Awkwafina has one of the most unlikely success stories in Hollywood, and her representation in both music and the film world has been an important step forward. But that doesn’t necessarily mean she hasn’t made missteps of her own within the comedic and accent work she’s employed in the past. In particular, the rapper and actress has faced criticism in the past for using a “blaccent,” or the current cultural shorthand for when non-Black people adopted a Black voice.
In both of her biggest films, Crazy Rich Asians and Ocean’s 8, Awkwafina has, at times, used what could qualify as a “blaccent,” and alongside that, accusations of cultural appropriation have risen as well. Though Awkwafina hasn’t spoken on the subject in the past, In the press cycle for her new movie, Shang-Chi, she was asked point blank about the topic. In her answer, she seemed to struggle to actually address the question, or whether she considered her past work appropriation. “Um, you know, I’m open to the conversation,” she began. “I think it, you know, it’s really something that is a little bit multi-faceted and layered, and so yeah.”
— Reuters Showbiz (@ReutersShowbiz) September 10, 2021
While that isn’t really a conversation itself, being open to it is potentially a start. To learn more about issues like the use of a blaccent and cultural appropriation, read Lauren Michele Jackson’s 2018 piece “Who Really Owns the Blaccent” for Vulture right here.