Breakout Star Awkwafina Becomes Only Second Asian Female Ever to Host SNL
Awkwafina hosted SNL last Saturday night, becoming only the second Asian female to do so – between 1975 and 2016 90 percent of SNL’s hosts were white.
Awkwafina hosted “Saturday Night Live” this weekend, becoming the second Asian woman to host the show in its 44 years, a point she addressed in a touching monologue. SNL also seems to be aiming for more diversity in their cast as well — is this a signal of more change to come?
The 29-year old is a breakout star from this year’s blockbuster film Crazy Rich Asians, which also made headlines for its unprecedented representation of Asian Americans on the big screen.
Awkwafina Follows in Lucy Liu’s Footsteps, Perhaps Paving the Way for More Asian Females
On Saturday, Awkafina delivered a funny, pithy monologue on the sketch show expected of any host —disclosing her native New York upbringing in Queens and struggle to fame. She then eloquently reminisced on a childhood memory: when she trekked to 30 Rockefeller where the show is filmed, to stand outside as Lucy Liu became the first Asian woman ever to host the show, 18 years ago.
“Back in 2000, I came to 30 Rock and waited outside when my idol, Lucy Liu, hosted SNL,” she said. “I was a kid, and I didn’t have a ticket so I knew I wasn’t getting in, but I just wanted to be near the building. And I remember how important that episode was for me, and how it totally changed what I thought was possible for an Asian-American woman.”
After applause from the audience, Awkwafina added: “Standing here tonight is a dream I never thought would come true. So thank you, Lucy, for opening the door. I wasn’t able to make it in the building back then, but 18 years later I’m hosting the show.”
Lucy Liu starred in major films such as Charlie’s Angels and Kill Bill and currently stars on the CBS series “Elementary.”
Only three other Asian actors have hosted the show: Aziz Ansari (2017), Kumail Nanjiani (2017) and Jackie Chan (2000).
SNL Criticized For Lack of Diversity
According to a 2016 study by Indiewire, 90 percent of the show’s hosts between 1975 and May 2016 were white. Only 6.8 percent of the 826 total hosts counted were black, while 1.2 percent were considered Hispanic and 1.1 percent “other.”
In recent years, SNL also received criticism for its lack of diversity amongst its own cast members. The show responded swiftly by searching for talented comics of ethnic descent; the cast is now 63 percent white.
SNL has never had a full-time Asian cast member, but has had Middle Eastern and currently, African Americans and Latinos — including its first female Latino cast member, Melissa Villaseñor, who joined in 2016.
Given the current social climate of hyper-awareness involving equality and the burgeoning shifts in representation, it’s possible that SNL’s future may be changing even more.