Awkwafina: AAPI Heritage Month Actor Highlights

She was the first Asian woman to win a Golden Globe in a leading actress category. We celebrate Awkwafina on this day during AAPI Heritage month.

Chuck Walton

By Chuck Walton

Awkwafina AAPI Heritage Month Ocean's 8

© Warner Bros. Pictures /Courtesy Everett Collection

Rapper. Actress. Comedian. Online celebrity. And cultural phenomenon. Today we pay tribute to Awkwafina, an AAPI icon who's just getting started.

How You Know Her

The 32-year-old performer's currently on top of the entertainment business. She co-stars in "Jumanji: The Next Level," "Crazy Rich Asians," and "Ocean's 8." She shows off her dramatic chops, too, in "The Farewell." For that film, she earned a Golden Globe for Best Actress – Comedy. She's the first Asian actress to win in the lead category.

She's the voice of Sisu the last Dragon in "Raya and the Last Dragon." Awkwafina's also the star of Comedy Central's "Awkwafina Is Nora from Queens." The series is a semi-fictionalized version of her life.

© Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

© Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

She's a rapper who's released several singles and two albums, "Yellow Ranger" and "In Fina We Trust."

So Awkwafina's really busy, and extremely prolific.

Her Life So Far

Awkwafina was born Nora Lum. Her dad is Chinese American. Her mom is Korean American. The entertainer was born on Long Island in 1988 and grew up in Queens. Her great-grandfather established one of the neighborhood's first Chinese restaurants. The restaurant, Lum's, played an instrumental part in her childhood.

The performer began rapping at age 13. She also trained in classical and jazz music while attending high school. By 16, Lum adopted the persona Awkwafina as an alternative to her reserved character.

Awkwafina released her first album "Yellow Ranger" in 2014. The album compiles her hit tunes on YouTube. That same year, she appeared in episodes of "Girl Code" on MTV. Subsequently, she parlayed those appearances into an acting career. Parts in "Neighbors 2" and "Ocean's 8" led to a stand-out in "Crazy Rich Asians."

© Warner Bros. Pictures/courtesy Everett Collection

© Warner Bros. Pictures/courtesy Everett Collection

Director Lulu Wang cast her in 2019's "The Farewell." Awkwafina plays a writer visiting her sick grandmother in China. The film and her role were critical hits. After that, she appeared in "Raya and the Last Dragon" as the dragon. In addition, she co-stars in the upcoming "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings."

The Movie to See

While Awkwafina is known for her comedy skills, she was able to show off her dramatic talents in Lulu Wang's auto biographical "The Farewell." Watch the trailer here. It's the story of a writer's visit to see her grandmother, whose family is keeping her cancer prognosis from her.

© A24 /courtesy Everett Collection

© A24 /courtesy Everett Collection

The film's a spiritual, heartbreaking yet uplifting tale. And it's a breakthrough performance for AAPI superstar Awkwafina. Amongst the movie's fans is Barack Obama The former President listed it as one of his favorites of 2019.

The Farewell Poster

The Farewell

Comedy Drama / 2019 / PG

Watch on

What's Next

Besides "Shang Chi," Awkwafina will film season two of "Awkwafina Is Nora from Queens." She'll also co-star in the drama "Swan Song" with Mahershala Ali and Naomie Harris. And she'll provide the voice of Scuttle in the new version of "The Little Mermaid."

About the Author

Chuck Walton

Chuck Walton

Chuck is an editor/writer who's worked for NCM, Fandango, Movies.com, MediaTrip, Hollywood.com and Newsweek. His favorite movie is "Jaws." He's definitely a dog guy.

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