LOS ANGELES (AP) – Michelle Yeoh won the Academy Award for Best Actress and made history all at once.
The Malaysian-born actress on Sunday night became the first Asian woman to win the Academy Award for Best Actress for her versatile performance in the multiverse “Everyone Everywhere All at Once”.
“To all the little boys and girls who look up to me tonight, this is a beacon of hope and possibility. It is proof that dreams dream big and dreams do come true,” she said.
Yeoh’s win comes nearly 90 years after Louis Reiner, a white actor, won in the same category for donning “yellowface” for playing a Chinese villager in “The Good Earth.”
As a nominee, Yeoh was the first in the category to identify as Asian. Merle Oberon, who was nominated for “The Dark Angel” in 1935 but did not win, hid her South Asian heritage, according to birth records.
In front of reporters in the press room, he happily accepted the historic moment.
“I think it’s something we’ve been working hard for for a very long time and tonight we broke that glass ceiling! I kung fu-ed it and shattered it,” Yeoh said .
Yeoh beat out previous Oscar winner Cate Blanchett (“Tar”) as well as Michelle Williams (“The Fablemans”), Ana de Armas (“Blonde”) and Andrea Riseborough (“To Leslie”).
The category also received notice for who was not nominated: in a year of strong performances from black women such as Viola Davis (“The Woman King”) and Danielle Deadwiler (“Till”), they were shut out. Meanwhile some criticized the grassroots campaigning by A-listers on social media for Riseborough.
Yeoh also used his speech to honor his 84-year-old mother.
“I have to dedicate this to my mom and all the moms in the world because they truly are superheroes and without them none of us would be here tonight,” she said.
Janet Yeoh gets to see her daughter’s win at a live Oscars watch party in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Yeoh said that his mother “has always instilled in me confidence, taught me about love, taught me about kindness and compassion.” He also followed his mother’s last advice.
“Recently he told me to do, ‘Don’t wear pants to the Oscars.'”
Yeoh became a lock after winning awards everywhere, including a Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Award for her nuanced portrayal of Evelyn, an immigrant Chinese wife, mother and laundromat operator getting ready for a tax audit.
His win was one of seven Oscars for “Everything Everywhere at Once”, including Best Picture and Editing. Jamie Lee Curtis and Ke Hui Quan also won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert won Best Director and Original Screenplay.
Yeoh got his start in the world of kung fu cinema, but rose to fame in 1992 as Jackie Chan’s co-star in “Supercop”. “crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon.”
When he first read the script for “Everything Everywhere”, Yeoh thought it was “an independent film on steroids”. She was intrigued by the opportunity to finally give a voice to immigrant mothers and grandmothers who go unnoticed. The multiverse film was also a showcase across multiple genres – drama, comedy, sci-fi and fantasy.
At 60, Yeoh has been in high demand since her standout turn as a controlling matriarch in “Crazy Rich Asians.” From there, she’s done everything from “Star Trek” spinoffs to Marvel’s “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.”
Yeoh will next be seen in the Disney+ series “American Born Chinese” later this year. She is set to reunite with “Crazy Rich Asians” director John M. Chu for the screen adaptation of the musical “Wicked”.
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