Awkwafina Got Fired From Her Office Job After Writing a Song Called “My Vag”
To her family she’s known as Nora Lum, but to the world she is simply known as Awkwafina.
She’s a rapper, a comedian, and an actress whose jokes were so vulgar growing up, her fam actually tied tiger bells on her tongue. But hey, in the words of Awkwafina herself, “you either get it or you don’t.”
She’s already made her mark on the industry with appearances on MTV’s Girl Code and in Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, but now she’s making even bigger moves with the latest season of her talk show on Verizon Go90, TAWK, and her starring role in the upcoming film Ocean’s Eight.
For those who don’t know, who is Awkwafina?
Awkwafina is someone that you definitely won’t expect her to be upon seeing what she looks like. But then when she opens her mouth you’re like, “oooh… yikes!” There’s definitely a “yikes” component to any description. So yeah, it’s just like, “oh, it’s just an Asian girl,” and then she starts talking and then you’re like, “oh, it’s just Big Ang trapped in an Asian girl’s body.”
I bet a lot of people fall in love with you as soon as they meet you because you seem like you have a funny personality that everybody gets.
Yeah, I don’t know if that’s a bad or a good thing. You either get it or you don’t.
How did you get your name?
There’s really no symbolic, great story to that. I just really thought it was funny when people try to subtilize products like Neutrogena. Because I just imagine someone sitting there thinking about all these weird names, especially the water names. But anyways, I just came up with it when I was sixteen and thought it was really funny. And then I eventually adopted it. People started calling me that name and I was like, “I can’t believe they’re actually calling me this fucking name, it’s so stupid.” But I don’t even care. There’s no difference.
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Yeah, as soon as I say it, I think about the water company. But then I’m like, “maybe she named herself that because she’s awkward or something.”
Well, so what happened was that when I was 16-years-old, it was just Aquafina — like my rap name was just Aquafina, but then I think when we were putting out the video, the guy that made the video — and also encouraged me to put out the whole thing — he was like, “well, we should change the spelling so you don’t get sued,” and I was like, “I feel like I’m going to get sued anyways.”
So, he spelled it so extra. He spelled it in the most extra way ever. So, I was like, “I feel like people aren’t going to understand this,” and he was like, “yeah, but I feel like it would be unique, so then people [will] look it up.” But then no one knows how to spell it. So, you know, it came back to bite me in the ass.
Most know you as a rapper. Can you tell me a little more about that and how you came to pursue that?
So, I’ve been super into underground Rap music, like obsessed with it since I was eleven. At thirteen, I started rapping onto one of those big boom box tape recorder things just to see what I sound like — I sounded like shit. And then at seventeen, when I got my first MacBook — like one of those really shitty plastic white ones — it had garage band on it. So, I started producing beats and at nineteen, I made “My Vag.”
I really didn’t pursue any career. It was really something I did by myself. I recorded 95% of my music myself and recorded my first album sitting on my bed.
You’re not really filtered when it comes to speaking your mind with songs such as “My Vag” and “NYC Bitches.” Have you always been like that, or was it something you had to grow into?
I’ve always been completely unfiltered since I was a little kid. Like my grandma would put tiger bells on my tongue because I would tell really vulgar jokes when I was seven years old. So, I’ve always been unfiltered my whole life. It wasn’t until college, which I consider to be kind of like a jail. Like I consider college to be like a boot camp that taught me to be filtered — it wasn’t until then when I realized I have to be filtered.
Before starting out in the entertainment industry, what were you doing?
I worked at an air conditioning company. I worked as a publicity assistant for a book company and they hated me. I worked for a bodega. I worked for a really, really, legit Japanese restaurant — it was an intense restaurant. I had a lot of off the books weird jobs. And then, it was actually when I was working at an office company and my boss somehow figured out that I made a video called “My Vag,” and she immediately fired me. So, that was pretty sad. But then, it was like, “Yo, I gotta do this because not only did I just get laid off, but I have this video out called “My Vag.” So, if I walk into Cleary and Gottlieb for an interview, they’re definitely going to be like, “Oh my god, she has a video called ‘My Vag,’ do not hire her.”
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How did you get in acting? Was it something you always wanted to do?
I think my only wish since I was like four or five years old is that I wished I could be on TV, which is like an incredibly petty wish because a lot of kids asked for normal shit like a pony, but I just wanted to be on TV. I think I kind of fell into acting. The people who made my first movie, Neighbors 2, they saw “My Vag” and I think were like, super into it, and I had never really acted. I did MTV’s “Girl Code” before that and obviously “TAWK” before that, but I never really did any acting throughout my first introduction into acting. So yeah, it was never really something I ever expected to do — it wasn’t something I actively pursued doing. It was something that kind of fell into my lap.
What was your first reaction when you found you got the part in Ocean’s Eight?
I actually didn’t believe it was true. When people told me the movie was going to happen, I was like, “Oh. Okaay…” Like I didn’t believe any of it was true until I got the paperwork, started, and met all the ladies. I was like, “Oh, alright. Ok. Yup, this is true. Alright, I’m dying.”
Things like that, especially in the industry, you can’t really take what people are saying to be true until it’s really happening. But then I finally was like, “alright, that’s cool. I’m tripping on acid right now. So, it’s good.”
Are there any inside exclusives or details you can tell me about the upcoming film?
Unfortunately, I can’t, but I can bring something up. There has been reports that we fight a lot and I just want to set the record straight that there has not been one fight on set and we actually get along — every single one of use. There has not been one fight. None of us are divas. So, I just want to put that out there.
I don’t know why they automatically assume there will be fights when there’s a bunch of women.
You know why they say that? Because we’re a group of women. So, they think, “Oh well, they’re clearly period-ing right now and they’re mad at everyone.” But it’s not like that at all.
What is one crazy thing that no one publicly knows about you yet? Or craziest thing you’ve done?
I once got pulled over for blasting the Rent soundtrack and singing along to it, and also was telling people to go back to Jersey, but I [only had] my permit. So, I didn’t have a license yet. So, the cops pulled me over and they were like, “are you actually stupid?” Yeah, that was kind of sad. It was a low moment for me.
What’s next for you? More acting? More music?
I do plan on coming out with a new album that I hope to drop late summer — I have a pretty solid body of work. I have a couple of film projects coming up that I don’t know if I can talk about yet, but I can say they’re pretty cool.
Be sure to check out the latest season of Awkwafina’s TAWK on Go90.