Who Is Awkwafina? Meet the Asian-American Comedian and Rapper Cast in ‘Ocean’s 8′
When Warner Bros. first announced the list of top-tier women in talks to join the forthcoming Ocean's Eight cast (Anne Hathaway, Cate Blanchett and Rihanna to highlight a few), one more obscure talent stood out in the mix of A-list actresses and pop stars: Awkwafina.
A surprising but welcome add-on to the already refreshing spinoff of the iconic heist franchise, Awkwafina — born Nora Lum in Queens, New York — is an entertainment industry anomaly. A Chinese-Korean-American rapper, comedian and TV personality, she initially launched into digital stardom when her debut comedy rap track "My Vag" when viral in 2012.
Featuring lyrics including, "My vag like a operatic ballad / Yo vag like Grandpa's cabbage / And my vag effortless / Yo vag post ads on CraigsList," the Garage Band-crafted song solidified Awkwafina as that rare breed of artist willing to go to places typically labeled taboo for women.
In 2013, the rapper followed up with "NYC Bitche$," a self-produced, satirical ode to born-and-bred New Yorkers that lampooned "out-of-state fake" hipsters. The following year, she joined the cast of MTV's Girl Code, becoming a host for the series' spin-off talk-show, Girl Code Live, in 2015.
In May 2016, Awkwafina made her big screen debut in Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, the Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne and Zac Efron-starring sequel to 2014 comedy Neighbors. And earlier this year, the musician teamed up with another iconic Asian-American comedian, Margaret Cho, on "Green Tea," a music video blasting Asian stereotypes and tropes.
In an industry seriously lacking in non-stereotyped or fetishized Asian and Asian-American representation on film, Awkwafina is not only refreshing: she's necessary.
"I grew up thinking Margaret Cho and Lucy Liu were my idols because that’s it," she told New York Magazine in 2013, highlighting Hollywood's lack of diversity.
Awkwafina added, "I think that if I could contribute anything, it would be to say that it’s not that weird [to be doing what I'm doing as an Asian woman]."
On-Set Photos from Ocean's Eight: Rihanna, Cate Blanchett and More