Nora Lum, who is professionally addressed by the mononym Awkwafina, has been in the Hollywood scene for quite a while.
Her debut into acting came in six episodes of the third and fourth seasons of “Girl Code,” and she has moved on to star in other mainstream movies.
The list includes “The SpongeBob Movie,” “Raya and the Last Dragon,c” “Shang-Chi” and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” “Jumanji: The Next Level,” “Crazy Rich Asians,” “Ocean’s 8” and many more.
But it was not all bliss at first for the New York-born actress, as she had to face the constant rejection that so often came with breaking into Hollywood. However, the comedian cum actress had an ace up her sleeve, all thanks to her long stint as a stand-up comedian.
The rejections she had mastered in standup comedy prepared her for more that would come in Hollywood. Growing up in New York City also played its part.
NY Gave Awkwafina Some Tough Love
Prior to her starring in mainstream movies, Awkwafina grew up in the Forest Hills neighborhood of Queens, New York.
Her mother died from pulmonary hypertension when she was four, leaving her upbringing to her father and paternal grandparents, and she became especially close to her paternal grandmother.
She attended the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts which boasts of great alumni like Jennifer Aniston, Timothée Chalamet, and Nicki Minaj.
While she learned how to be prim and proper in school, her street smart was born outside of its four walls. By simply living in New York City and experiencing the day-to-day hustle and bustle, it played a part in her career choice.
“I think there’s so much you witness at such a young age. There’s objective brutality, then this kind of dark humor with it and this constant tragedy around you but then joy in these small moments,” she told Who What Wear in September 2021.
“And it’s like the city is a fertile environment for someone who maybe wants to dream of that.”
Stand-Up Comedy Helped Her Hollywood Career
While the city gave her some street smarts, stand-up comedy gave her the armor she needed to battle the rejections in Hollywood.
In the same chat with Who That Wear, Awkwafina spoke about how some of her early stand-up comedy gigs helped her brave the vicissitude of the seasons.
She recalled her journey through different cities and how she performed in front of crowds who booed her or had no idea who she was.
“I think that has prepared me more than anything else—having to deal with a live crowd and one that’s also heckling you,” she said.
“You have to learn how to do that. I think that definitely prepared me for some of the rejection, the on-the-spot stuff, and the other parts of the industry.”
Currently, the Golden Globe winner has stopped full-time comedy. However, she is still vested in her first love, and is starring in her own Comedy Central series, “Awkwafina Is Nora From Queens.”
The American comedy television series recently premiered for its second season on August 18, 2021.
Awkwafina’s Upcoming Features
2021 has already seen Awkwafina star in mainstream roles such as “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” and “Raya and the Last Dragon,” yet she has no plans to rest on her laurels.
“The Jumanji: Next level” co-star has been signed up to cast in the Benjamin Cleary drama, “Swan Song,” a story about a father who must make a difficult choice after being diagnosed with a terminal ailment.
Alongside this, she would also be appearing in “The Baccarat Machine,” a film about a young Chinese woman who is mentored by a poker player to become a successful gambler.
In addition, she would be voicing Scuttle in the upcoming remake of Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” and lending her voice to “The Bad Guys,” an animated feature scheduled to be released in 2022.
With most of her films set to be released next year, fans of the comedian would only have to wait a short while to see her face grace the big screen again.