Michelle Yeoh Makes History as First Asian Woman to Win Best Actress Oscar

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The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has given an Asian woman the Oscar for best actress in a main role for the first time in its 95-year existence. Michelle Yeoh collected the award for her performance in Everything Everywhere All at Once, in which she portrays Evelyn Wang, the owner of a laundromat who is a first-generation Chinese immigrant and the centre of the absurdist universe of the movie.

As Yeoh approached the podium to claim her award, she was greeted with a prolonged standing ovation.

“For all the little boys and girls who look like me watching tonight, this is a light of hope and possibility,” she said while waving the Oscar statuette.

Don’t ever allow anyone tell you that you are past your prime, girls.

She gave her mother, whom she referred to as a “superhero,” a victory tribute.

Yeoh, who was born in Malaysia, rose to fame in Hong Kong cinema before becoming a household name thanks to roles in movies like Crazy Rich Asians, Tomorrow Never Dies, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and Memoirs of a Geisha. That was her first nomination for an Oscar.

Yeoh expressed her idea of a cultural turning moment where Asians may finally have a bigger voice in Hollywood and society in an interview with Alisa Chang of All Things Considered last April.

We just have to rock the boat and say, look at us, she said.

Try us because, well, guess what? We exist in your society. We are an important, intricate element of this entire community and of society. Only if we battle for it and can no longer say, “OK, I’ll turn the other cheek,” will we be able to take more opportunities. Darn it, no more turning the other cheek.

Yeoh’s performance in Everything Everywhere All at Once won her numerous honours prior to tonight’s ceremony, including a Golden Globe, an Independent Spirit Award, a SAG Award, several regional Film Critics Awards, and nominations for a Critics’ Choice Award and a BAFTA Award.

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