Get to know Awkwafina before she’s in Ocean’s 8
The rapper-comedian joins a star-studded cast, but here's why you need to watch out for this rising star
It’s not every day that the cast of an upcoming ensemble film—like the women-led Ocean’s 8 project—is as good as the one you dream-cast in your head. But EW confirmed Wednesday that Warner Bros. is finalizing a coterie of stars that includes Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Helena Bonham Carter, Rihanna, Anne Hathaway, Mindy Kaling, and Awkwafina a.k.a. rapper and comedian Nora Lum. That last name might not mean as much to the masses as, say, RiRi or Bellatrix Lestrange —at least not yet—but here’s why you should get excited anyway.
Awkwafina made waves on the internet with 2012’s “My Vag,” a response to Mickey Avalon’s “My Dick” that she first wrote and recorded on GarageBand when she was 19.
You’ve definitely seen her before
She had a hilarious turn as one of the Kappa Nu sisters in this year’s Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, but she’s popped up on screen in a few other places, like as a co-host of MTV’s Girl Code Live and as a subject of the Tribeca Film Festival documentary Bad Rap, about Asian-Americans in hip-hop.
She’s got a classic New York origin story
Awkwafina grew up in Queens, studied music at the famed LaGuardia High School for the performing arts, and later graduated with a journalism degree from SUNY Albany in 2011. At LaGuardia, she planted the seeds for what would become Awkwafina with her own mock news show. “I used to chop up C-Span soundbites or interviews with politicians like John Kerry or Bill Clinton into a radio-esque show hosted by Awkwafina and her producer, Mookie,” she told The Daily Dot in 2014. “I would pitch down my vocals to have male guests, and would send them to a small circle of friends after they were done.”
She specializes in LOL-worthy raps
Really funny—her 2014 debut, Yellow Ranger, saw her take on Brooklyn hipsters and gentrification with songs like the title track (“Shout out to Greenpoint, Kielbasa in the oven/Greenpoint, where all the bitches look like Lena Dunham”) and “NYC Bitche$” (“New York City bitch, that’s where I come from/not where I moved to on Mom and Dad’s trust fund”). Some of the tracks are fairly New York-centric—“Mayor Bloomberg (Giant Margarita)” was inspired by Michael Bloomberg’s “soda ban”—but that won’t stop non-residents from enjoying them.
Her latest jam features a legendary comedian
She and Margaret Cho, who’s no stranger to re-working that Mickey Avalon song herself, teamed up earlier this year for “Green Tea,” which pokes fun at Asian stereotypes. “I remember watching Margaret Cho with my grandmother on TV,” Awkafina told the blog Angry Asian Man, which premiered the video. “She was my hero, not only because she was funny, but because she showed me that it’s okay to be yourself, that it’s okay to be a brash yellow girl, and to be a strong and brave woman.”