Who Is Awkwafina? New Details About The 'Oceans 8' And 'Crazy Rich Asians' Star

Photo: getty
Who Is Awkwafina? New Details About The 'Oceans 8' And 'Crazy Rich Asians' Star

Who is Awkwafina? Most recently, you’ve probably seen her appear in Crazy Rich Asians and Ocean’s 8, playing the characters Goh Peik Lin and Constance, respectively. Though she’s professionally known as her stage name Awkwafina (which sounds very similar to the water bottle brand Aquafina), her real name is Nora Lum.

In an interview, she explained how she came up with her stage name when she was just 16 years old. “I was looking for a pretty stupid name. I just thought it was a funny name. And it was fitting that it had ‘awkward’ in it, because I am awkward.” She’s also said that her alter ego is much different than her “quiet and more passive” personality, especially during her college years. Now it all makes sense!

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When she isn’t gracing our movie screens, she’s behind the mic, performing and creating music. But that’s not all she does. Don’t believe us? Here are six things to know about Awkwafina, her career, and her personal life.

1. She’s Chinese and Korean.

Born in 1988 in New York City and raised in Forest Hills, Queens, her father, Wally, is Chinese-American, while her mother was a South Korean immigrant. Her paternal great-grandfather was a Chinese immigrant who opened a Cantonese restaurant in the 1940s.

Awkwafina’s mother passed away when she was just four years old, and she was raised by her father and grandfather.

2. She went to college.

After graduating from LaGuardia High School, where she played the trumpet and trained in classical and jazz music, she majored in journalism and women's studies at the State University of New York at Albany. She also studied Mandarin abroad in Beijing Language and Culture University in China. She was an intern at Gotham Gazette and Times Union before getting her start in the entertainment industry.

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3. She’s had quite the acting career.

Aside from appearing in Crazy Rich Asians and Ocean’s 8, Awkwafina has also been in Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, Dude, has lent her voice to Storks, and will appear in Paradise Hills.

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Off the big screen, she’s appeared on television, becoming part of the cast for Girl Code in 2014. She was also on the Hulu original series Future Man. Plus, she hosted Saturday Night Live, becoming the first Asian American woman to host the show in 18 years (the last being Lucy Liu in 2000)!

4. But she’s also a musician.

So far, she’s released two albums: Yellow Ranger, and In Fina We Trust. She began rapping when she was 13, and gained popularity in 2012 for her song “My Vag,” which was a response to Micky Avalon’s “My D***.” In addition to “My Vag,” she’s released popular songs like “Queef” and “NYC Bitche$.”

Awkwafina has also collaborated with Margaret Cho on a song called “Green Tea,” which pokes fun at Asian stereotypes. In 2014, she was part of the lineup at Tenacious D’s Festival Supreme, a comedy musical festival in Los Angeles.

5. And she’s a writer.

Publisher Potter Style released Awkwafina’s NYC in 2015, which is a travel guide to New York City.

6. Plus, she’s an activist.

She spends her time advocating her support for Time’s Up, and has been a voice for more female directors as well as against the stereotyping of Asians in the media. As such, she rejects roles that require “accents.”

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Samantha Maffucci is an associate editor for YourTango who focuses on writing trending news and entertainment pieces. In her free time, you can find her obsessing about cats, wine, and all things Vanderpump Rules.