If you only know Awkwafina from Ocean’s 8, or Crazy Rich Asians – or even her stints on MTV’s Girl Code – this must feel like a real departure, in terms of energy. That’s what makes this entire package, photos and profile, so appealing. It tackles head-on the idea of Awkwafina, the persona, vs. Nora Lum, the real girl from Queens who crafted a stage name to nudge herself out of her shell. When is she one, when is she the other, and when will the twain meet — or have they already? (She was billed as Awkwafina in The Farewell, for which she won the Golden Globe, but director Lulu Wang says it was essentially a branding decision because the performance felt full Nora.) It’s a lot to mull in one piece, but that’s one reason it works so well. The photos have a lovely languid feel to them, as if you are seeing Nora herself, something truer to who she is than the quippy comic mania of Peik-Lin in Crazy Rich Asians. In the profile, she’s by turns zingy and introspective, but always bracingly honest:
On being hesitant about her huge success in the Summer of 2018: “Maybe it does go back to depression. It comes in different forms your whole life. I was scared about what this meant: ‘Was this the pinnacle of all those years of waiting? And why do I feel like I don’t want it? I don’t want this to be the summer that that’s it.’ Fame is not a cure for depression. It’s just not. It’s not necessarily the cause of it, but it’s also not the cure of it.”
On the gap between her childhood and now: “When I finally started to feel some semblance of success and satisfaction, I started to remember all of the things that I forgot, because when you’re happy with your life you don’t hold on to the bad things that happened to you. Instead you thank them for existing, because without them you wouldn’t be here. Right? So I look back on those times and I remember what it was to feel like that. Now that I got it, have I really changed? Have I really evolved from that kid who didn’t know why she was sad at different times?’
I enjoyed reading it so much, and it’s coming at absolutely the right moment: Awkwafina is successful and recognizable, but with another full slate of roles coming, we still have so much more of what she can do to discover. And more of Nora to get to know.