Awkwafina-TIME-100-Next Scandebergs for TIME 

The first time I ever saw Awkwafina was in 2013. She was on the cover of KoreAm magazine, staring down the lens after rapping about her vag. I thought, Who is that?

The first time I met Awkwafina was in 2015. She was at a event, supporting fellow rapper Dumbfoundead, and they were just so fresh and full of this amazing energy. I thought, Who is she?

The last time I saw Awkwafina, we were eating burgers at Crazy Rich Asians director Jon M. Chu’s house after the Critics’ Choice Awards. I cannot express how pleased I am to see her meteoric rise. I’m not surprised because she is a complete original. There are so many things I can point to: Her timing. Her beautiful, melancholic face. And her unforgettable voice.

In the opening scene of The Farewell, Awkwafina, as her character Billi, is talking to her grandmother on the phone in perfect Mandarin—and then turns to talk to a woman on the street in English, flipping back to the everyday New Yorker she is. I think her ability in that scene exemplifies a unique and powerful moment of identity. She’s able to hold many identities while simultaneously (and singularly) being herself.

Oh is a Golden Globe Award–winning actor

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