Awkwafina Recalls Feeling Like an ‘Outsider’ at Her High School With a ”Sex and the City’ Version of Manhattan’

Some celebrities were bullied in high school while others didn’t get their high school diplomas. For Crazy Rich Asians star Awkwafina, her high school experience involved a combination of feeling like an “outsider” and cracking jokes in class. The 33-year-old actor, who currently stars in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, attended a famed performing arts school but didn’t always connect with her classmates. 

Awkwafina went to a performing arts school in New York City

Awkwafina smiles at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival
Awkwafina | Rich Polk/Getty Images for IMDb

Prior to winning a Golden Globe for The Final Farewell or starring in Disney’s Raya and the Last Dragon, Awkwafina attended high school at a famed performing arts school in New York City, New York. 

Born Nora Lum, Awkwafina grew up in the Forest Hills neighborhood of Queens, New York, and attended the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts. Often referred to as simply LaGuardia, if it sounds familiar that’s because not only does it have notable alumni but it’s also the school from Fame.

Awkwafina walked the same halls as other celebrities including Nicki Minaj, Clickbait star Adrian Grenier, Jennifer Aniston, Timothée Chalamet, and many more. An instrumental major, the star of Ocean’s 8 played the trumpet.

Awkwafina dreamed of playing trumpet for a living while feeling like an ‘outsider’ at school

Awkwafina poses for cameras in a pink suit at the premiere of 'Awkwafina Is Nora From Queens'
Awkwafina | Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Comedy Central

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In a September 2021 interview with Who What Wear Awkwafina reflected on her high school years. She remembered not necessarily dreaming big, of someday being a famous A-lister, but having to work incredibly hard just to become part of an off-Broadway show. 

“When I was in high school, I was imagining, ‘God, I would have to be so good at the trumpet to just even make it to the pit of an off-off-Broadway show.’ You know that was the trumpet dream, right? So I didn’t really know what to do with that track,” she told the publication, adding that some of her classmates were “so good.”

On top of that, she saw around her a different kind of New York City than the one she was used to seeing.

 “The school is on the Upper West Side, so I definitely witnessed this glamorous New York City lifestyle, this kind of Sex and the City version of Manhattan, that I felt that I was literally just an outsider,” she said. 

Awkwafina was ‘the class clown’ in high school

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Awkwafina described herself as “ a bad kid” in high school during a Harper’s Bazaar February 2021 interview. She skipped class and wasn’t getting straight A’s. The former rapper had a C-minus average and considered herself a daring “class clown.” 

“I was the class clown that would do things that no one would ever do,” she said. “I would raise my hand and say stupid things, like the equivalent of ‘F*** her right in the p***.’” 

With Awkwafina’s high school days behind her, it seems she’s no longer an outsider. She currently stars in the Comedy Central series about her life, Awkwafina is Nora From Queens, and she’s gearing up for multiple big-screen roles.