Awkwafina has made a name for herself by charming fans with her wisecracks and hilarious quips. But there’s a strong underlying motivation for her comedy.
While answering 73 questions with Vogue, the rapper and actress revealed that she realized she could make others laugh at age four, after her mother died.
“I developed humor as a defense mechanism,” said Awkwafina, who was born Nora Lum. “After the passing of my mom, I wanted to be an emblem of joy and not an emblem of sorrow.”
Awkwafina’s mother, Tia, battled pulmonary hypertension, high blood pressure that affects the lungs and arteries. “The Farewell” star told People that her mother was sick in her earliest memories, but she continues to remember Tia through food.
“She used to feed me a lot of Korean food, and I remember her really caring about that, caring about what I brought to lunch in my lunchbox,” Awkwafina recalled, adding that when she’d eat rice cakes years later, she’d “cry because I’d remember her.”
The entertainer also told People that she felt she “had to face a certain level of trauma to be so joyously self-deprecating and so free.”
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