Awkwafina on Black Cultural Appropriation Backlash — ‘I Welcome That Conversation’
Nora Lum, professionally known as Awkwafina, is under fire for something she said two years ago.
On May 29, 2019, Lum sat down with Vice as a rare Asian-American in Hollywood. During the interview, the 33-year-old dished on roles that she would never accept.
Getting candid, Lum recounted how she had walked out of auditions when casting directors asked her to do accents. She boldly said, "I refuse to do accents."
The Jumanji actress stressed she was okay with having the Asian aspect in her roles if it was done genuinely. But she opined she wasn't OK with people writing Asian experiences for an Asian character.
She remarked, "I never go out for auditions where I feel like I'm making a minstrel out of our people."
As the interview resurfaced on the internet in early August, Lum found herself on the receiving end of hate and backlash over black cultural appropriation.
Criticism Over Awkwafina’s Blaccent
While Lum spoke against faking accent in the aforementioned Vice interview, Twitter users criticized her for having a double standard and being a culture vulture.
One particular person implied that Awkwafina's comments were strange. The user highlighted how the actress didn't want Asian people to be stereotyped in films but was making a mockery out of her 'blaccent,' an accent that is characteristic of African-Americans.
A critic highlighted Lum's history as a rap artist and stated, "she won't do accents but will drop rap songs in a blaccent and won't apologize for using it for fame. Got it."
Another Twitter user also added to the controversy and criticized the "minstrel" word Lum used in her interview. The commenter pointed out that Awkwafina hijacked the term "minstrel," and elaborated on how Asian culture never had minstrel shows.
Lum's early career has always brought about criticism regarding black cultural appropriation. She started as a YouTuber with an Asian gangster New Yorker persona and earned recognition with rap songs.
In her career-defining project Crazy Rich Asians, she openly used blaccent. While the actress earned rave reviews for her acting prowess, many critics pointed out that she borrowed black culture to achieve fame.
Given that her success has relied on questionable forms of cultural appropriation, the latest resurfaced interview only added fuel to the fire.
Awkwafina's Past Response
While Lum hasn't yet responded to the recent uproar, she once addressed the black cultural appropriation backlash in an interview with Hanna Flint in September 2018.
Stating that she knew about all the criticism, Lum said she welcomed such conversation. The New York Native also expressed that such dialects were necessary because people were still trying to figure out what being Asian American meant.