Awkwafina Apologizes after NAACP Image Awards Nomination Black-lash [UPDATED]

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Photo:  Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic (Getty Images)
Photo: Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic (Getty Images)

Crazy Rich Asians actress Awkwafina released a statement in response to the backlash on social media after being nominated for an NAACP Image Award, reported Insider. Over the past year, she has faced harsh criticisms about her consistent use of a blaccent. Now, that blaccent won her both a nomination but also harsh criticisms from the public as a consequence.

Though the NAACP Image Awards is not exclusive to only Black people in Hollywood, the nomination upset many as they believe Awkwafina’s career was built upon mocking Black people. However, her voice-over performance in the Disney animated film Raya and the Last Dragon which got her the nomination is one of the few films where she didn’t use the blaccent, per Yahoo! News.

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From Yahoo!:

The actress reacted to the nomination, stating that she was “Extremely honored to be nominated at the @naacp image awards, alongside so many people I love, appreciate and respect.” She added, “Thank you @naacp for all that you do and have done.”

She has yet to address the mounting backlash online over the recent honor, nor has she thoroughly explained her past use of “blaccent.” During an interview via Reuters Showbiz, she said she was “​​open to the conversation.” “I think it, you know, it’s really something that is a little bit multi-faceted and layered, and so yeah,” she added.

That’s a long way of saying “it’s complicated.” Maybe she hoped the whole thing will boil over after a few weeks. However, Black Twitter wasted no time to snatch her up. “Out of all of the awards, I would think the NAACP Image Awards would be the last one to nominate someone like Awkwafina, who thinks it is ok to make a minstrel out of Black people for a living. Yikes,” read one tweet.

Users also referenced a 2017 VICE interview where she spoke strongly against Hollywood’s stereotypes of Asian characters. “I’ve walked out of auditions where the casting director all of a sudden changed her mind and asked for accents. I refuse to do accents,” she said via VICE. Awkwafina went to Twitter to finally respond to everyone’s remarks.

From Insider:

“But as a non-black POC, I stand that I will always listen and work tirelessly to understand the history and context of AAVE, what is deemed appropriate or backwards toward the progress of ANY and EVERY marginalized group,” she wrote. “But I must emphasize: To mock, belittle, or to be unkind in any way possible at the expense of others is: Simply. Not. My. Nature.”

“My immigrant background allowed me to carve an American identity off the movies and tv shows I watched, the children I went to public schools with, and my undying love and respect for hip hop,” she said. “I think as a group, Asian Americans are still trying to figure out what that journey means for them — what is correct and where they don’t belong.

Social media users weren’t satisfied, and many noted that non-Black people were the ones running to her defense. “Still processing this. It has been a **long** time coming. Sharing with The Black & Asian Alliance Network to gather some talking points, but my initial response is ‘why did it take so long to say this, especially when you knew the conversation on you existed,’” read one response. Many users also noted that she did not apologize for her actions.

Following her formal statement, Awkwafina said she’ll be taking a social media break per her therapist’s advice. “To my fans, thank you for continuing to love and support someone who wishes they could be a better person for you. I apologize if I ever fell short, in anything I did. You’re in my heart always,” said the tweet.