Fuse is celebrating Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month by looking at a variety of rising forces who are creating Future Asian and Pacific History before our eyes. Awkwafina isn't particularly new to the scene—initially breaking out in 2012 with her viral, comedy-rap video "My Vag" before co-starring on MTV's Girl Code and launching her web show Tawk—but only recently has the New York City native started breaking out in bigger ways and doing so by being louder and prouder than ever.
Last spring, Awkwafina (neé Nora Lum) made her biggest Hollywood move to date by landing a role in Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising. Lum played Christine, a member of the Kappa Nu sorority with Chloë Grace Moretz, and joining the cast featuring Zac Efron, Rose Byrne and Seth Rogen. No doubt that helped her score a main role in Ocean's Eight featuring a dream cast of seven Hollywood heavy hitters including Rihanna, Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Helena Bonham Carter, Sarah Paulson, Anne Hathaway and fellow 2017 Future Asian & Pacific History honoree Mindy Kaling. While those are some mighty bright stars to shine up next to, Awkwafina revealed how easily she was able to fit in with the A-listers. "As the most irrelevant one on the cast, I was really, really surprised by how much they just made me feel like I was their equal," she said in an interview. "They were so warm, and they were so welcoming, and I just felt safe with them. More so than I ever thought that I would."
But Awkwafina's aspirations go beyond fitting nicely inside Hollywood. In fact, she's looking to make as much noise as possible on her way up and demolish any outdated or harmful stereotypes about Asian women. She spoke about unintentionally becoming a role model in entertainment to Defining Cultures:
"What Awkwafina does for young Asian-American girls, it shows them that it’s OK to be embarrassing, loud, rocket! When you grow up seeing more docile Asians around you, you’re going to assume that it doesn’t exist. If anything, I’m just helping people come out of their shell that they are already born in to. Entertainment is not an option for a lot of Asians. You don’t see many of us, so you don’t think it’s a possible option. I think every Asian entertainer is a role model at some point; even if they’re terrible. There’s power in numbers."
With her casting in Ocean's Eight only indicating bigger things—she's the youngest main cast member—undoubtedly Awkwafina will continue her domination by being as loud as she's ever been and reaching even more people while doing so.