Michelle Yeoh Becomes First Woman of Asian Descent to Win Best Actress Oscar

Michelle Yeoh won best actress at the 95th Academy Awards on March 12, becoming the first woman of Asian descent to win the award. 60-year-old Yeoh earned the trophy for her acclaimed performance in “Everything Everywhere All at Once.”

Everything Everywhere All at Once, a low-cost sci-fi family film released by American film company A24, took home many awards at the event such as Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Original Screenplay, Best Film Editing, Best Director and Best Picture. The story revolves around Evelyn Juan Wang, a Chinese American immigrant played by Yeoh, who encounters a spider web of multiverses when her life and career are thrown into disarray. She becomes unwillingly embroiled in an epic adventure where she must connect different versions of herself in a parallel universe to stop someone who intends to harm the multiverse.

The film adopts the setting of multiverse that has become popular in Hollywood in recent years, and a number of Asian actors have joined in. It was released in North America on a small scale at the end of March 2022, and then continued to expand its screening scale as it gained traction. It is No.8 on the list of the “81 Best Asian American Movies of All Time” compiled by Rotten Tomatoes.

Yeoh was born in a Chinese-American family in Malaysia in 1962. She began to study ballet at the age of 4, and once dreamed of becoming a ballet dancer. At the age of 15, she went to England with her parents, and was admitted to the famous Royal Academy of Dance in London, where she obtained a bachelor’s degree in drama dance. At the age of 17, she had to give up becoming a professional ballet dancer because of serious spinal injury caused by dancing.

In 1983, Yeoh was persuaded by her mother to participate in a beauty contest. She was finally elected Miss Malaysia and represented Malaysia at the Miss World pageant. This experience caught the attention of a fledgling Hong Kong film production company, D&B Films.

In 1984, her first film was The Owl vs. Bombo directed and performed by Sammo Hung, co-founder of D&B Films. Yeoh, who had hoped to become a swordswoman since childhood, was nominated for the Best Newcomer Award at the Hong Kong Film Awards with her second film “Yes, Madam”. In 1992, after her divorce, Yeoh became the most famous and highest paid actress in Asia at that time based on her role in “Police Story 3: Supercop” with Jackie Chan.

In 1997, Yeoh started her Hollywood career with “Tomorrow Never Dies”, the James Bond film released that same year. Three years later, the martial arts film “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”, directed by Ang Lee and starring Chow Yun-fat, Yeoh, Zhang Ziyi, was a great success, and won four awards including Best Foreign Language Film at the 73rd Academy Awards.

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In 2022, Everything Everywhere All at Once was released, and Yeoh celebrated her 60th birthday. She emphasized more than once that she had been waiting for this role for 40 years. This role seems to be tailor-made for her. Asian, middle-aged women and kung fu, all of which match Yeoh.

“For all the young boys and girls who look like me watching tonight, this is a beacon of hope and possibilities. This is proof to dream big and dreams do come true,” Yeoh gushed while accepting her Oscar. “Ladies, don’t let anybody tell you you’re ever past your prime.”