Yes, it has been more than two weeks since Awkwafina (born Nora Lum) won her first Golden Globe at the 77th annual Golden Globe Awards–but, like much of the Asian-American community, we are still not over her. In January 2020, Awkwafina made history as the first performer of Asian descent to win a Golden Globe in a lead actress film category.
Awkwafina’s ascendance to stardom was expeditious, but not entirely unexpected. She has always been a familiar name going around in the industry, going viral in 2012, then kick-starting her hip-hop career on Youtube. And in 2018, when Crazy Rich Asians came out, Awkwafina’s outstanding portrayal of Peik Lin illuminated her in showbiz, alongside a plethora of underappreciated Asian actors, such as Gemma Chan, Constance Wu, Henry Golding, and Michelle Yeoh to name a few.
In and of itself, Crazy Rich Asians was Halley’s Comet in a cinematic hemisphere, so when Lulu Wang’s The Farewell, starring Awkwafina, was released in theatres, I knew that I had to go see it. The touching film in conjunction with Awkwafina’s moving performance as Billi conjured a storyline so rich and thoughtful that I was overcome with almost every emotion in the duration of the two-hour movie.
Most importantly, as an Asian-American student myself, Billi’s story and relationship with her Nai Nai resonated so much with me and my traditional Chinese family. The subtle remarks, teasing, and superstitious behavior Billi’s grandmother made during the film made were so familiar and heartwarming. In spite of this, the ending of the film left me and my friends longing for a hug from our grandmothers too, reminding me of just how much I miss my grandmother, who lives thousands of miles away in China. Immediately after the film, I felt an immense inundation of guilt for taking her love for granted, and had a powerful desire to phone my grandmother to let her know I love her. The beauty of the film lies right in this moment. The Farewell appeals to the audience’s tact and compassion, ultimately urging us to cherish our loved ones who may not live with us, but still love and miss us nevertheless.
It’s no wonder Awkwafina’s nuanced portrayal of Billi in The Farewell won her a Golden Globe that Sunday night. Awkwafina’s win represents not only the community of underrepresented Asians in the entertainment industry, but also sets an example to Asian-Americans alike that race is not a barrier or excuse to stop striving for your dreams. I believe this is truly just the beginning of a pan-asian revolution.
Keep slaying, Awkwafina. You’re doing great.