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Photo courtesy of Casi Moss

Nora Lum was born June 2, 1988 and she is known professionally as Awkwafina.
She is an American actress and rapper. She made her film breakthrough in 2018 with her roles in the films Ocean’s 8 and Crazy Rich Asians.

Lum was born in New York City to an ethnic Chinese-American father, Wally, and a South Korean immigrant mother, a painter. She grew up in Forest Hills, Queens. One of her paternal great-grandfathers was a Chinese immigrant in the 1940s who opened the Cantonese restaurant Lum’s in Flushing, Queens. Lum’s mother died when she was four, and she was raised and influenced heavily by her paternal grandmother.

Lum attended 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 she repressed and an alter ego to her quiet and more passive personality during her college years. Lum majored in journalism and women’s studies at the State University of New York at Albany.  From 2006 to 2008, Lum attended Beijing Language and Culture University in China, where she studied Mandarin.

Lum says Charles Bukowski, Anaïs Nin, Joan Didion, Tom Waits, and Chet Baker were early influences. Prior to her career in entertainment, 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.

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. She has rejected roles that require accents.