Awkwafina is a rapper, an actress, and a comedian. She has lived in China and grew up in New York. She sat down with The FADER to talk about her upcoming role in the highly anticipated Ocean's 8, why she chose the name Awkwafina, and why New York shouldn't become a Disneyland for finance bros. Watch the video above or read the full interview below.
What's the story behind the name Awkwafina?
The name Awkwafina… I always thought it was funny when brands try to feminize themselves. You know? like Neutrogena. And also I’m really awkward so, you know… and “fina” I’m sure it means fine somewhere you know? So I’m like awkwardly fine. “Awkwa-fine” you know?
How was meeting the rest of the cast of Ocean's 8?
We didn’t smoke any blunts together, but I will say this: Before we met I was up, thinking about how I would make a weird noise or something and they would think I was really weird. I was really nervous to meet them. When I did meet them they were incredibly warm and welcoming to a level I didn’t even think that they would ever be. We became like a small family. Yeah, you’re in a room with idols, But then theres this other aspect that you want humanize them. Because you want to have real conversation with them that aren’t like: “Oh my god, oh my god you’re so cool." You want to have real conversations with them. So, I tried, you know thats what happened.
How was going to China?
Moving to China was like…People say culture shock, you don’t really understand what that means until you move to China from Queens. You know what I mean? And you know, you see a baby being held out a bus window to poop. Very cute, it was very cute. He was fine, he wasn’t even crying. I liked it, I liked it a lot. I liked it so much that I actually thought that if I wasn’t Awkwafina I would be living there right now. So, I always plan to return there, because I felt like there was something going on there that was cooler than, what was going on where I was in America. You feel like you’re somewhere there, like fashion and stuff like that. In America we feel like we get the fashion first, and we’re the first, nah. That’s hitting Asia, and Asia has stuff that you would never see.
How do you think New York City has changed over the years?
New York has changed a lot. I mean I think I gave up the argument of trying to be like: “You know, It’s not fair that everyone comes here” because the truth is that everyone has been coming to New York since the 1920s. You know what I mean? This is a place thats kind of like a Hollywood, for some people. That they want to find their dreams, and that’s okay. I think what I don’t like about the change is how it breaks up communities, how neighborhoods are disintegrated, how rent prices are driving up, and how the cultural landscape changes.
Because you don’t want a New York that is just monotonous and one. You want a New York that’s different. You want there to be a Chinatown, you want there to be a Little Italy. You want there to be an Arthur Avenue. If you don’t have that, then its not New York anymore, its just Disneyworld for finance bros. So, you know, growing up I’ve definitely seen real ‘New York.' And then you know, you also don’t want a New York where you don’t feel safe taking the G train at night, or you don’t feel safe taking the train at night, or you can’t walk through certain neighborhoods. You want to feel safe, but you also want to feel like you belong there and you’re not an outsider that has no money.