
|2020||The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run||TBA (voice)||Tim Hill||Post-production|
|Raya and the Last Dragon||Sisu (voice)||Paul Briggs
|TBA||Breaking News in Yuba County||Kavi||Tate Taylor||Post-production|
|Denotes series that have not yet been released|
|2014–2015||Girl Code||Herself||6 episodes|
|2015||Girl Code Live||Herself (co-host)||10 episodes|
|Regular Show||Apple (voice)||Episode: "Hello China"|
|2015–2017||Tawk||Herself (host)||36 episodes|
|2016||Mary + Jane||Gina||Episode: "Noachella"|
|2017||Future Man||Woman at Video Game Store||3 episodes|
|2018||Animals.||Annie (voice)||Episode: "Roachella"|
|Saturday Night Live||Herself (host)||Episode: "Awkwafina/Travis Scott"|
|2019||Weird City||Charlotta||Episode: "Below"|
|The Simpsons||Carmen / Dr. Chang (voice)||2 episodes|
|Tuca & Bertie||Bertie's Left Boob (voice)||Episode: "The Promotion"|
|The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance||The Collector / skekLach (voice)||7 episodes|
|2020||Awkwafina Is Nora from Queens||Nora Lum||Also co-creator, writer and executive producer|
Awkwafina was honored as Kore Asian Media's Female Breakout of the Year in December 2017.
- Despite some sources that give "Nora Lum Ying", Awkwafina said in 2018 it is simply "Nora Lum". Awkafina [@awkwafina] (June 19, 2018). "MY FULL NAME IS👏NORA👏LUM👏 NOT NORA LUM... YING" (Tweet). Archived from the original on January 6, 2019. Retrieved February 16, 2020 – via Twitter.
- "2020年金球奖结果出人意料". Voice of America (in Chinese). January 6, 2020. Retrieved January 12, 2020.
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- Awkwafina in Feinberg, Scott (November 10, 2019). 'Awards Chatter' Podcast — Awkwafina ('The Farewell'). Event occurs at 02:13. Retrieved January 6, 2019.
I was born in Stony Brook, Long Island. I was raised in Forest Hills, Queens. And my mom was, like, a painter and my dad was an IT guy.
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- "Jackie Joe movie 'Bad Rap' ... Life of Korean hip-hop musicians in documentary 재키 조 제작 영화 '배드 랩'…다큐로 보는 한인 힙합 뮤지션들의 삶 [LA중앙일보] 랩퍼 4인 활동과 고민에 초점 장편 완성 위한 후원 기다려". Korea Daily (in Korean). LA Joongang Daily. May 23, 2014. Archived from the original on May 31, 2014. Retrieved May 30, 2014.
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- "Judy McGrath's Astronauts Wanted Strikes Exclusive Content Deal With Go90 (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved January 13, 2020.
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- Goldbaum, Christina (January 16, 2020). "Awkwafina's Latest Role: Subway Announcer. New Yorkers Have Thoughts". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved January 17, 2020.
- Bergado, Gabe. "Awkwafina Isn't Here for Hollywood's Tired Excuses". Teen Vogue. Retrieved January 27, 2020.
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