Yeoh’s Oscar win long due victory for Asian community
Published: Mar 13, 2023 10:57 PM
Illustration: Liu Xiangya/Global Times

Illustration: Liu Xiangya/Global Times

At the 95th Academy Awards on Sunday, Michelle Yeoh, the Malaysian-born actress who rose to fame in Hong Kong film industry, made history by becoming the first woman of Asian descent to win the Best ­Actress award.

Yeoh was born in Malaysia to Chinese parents from East China's Fujian Province. A milestone for the Asian community, the win has triggered pride in many Asian countries including Malaysia and China.

 "For all the little boys and girls who look like me watching tonight, this is a beacon of hope and possibilities," Yeoh said while shedding tears during her acceptance speech, calling the moment "history in the making." 

"This is proof to dream big, that dreams do come true."

Throughout Yeoh's career, she has stood out in the male-dominated industry with her hard work and formidable acting talent. She solidified her reputation through a raft of big-budget action movies, including Ang Lee's 2000 martial arts movie Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

Then she had fewer opportunities in the industry afterward. The roles she took became more limited, categorized and restricted, so Everything Everywhere All at Once seems to have come at the right time. 

Yeoh' acclaimed performance in the multiverse adventure stems from her sophisticated acting experience. She once mentioned the role was not easy for her as the film cuts across many genres including comedy, drama and action, and she couldn't have been able to pull it off without her years of accumulated experience. Yeoh is proof that life in one's 60s can still be splendid. 

Her acceptance speech about "Ladies, don't let anybody tell you you're ever past your prime" has also shed light on those who are still pursuing their dreams, and strongly refutes the concept of "lying flat." 

Yeoh made a name for herself in the Hong Kong film scene in the 1980s and 1990s, and has been warmly congratulated by audiences from Hong Kong and all of China.

Kevin Yeung, secretary for the Culture, Sports, and Tourism Bureau of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, praised Yeoh's win as "well deserved" and pointed out that the win demonstrates the strength of Hong Kong actors and film industry. This award will also inspire more Chinese filmmakers.

Yeoh has been breaking through industry barriers and fighting against the marginalization and stereotyping of the Asian community in Hollywood for years.  

"Asians tend to not show so much emotion. And I think maybe it's a misconception that we don't need our stories told, which is not true," she said in an interview with BBC. "It's how we tell the story that makes a difference. The audience wants Hollywood to reflect the global community."

This historical night that happened at the Dolby Theatre also belonged to US actor Ke Huy Quan, who was born in Vietnam to parents of Chinese descent. 

He won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role in Everything Everywhere All At Once. His personal story mirrors the miserable status of Asian actors in Hollywood. 

"Hollywood didn't write roles for Asian actors," Quan said in an interview with the New York Times, explaining his two-decade absence from the screen. 

"We need this because there's so many who have felt unseen, unheard," Yeoh said, representing the voice of many Asian actors and actresses fighting for a career in Hollywood.

The result of this year's Oscars shows that Hollywood's attitude toward Asians may have begun to change, and it is indeed an opportunity to challenge unfair treatment and break down prejudices Asian actors face in the Western film industry.

"We believe in us. We believe in our Asian talent. We believe all of us have stories that need to be told and need to be embraced," Yeoh said in a previous interview. She is using her ground-breaking victory to prove that Asian actors who are dedicated to their craft can also win more accolades and gain the respect they deserve.