Michelle Yeoh honoured with doctorate by AFI: 'You have made my mother the happiest mother in the world today'


It's Dr. Michelle Yeoh, to you. Photo: AFP

Tan Sri Michelle Yeoh has added another feather in her cap.

On Saturday (Aug 13), the celebrated Malaysian actress was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts by the American Film Institute (AFI). The AFI is a non-profit organisation dedicated to filmmaking and its various disciplines.

The event was held at Hollywood's TCL Chinese Theatre and on hand to present Yeoh the honour are her Everything Everywhere All At Once directors Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (collectively known as The Daniels).

A beaming Yeoh went on stage and started her speech by thanking AFI for making her mother "the happiest mother in the world", according to a report by The Hollywood Reporter.

“You have made my mother the happiest mother in the world today.

"I think now she actually thinks I’m an adult with a real job. I had to keep telling her, ‘I’m not a real doctor, I don’t write prescriptions, mum.’

"But she can go around telling everyone, ‘My daughter is a doctor',” Yeoh, who turned 60 on Aug 6, said.

(From left) Daniel Scheinert, Daniel Kwan and Honorary Doctorate recipient Michelle Yeoh appear on stage at the AFI Conservatory class of 2022 commencement ceremony at TCL Chinese Theatre on Aug 13, 2022 in Hollywood, California. Photo: AFP(From left) Daniel Scheinert, Daniel Kwan and Honorary Doctorate recipient Michelle Yeoh appear on stage at the AFI Conservatory class of 2022 commencement ceremony at TCL Chinese Theatre on Aug 13, 2022 in Hollywood, California. Photo: AFP

In her speech, she talked about how she learnt the trick of the trades from the ground up, literally.

Yeoh said when she started her acting career in Hong Kong, she trained at the gym with stuntmen who taught her how to fall.

“I was convinced I was being pranked. I was like, ‘When do I get to do the real stuff: the jumping kick, the roundhouse kick?'

“And they said to me, ‘How are you going to go up if you don’t know how to come down?’ That lesson sticks with me to this day. I had to learn how to fall.

"After I learned how to fall, I could learn how to fly," Yeoh said, according to the trade publication.

And flew she did. After many years establishing herself as a formidable action star in Hong Kong starring in movies such as Yes, Madam, Police Story 3 and The Heroic Trio, Yeoh's international break came when she was picked to be a Bond girl in 1997's Tomorrow Never Dies opposite Pierce Brosnan.

From then on, Yeoh has been busy in Hollywood with various projects such as Star Trek: Discovery, Memoirs Of A Geisha and Crazy Rich Asians.

This year alone, she stars in five movies – Everything Everywhere All At Once, The Minion: The Rise Of Gru, Paws Of Fury: The Legend Of Hank, The School Of Good And Evil and Avatar: The Way Of Water.

Present at the ceremony were the film school’s class of 2022 graduates. Yeoh had some advice for them.

“What I want to share with you today is that our slips and stumbles are the secrets to our flight. Every person who has ever stepped on the stage has had their fair share of crashes. Trust me, that’s part of the deal.

"Success without failure is called luck,” the Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon star said.

Yeoh also told the graduates that the art of story-telling is a privilege that they shouldn't take for granted.

“We are time travellers, world builders, change-makers. A scene you shoot on an average Tuesday may seed the dreams of a young child somewhere far away, inspire a future superstar or even begin an important conversation in our society," she said.

The actress ended her speech telling the graduates to "be courageous, take chances, break barriers".

"Be proud of what makes you unique. And most importantly, don’t be afraid to fall because you are learning to fly.”

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