Entertainment Weekly: Get to know Awkwafina before she’s in Ocean’s 8

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Entertainment Weekly (by Nolan Feeney):

It’s not every day that the cast of an upcoming ensemble film—like the women-led Ocean’s 8 project—is as good as the one you dream-cast in your head. But EW confirmed Wednesday that Warner Bros. is finalizing a coterie of stars that includes Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Helena Bonham Carter, Rihanna, Anne Hathaway, Mindy Kaling, and Awkwafina a.k.a. rapper and comedian Nora Lum. That last name might not mean as much to the masses as, say, RiRi or Bellatrix Lestrange—at least not yet—but here’s why you should get excited anyway.

Her claim to fame is a hilarious viral video

Awkwafina made waves on the internet with 2012’s “My Vag,” a response to Mickey Avalon’s “My Dick” that she first wrote and recorded on GarageBand when she was 19.

You’ve definitely seen her before

She had a hilarious turn as one of the Kappa Nu sisters in this year’s Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, but she’s popped up on screen in a few other places, like as a co-host of MTV’s Girl Code Live and as a subject of the Tribeca Film Festival documentary Bad Rap, about Asian-Americans in hip-hop.

She’s got a classic New York origin story

Awkwafina grew up in Queens, studied music at the famed LaGuardia High School for the performing arts, and later graduated with a journalism degree from SUNY Albany in 2011. At LaGuardia, she planted the seeds for what would become Awkwafina with her own mock news show. “I used to chop up C-Span soundbites or interviews with politicians like John Kerry or Bill Clinton into a radio-esque show hosted by Awkwafina and her producer, Mookie,” she told The Daily Dot in 2014. “I would pitch down my vocals to have male guests, and would send them to a small circle of friends after they were done.”

She specializes in LOL-worthy raps

Really funny—her 2014 debut, Yellow Ranger, saw her take on Brooklyn hipsters and gentrification with songs like the title track (“Shout out to Greenpoint, Kielbasa in the oven/Greenpoint, where all the bitches look like Lena Dunham”) and “NYC Bitche$” (“New York City bitch, that’s where I come from/not where I moved to on Mom and Dad’s trust fund”). Some of the tracks are fairly New York-centric—“Mayor Bloomberg (Giant Margarita)” was inspired by Michael Bloomberg’s “soda ban”—but that won’t stop non-residents from enjoying them.

Her latest jam features a legendary comedian

She and Margaret Cho, who’s no stranger to re-working that Mickey Avalon song herself, teamed up earlier this year for “Green Tea,” which pokes fun at Asian stereotypes. “I remember watching Margaret Cho with my grandmother on TV,” Awkafina told the blog Angry Asian Man, which premiered the video. “She was my hero, not only because she was funny, but because she showed me that it’s okay to be yourself, that it’s okay to be a brash yellow girl, and to be a strong and brave woman.”

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“20 RANGERS FOR 20 YEARS”: Artists customize Power Ranger figures for 20th Anniversary art show

Saturday night, Power Rangers fans piled inside tiny Toy Art Gallery on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles.

The event was “20 Rangers for 20 Years,” which brought together 20 artists from across the globe for the 20th anniversary of the franchise. Artists were giving 31″ Power Rangers statues to customize. The results were wildly different, and equally spectacular.

L.A.-based artist J*Ryu went the classical route. His piece, “The Statue of Jason,” was an homage to Michelangelo’s David.

I wanted to pay a tribute to the classic element of what it means to be a Power Ranger,” he says.

J*Ryu noted that he didn’t want to change the look of the Power Ranger too much. In the process of making this piece, though, he had to do a lot of deconstruction and reconstruction. The artist, well-regarded for his work customizing toys, cut apart the original and rebuilt it.

If you notice, it’s static,” he says of the figure. “Everything that wasn’t there before, like the jointing, I had to recreate from scratch.” After that, he added a faux plaster effect. Originally, J*Ryu wanted to make the statue look as though it were cut from marble, but, in the end, he decided to go with a look that hinted at age. “I wanted people to understand that it was a little bit older,” he says.

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Nicolette Davenport, by day a senior graphic designer for Saban Brands, played with age too in her contribution to the show.

It’s just a silly take on a Power Ranger, perhaps 20 years later,” she says of the aging and plump ranger spilling out of a too-small costume. Davenport spent a few weeks on her piece, customizing it in the after-work hours. “It was built off of the original plastic toy,” she says. “From there, I built a structure of styrofoam with toothpicks and crazy glue and hot glue and anything you can think of.

She topped off the piece with plastic clay, clear coating and resin.

Some chose to do mash-up pieces, the most unusual of which came from L.A. artist Josh Mayhem. His piece, called Steam Powered Ranger is actually a Power Rangers/Gundam hybrid. Mayhem frequently uses Gundam modeling kits to customize other toys in his work. “I ordered the biggest Gundam kit I could find,” he says. He used those pieces with some odds and ends leftover from past projects to give his Ranger the look of an oversized, steampunk robot.

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20 Rangers for 20 Years” was curated by Caro (first name only) of Sweet Streets, an artist management company based in Los Angeles with offices in Tokyo. Previously, Caro put together the traveling exhibition, “My Little Pony Project,” where artists customized large My Little Pony figures. Like the previous show, “20 Rangers” focuses on a long-running franchise that has a multi-generational fan base. Inside TAG, grown ups and small children arrived in Power Rangers uniforms. The art show also included a Power Rangers pop-up shop, which brought together merchandise from various sources, including We Love Fine t-shirts, a new collaboration with street wear brand Mishka, limited edition prints from Acme Archives and more. There was also a display of Power Rangers toys throughout the years.

There was a charitable component to the show as well. A portion of the proceeds from “20 Rangers for 20 Years,” which ran at TAG through Sunday, December 8, were going to Challengers Boys and Girls Club. Caro herself volunteers at the Boys and Girls Club. The charitable aspect of the show helped dictate the curation of the work as well.

Because it’s Boys and Girls Club, I wanted it to be an even split of girls and boys,” says Caro of the artists for this show. While the bulk of the figures here were masculine Power Rangers, a couple artists, like Pretty in Plastic and Bei Badgirl, worked with feminized Power Ranger forms.

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Because Sweet Streets is an artist management company that focuses specifically on female artists, some asked Caro why she would do a Power Rangers event, assuming the the TV series and toys were boy-centric. She didn’t see it that way. Caro grew up watching the first round of Power Rangers and cites the Pink and Yellow Rangers as two really strong female leads.

Amy Jo Johnson is one of my idols,” she adds, naming the actress behind the first Pink Ranger, Kimberly Ann Hart. “It’s so great to have grown up with her, the Pink Ranger, and the Yellow Ranger on television.”

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Undoubtedly, the Power Rangers made a significant impact on those who grew up in the 1990s. The tightly packed crowds inside the art gallery was testament to that.

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“20 RANGERS FOR 20 YEARS”: Artists customize Power Ranger figures for 20th Anniversary art show