June 2, 1988
Stony Brook, New York, U.S.
|Education||Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School|
Beijing Language and Culture University
|Alma mater||University at Albany, SUNY|
Nora Lum (born June 2, 1988), known professionally as Awkwafina, is an American actress and rapper. She rose to prominence in 2012 when her rap song "My Vag" became popular on YouTube. She then released her debut album, Yellow Ranger (2014), and appeared on the MTV comedy series Girl Code (2014–2015). Her second album, In Fina We Trust, was released in 2018.
She played supporting roles in the comedy films Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising (2016), Ocean's 8 (2018), Crazy Rich Asians (2018), and Jumanji: The Next Level (2019). She played a leading role in the comedy-drama film The Farewell (2019), for which she received critical acclaim and won the 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. She was also nominated for the BAFTA in the Rising Star Category in 2020 and the Critics' Choice Movie Award for Best Actress, as well as winning the Satellite Award for Best Actress. She recently voiced Sisu in Raya and the Last Dragon and portrayed Katy in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) superhero film Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (both in 2021).
Lum was born in Stony Brook, New York, on Long Island, to a Chinese American father, Wally, and a Korean 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. Her paternal great-grandfather 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 Fiorello H. 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. From 2006 to 2008, she learned Mandarin at the Beijing Language and Culture University to communicate with her paternal grandmother without barriers. She majored in journalism and women's studies at the University at Albany, State University of New York and graduated in 2011.
She has said that Charles Bukowski, Anaïs Nin, Joan Didion, Tom Waits and Chet Baker were early influences. Prior to her entertainment career, she was an intern at local New York publications Gotham Gazette and the Times Union newspaper in Albany, and was a publicity assistant for 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 13. She got her start producing music with GarageBand but eventually learned Logic Pro and Ableton. In 2012, her song "My Vag" became popular on YouTube. She originally wrote the song in college as a response to Mickey Avalon's "My Dick (Tribute to Nate)". She was fired from her job at a publishing house when her employer recognized her in the video.
Her solo hip-hop album Yellow Ranger was released on February 11, 2014. Its 11 tracks include a number of her previous singles released on 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. She was part of the lineup at Tenacious D's Festival Supreme on October 25, 2014. She was also a disc jockey (DJ) at bars in New York.
She is profiled in the 2016 documentary Bad Rap, an official selection at the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival. It puts the spotlight on her and Asian-American rappers such as Dumbfoundead, Rekstizzy and Lyricks. She released a 7-track EP, In Fina We Trust, on June 8, 2018; it won the 2019 A2IM Libera Award for Best Hip-Hop/Rap Album.
She hosted 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 picked up for exclusive streaming on Verizon's Go90 platform. It 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 she played a supporting role as Christine, a member of Kappa Nu in Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, and voiced Quail in the animated comedy film Storks. In 2018 she starred in the indie comedy Dude, playing Rebecca, one of four best friends. She was among 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 Jon M. Chu, playing Goh Peik Lin, a Singaporean college friend of lead character Rachel Chu (Constance Wu).
She had 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 to host the show (after Lucy Liu, whose episode Awkwafina cites as her inspiration to one day be famous enough to host SNL). 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 was a commercial success.
In July 2019, Awkwafina was cast as Katy in Marvel Studios' Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, alongside actors Simu Liu and Tony Leung Chiu-wai. Directed by Destin Daniel Cretton, the film was released in theaters on September 3, 2021, earning massive critical acclaim and has grossed 250 million dollars.  In August 2019, Awkwafina was announced to be providing her voice to Sisu the dragon in the Disney animated film Raya and the Last Dragon, which was released on March 5, 2021. Awkwafina improvised much of her dialogue for the film, which drew comparisons to Robin Williams's performance as the Genie in Aladdin.
She stars in the comedy series Awkwafina Is Nora from Queens; she is also a 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 things, WHAT?!", at every stop. These recordings were used until the series premiered on January 22. In a season one episode, Simu Liu made a guest appearance prior to the release of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.
In the media
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.
|Denotes films that have not yet been released|
|Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising||Christine|
|Crazy Rich Asians||Goh Peik Lin|
|2019||The Farewell||Billi Wang|
|The Angry Birds Movie 2||Courtney (voice)|
|Between Two Ferns: The Movie||Herself|
|Jumanji: The Next Level||Ming Fleetfoot|
|2020||The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run||Otto (voice)|
|2021||Breaking News in Yuba County||Mina|
|Raya and the Last Dragon||Sisu (voice)|
|Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings||Katy|
|2022||The Bad Guys||Ms. Tarantula (voice)||Post-production|
|2023||The Little Mermaid||Scuttle (voice)|
|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||skekLach the Collector (voice)||7 episodes|
|2020–present||Awkwafina Is Nora from Queens||Nora Lin||10 episodes|
Also co-creator, writer and executive producer
|2020||One World: Together at Home||Herself||Television special|
|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|
Awards and nominations
Awkwafina was honored as Kore Asian Media's Female Breakout of the Year in 2017. For her performance in the comedy-drama film The Farewell, she received the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Comedy or Musical, the Satellite Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy, and the Santa Barbara International Film Festival Virtuoso Award, among numerous other nominations. Alongside the film's ensemble, she was nominated for the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture. Awkwafina also received a nomination for the BAFTA Rising Star Award.
