×

Listen: Awkwafina on ‘The Farewell,’ Being the Class Clown and Dealing With ‘Imposter Syndrome’

While growing up in Queens, N.Y., Awkwafina says she never knew what she wanted to be when she grew up.

“I really think a big source of my anxiety, which is one of the first things I ever remember feeling, is that I didn’t know,” she says on the latest episode of “The Big Ticket,” Variety and iHeart’s movie podcast. “I really didn’t know. I never really thought I was smart enough to be an astronaut or whatever kids usually [want to be]…I think I just wanted to be OK.”

But then she realized she was funny in the years following her mom’s death when she was four. “I really liked to make people laugh,” said Awkwafina, whose real name is Nora Lum. “It was just something that I loved doing. I was always the class clown. I was unembarrassable. I would do anything for a laugh.”

She first gained notice as a rapper when her music video for “My Vag” went viral in 2012. She has since appeared in “Ocean’s 8,” “Crazy Rich Asians” and, of course, “The Farewell.” If she receives an Oscar nomination for her work in the Lulu Wang dramedy, Awkwafina will become the first Asian-American nominated for a best actress Oscar. Her new series, “Awkwafina Is Nora From Queens,” premieres Jan. 22 on Comedy Central and she’ll also appear in Marvel’s “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.”

Awkwafina doesn’t take her success for granted. In fact, she’s still pinching herself. “I didn’t know what I was feeling and I started to feel it a little bit when I first got cast in ‘Ocean’s 8,’” she said. “Because of the scope of my career, I didn’t understand how that happened and I think with that comes, ‘Oh, my God — what am I doing here? Will I live up to what they expect of me?’ Things like that.

“And then I was talking with a friend who’s a standup comedian and she was like, ‘You’re describing imposter syndrome…It’s a thing. My therapist talks about it all the time.’”

Now, Awkwafina explained, “I’ve come to accept a degree of it. I think I’ll always have it.”

“I’ll always have imposter syndrome. I’ll always hate myself a little bit, maybe a little bit more every day,” she said with a laugh. “But I think a good amount of it is good to keep you on the ground, because you don’t want to just be like, ‘I’m winning!’”

And speaking of winning, what does she think about being a part of this year’s Oscar conversation? “I think at the end of the day that’s really awesome, but I think the validation is that it resonated. You know what I mean? Not just my performance, but the movie and I think that’s cool.”

Find out what Awkwafina had to say about Margaret Cho, Bowen Yang and “A League of Their Own” by listening to the entire interview below. You can also find “The Big Ticket” at iHeartRadio or wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts.

More Music

  • Recording Academy President/CEO Deborah Dugan participates

    Executive Assistant Preparing Lawsuit Against Ousted Grammy Chief

    In the latest twist in the increasingly bitter exit of Deborah Dugan from the Recording Academy after just five months, the ousted president/CEO is about to face a lawsuit from her former assistant, Claudine Little, who has retained former Harvey Weinstein/ Charlie Walk attorney Patty Glaser to represent her, two sources tell Variety. The news was [...]

  • Curb Your Enthusiasm

    'Curb Your Enthusiasm' Music: How the Italian Tuba March Found Its Way to Larry David

    When “Curb Your Enthusiasm” returns for its much-anticipated 10th season it does so with it a musical theme that’s a prime example of recognizable sonic branding and has become synonymous with comedy in our complicated times: “Frolic” by composer Luciano Michelini. But surprisingly, this comic march for tuba, mandolin and piano wasn’t specifically written for [...]

  • Kacey Musgraves, from left, Reba McEntire,

    How a Twitter Joke About Women at Country Radio Reignited a Firestorm (Column)

    Do you remember the classic Bee Gees song that goes, “I started a joke… that started the whole world crying”? (It’s okay if you don’t.) That’s how I felt this week after realizing that a sarcastic tweet I’d typed out in a half-minute at a stoplight led to a social media firestorm, then a tempest of [...]

  • Tanya Tucker and Brandi Carlile backstageAmericana

    Tanya Tucker and Brandi Carlile Set as Dynamic Duo for Grammys

    Country legend Tanya Tucker and her producer, Brandi Carlile, will perform together on the Grammys  in one week, both singers announced on their respective social media accounts Sunday. Wrote Carlile: “Let’s. do. this.” (One of the first responses on Carlile’s Instagram came from a fellow Seattle musician, Soundgarden’s Matt Cameron: “Hell yes!”) “I wanted you [...]

  • Billie EilishiHeartRadio ALTer EGO, Show, The

    Billie Eilish, Coldplay, the Black Keys Rock iHeartRadio AlterEgo (Photos)

    iHeartRadio celebrated the alternative stars of its airwaves on Saturday night with AlterEgo, inviting the likes of Billie Eilish, Coldplay, Blink-182 and the Black Keys to Los Angeles’ the Forum. Eilish kicked off the show — a solid strategy in getting the younger set to get in on time — with hits like “Bad Guy,” [...]

  • Singer David Olney

    Singer David Olney Dies During Performance at Florida's 30A Festival

    Singer-songwriter David Olney has died at age 71, after falling silent and dropping his head in the midst of a performance at the 30A Songwriters Festival in Florida Saturday night. Some news reports said he “collapsed” on stage, but that isn’t quite true: Olney simply became still on his stool, leading some audience members and [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content