Enrichment Arts & Culture

Awkwafina wins a Golden Globe and a place in history

nora lum, also known as awkwafina, holds her golden globe

Story at a glance

  • Nora Lum is the first Asian American woman to win a Golden Globe for best actress in any category.
  • She won best actress in a musical or comedy in the first major film awards of 2020.
  • The actress and rapper, who goes by the name “Awkwafina” professionally, starred in “The Farewell,” by director Lulu Wang.

Outside city vibes

Queens is a trek, so

None of my city friends have visited yet

But it’s alright, I don’t mind, give it time

Imma make the city so proud

—Awkwafina, “Testify”

A year later, the rapper and actress from Queens can say she’s fulfilled that promise. Nora Lum, known by her professional name “Awkwafina,” became the first Asian American woman to win a Golden Globe for best actress in her category. 

Lum won the award for best actress in a motion picture comedy or musical on Jan. 5 for her role as Billi in “The Farewell.” She is the sixth woman of Asian descent to be nominated in that category.

“It feels incredible but I think there’s also this other feeling that you want there to be more. I hope this is just the beginning,” the actress and rapper said backstage after the awards.

Lum shouted out director Lulu Wang, whose radio story “What you don’t know” inspired the film, in her acceptance speech. Backstage, she told reporters the story resonated with her as a child of a Chinese-American father and South Korean mother. 

“We are raised to feel very American. We’re told that you don’t belong here, but when we go back to where you belong, you also feel like a stranger there.” she said. “It’s a constant feeling of being lost in translation.”

“The Farewell” tells the story of an aspiring writer, Billi, who moved to America with her parents at the age of six, and her grandmother, who she calls “Nai Nai,” a Mandarin name for paternal grandmother. When Nai Nai is diagnosed with terminal lung cancer, her family returns to China to see her — but hides the diagnoses from her. The movie was also nominated in the category of foreign language film, a designation that drew some criticism

The Golden Globe winner thanked her own her paternal grandmother, who she says raised her, as well as her mother, Tia, who died when Lum was four.

And to her father, Wally, she quipped, “I told you I’d get a job, dad.”