- "金球奖首个亚裔影后！奥卡菲娜获喜剧电影最佳女主". 网易 (in Chinese). January 6, 2020. Retrieved May 25, 2021.
- 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, 2020. Retrieved February 16, 2020 – via Twitter.
- "Awkwafina Artist Biography". AllMusic.com. Retrieved January 4, 2018.
- 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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- "Awkwafina x Margaret Cho - GREEN TEA" – via www.youtube.com.
- Blistein, Jon (May 27, 2014). "Tenacious D Combine Jokes and Jams for 2014 Festival Supreme Lineup". Rolling Stone. Retrieved May 30, 2014.
- "Meet EatGoodNYC, the Cupcake Hustlers at the Intersection of Pastry, Hip-Hop, and Streetwear". First We Feast. Retrieved January 13, 2020.
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- Frydenlund, Zach (May 24, 2014). "Premiere: Watch a Sneak Peek of the "Bad Rap" Documentary". Complex. Retrieved May 30, 2014.
- "재키 조 제작 영화 '배드 랩'…다큐로 보는 한인 힙합 뮤지션들의 삶" [Jackie Joe movie 'Bad Rap' ... Life of Korean hip-hop musicians in documentary]. Korea Daily (in Korean). LA Joongang Daily. May 23, 2014. Archived from the original on May 31, 2014. Retrieved May 30, 2014.
- Ting, Jasmine. "Awkwafina Announces New EP, 'In Fina We Trust'". Paper. Retrieved June 2, 2018.
- "2019 Winners". Libera Awards.
- Stedman, Alex (October 1, 2014). "Q&A: Girl Code Creator Ryan Ling on Season 3, Social Media and New Comedians". Variety.
- "5 Things You Should Know About 'Ocean's 8' Star Awkwafina". Billboard. Retrieved April 3, 2018.
- "Judy McGrath's Astronauts Wanted Strikes Exclusive Content Deal With Go90 (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved January 13, 2020.
- Spangler, Todd (October 3, 2016). "Go90 Reups Awkwafina's 'Tawk' for Seasons 4 and 5, But Is Verizon's Service Struggling to Win Fans?". Variety. Retrieved August 18, 2018.
- Lee, Traci G. (September 16, 2015). "Rapper Awkwafina Joins 'Neighbors' Sequel". NBC News. Retrieved March 14, 2016.
- Lincoln, Ross A. "Indie Comedy 'Dude' Rounds Out Lead Cast With Trio Of Actresses". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved March 14, 2016.
- "'Crazy Rich Asians' Adds Awkwafina". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved April 24, 2017.
- "Hulu's Future Man is fun but doesn't level up: EW review". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved November 20, 2017.
- Lee, Cliff (August 22, 2018). "'The summer of Awkwafina': The Crazy Rich Asians star on hosting the MMVAs". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved August 24, 2018.
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- "Golden Globes 2020: The Complete Nominations List". Variety. December 9, 2019. Retrieved December 9, 2019.
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- "Is This Our First Look At Tony Leung's Mandarin In 'Shang-Chi'?". Heroic Hollywood. 2021-04-02
- Snetiker, Marc (August 24, 2019). "Disney reveals new animated film Raya and the Last Dragon starring Awkwafina". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved February 5, 2021.
- Jacobs, Eammon (January 26, 2021). "'Raya and the Last Dragon' Directors Compare Awkwafina To Robin Williams". Heroic Hollywood. Retrieved August 10, 2021.
- 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.
- "Awkwafina Joins the "Now Generation" for Gap Logo Remix Campaign". V Magazine.com. Retrieved April 3, 2018.
- "Awkwafina's Guide Book Shows the New York City You've Never Seen". NBC. Retrieved October 25, 2017.
- "Awkwafina, Dan Levy to Keynote Santa Monica Food, Music and Tech Fest". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved February 11, 2020.
- McMillan, Graeme (September 3, 2021). "The Best 'Shang-Chi' Comics to Read Before Watching the New Marvel Film". Variety. Archived from the original on September 4, 2021. Retrieved September 3, 2021.
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