Nora Lum, better known by her stage name Awkwafina, is an American television personality, rapper, and comedian. She first gained popularity in 2012, when her song ‘My Vag’ became famous. The song also helped her establish her career as a social media star, as its music video went on to gather more than two million views on YouTube. Nora is also an actress; she displayed her acting prowess in movies like ‘Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising’ and ‘Dude.’ She has also appeared in a couple of television and web series. In 2015, she co-hosted ‘Girl Code Live’ on MTV, along with TV personalities like Nessa and Carly Aquilino. In December 2017, she was named as ‘Female Breakout of the Year’ by ‘Kore Asian Media.’
Childhood & Early Life
Nora Lum was born on June 2, 1988, in New York City. She was raised in Forest Hills by her grandmother as her mother passed away when she was just four years old. Her grandmother imparted great knowledge and values and had a major influence during her growing up days.
Nora was sent to the famous ‘LaGuardia High School’ in Manhattan, New York City. Apart from academics, she also showed keen interest in music. She learnt to play trumpet and was also trained in jazz and classical music.
She later graduated from ‘The State University of New York at Albany’ with a major in ‘Journalism and Women's Studies.’ In 2006, she went to China to study Mandarin at the ‘Beijing Language and Culture University.’ She returned to New York in 2008 and began working as an intern for ‘Gotham Gazette’ and later for ‘Times Union.’
She then worked as a publicity assistant for ‘Rodale Books,’ which is a part of the famous publishing house, ‘Crown Publishing Group.’ While working for ‘Rodale Books,’ Nora developed an interest towards literature, and started reading the works of Charles Bukowski, Joan Didion, and Anaïs Nin. As far as her musical influences are concerned, Nora was influenced by musicians like Chet Baker and Tom Waits.
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Though Nora learned jazz and classical music at school, she fell in love with rap music and started rapping from the age of 13. However, the music that she learnt at school did come into play at the time of recording her song ‘My Vag’ as the song did have some elements of jazz.
The official music video of the song was released on October 11, 2012. It went on to become a massive hit as it gathered more than two million views on YouTube. She then released her solo album titled ‘Yellow Ranger’ on February 11, 2014.
By now, Nora had gained prominence as a rapper, who could incorporate comedy into her music. In 2014, she was part of ‘Festival Supreme,’ which is a comedy music festival, hosted by the popular comedy rock duo, ‘Tenacious D.’ In 2016, she joined forces with the famous comedian Margaret Cho and came up with a song titled ‘Green Tea,’ which is about Asian stereotypes.
In 2014, Nora was included in the cast of the famous American comedy TV series, ‘Girl Code.’ She flaunted her acting skills while appearing in six episodes of the series’ third season. The following year, she got an opportunity to co-host ‘Girl Code Live’ on MTV, along with TV personalities like Nessa and Carly Aquilino.
Nora was announced as one of the primary cast members of Olivia Milch’s directorial debut, ‘Dude.’ She played Rebecca in the film, which was released by ‘Netflix’ on April 20, 2018. She then played Christine in the 2016 American comedy film, ‘Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising.’
In 2016, she was also announced as one of the primary cast members of ‘Ocean’s 8,’ which is a spinoff to the ‘Ocean’s Trilogy.’ In 2017, she was cast in a recurring role in ‘Future Man,’ which is a comedy web & television series. She was also announced as one of the cast members of ‘Crazy Rich Asians,’ which will be distributed by ‘Warner Bros. Pictures.’ In 2018, she was selected as one of the cast members of Alice Waddington’s sci-fi thriller, ‘Paradise Hills.’
Other Major Works
In 2015, Nora Lum featured in the popular documentary ‘Bad Rap,’ which profiles Nora Lum and some of her fellow Asian-American rappers like Lyricks, Rekstizzy, and Dumbfoundead. In the same year, Nora also released a book titled ‘Awkwafina’s NYC,’ which is basically a travel guide to New York City.
In 2016, she voiced a character named Quail in the computer-animated comedy film, ‘Storks.’ In the same year, she also lent her voice to one of the characters of the famous animated sitcom, ‘Regular Show.’ She has also been cast in the computer-animated comedy film, ‘The Angry Birds Movie 2.’
Awards & Achievements
Nora created and hosted a web series titled ‘Tawk,’ which received a nomination at the 2016 ‘Streamy Awards’ under the ‘News & Culture’ category. It was also selected as the ‘Official Honoree’ at the 2016 ‘Webby Awards.’
Nora’s documentary ‘Bad Rap,’ which was produced by Jaeki Cho and Salima Koroma, was screened at the 2016 ‘TriBeCa Film Festival.’ In December 2017, she was named as ‘Female Breakout of the Year’ by ‘Kore Asian Media.’
Personal Life & Family
Nora Lum adopted her stage name ‘Awkwafina’ when she was a teenager. ‘Awkwafina’ refers to her alter ego, which she had developed during her college days. The alter ego was created to combat Nora’s quiet and passive nature.
Nora has condemned the act of stereotyping Asians in the entertainment industry. In fact, she has rejected many acting offers as she was required to speak in a certain accent. Apart from expressing her support for ‘Time's Up,’ which is a movement against sexual harassment, Nora has also urged her female fans to fight harassment in the field of entertainment.
Nora is quite active on various social media platforms. She joined Twitter in June 2012 and currently has more than 42,000 followers on her account. Her YouTube channel, which too, was created in June 2012, has more than 55,000 subscribers. She uses her YouTube channel to release her official music videos. She also has an Instagram account, which has more than 116,000 followers.
Nora Lum is of mixed origin. While her father is a Chinese-American, her mother was an immigrant from South Korea. Her great-grandfather had moved from China to America in the 1940s in order to set-up a Cantonese restaurant in Flushing, Queens. In one of her recent interviews, Nora had said that she feels proud to represent Asian people.