Live from New York, representation matters. Saturday Night Live has not had an Asian woman host since Lucy Liu hosted in 2000, Jezebel reports. In fact, only three Asians ever have hosted the famous variety program: Liu, Aziz Ansari, and Jackie Chan. Comparatively, white celebrities like Lindsay Lohan have hosted four times. President Donald Trump has hosted twice.
Awkwafina will be the first Asian-American woman to host since Liu, and with 21 episodes per season, she’s the first Asian-American woman to host in 378 episodes.
The series made its season premiere on September 29 with host Adam Driver and musical guest Kanye West. Awkwafina is a Brooklyn-based rapper whose hilarious appearances in both Crazy Rich Asians and Ocean’s 8 are gaining her a lot of critical and commercial attention. She’s naturally funny and a gifted performer, so having her on the show should be a real treat.
Saturday Night Live has often had issues with representation, especially representation of women of color. A few years back, they claimed there were simply no funny black women to put on the show, which proved incorrect when they cast Sasheer Zamata. Leslie Jones is also a fan favorite on the show. Paper Magazine reported that SNL has never had an Asian-American woman as a cast member, nor an Asian-American man as a full-time cast member.
Reportedly, the show has to ask a production designer, Akira Yoshimura, to play Star Trek‘s Sulu every time a skit about the TV show comes up. It should be interesting to see what sketches are prepared for Awkwafina, whose humor tends to be braggy, X-rated, and focused on race and sexuality. It would be a fun opportunity for SNL to skewer itself, as it has occasionally managed to do.
Awkwafina has gained attention for her raunchy viral rap hits like “My Vag,” which went viral in 2012. She also has been a part of the MTV series Girl Code and has a ton of younger fans due to her work on the series. Awkwafina recently released her EP, In Fina We Trust, and has a short-form webseries called Tawk.
SNL seems to be making efforts to have more diversity among hosts and casts. Compare to Season 36, when there were 22 white hosts; Season 36 was not that long ago – just eight years, in 2010. The most recent season had much better representation, with 13 white hosts and eight non-white hosts. Hopefully the trend will continue so SNL can continue to produce relevant, representative satire.