Michelle Yeoh is proof that dreams really do come true

Prime time: Huge tributes are going up to Yeoh all over Kuala Lumpur. — Photo courtesy of Pavilion KL

PETALING JAYA: Tan Sri Michelle Yeoh will be bringing the coveted golden statuette home to Malaysia, she says after her momentous win at the 95th Academy Awards on Sunday night (Monday morning Malaysian time) for the movie Everything Everywhere All At Once.

Yeoh not only became the first Malaysian to bag an Oscar but is also the first Asian actress to win in the Best Actress category in the Academy’s history.

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“Thank you, thank you. For all the little boys and girls who look like me watching tonight, this is a beacon of hope and possibilities.

“This is proof that dreams do come true,” she said after accepting the Oscar from previous Best Actress winners Jessica Chastain and Halle Berry at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.

“And ladies, don’t let anyone ever tell you you’re past your prime,” added Yeoh, who, at 60, was the oldest among the nominees in her category.

The Malaysian star beat Australian actress and two-time Oscar winner Cate Blanchett, who was said to be her closest contender, for the prize.

ALSO READ: Yeoh, an inspiration to us all, says King

Other nominees in the Best Actress category included Ana De Armas, Michelle Williams and Andrea Riseborough.

“I have to dedicate this to my mum, all the mums in the world because they are really the superheroes, and without them, none of us would be here tonight,” she said in her acceptance speech.

“I’m taking this home to her. She’s watching right now in Malaysia, KL, with my family and friends. I love you guys. I’m bringing this home to you,” added Yeoh, who was dressed in Dior.

Her victory is seen as a watershed moment for the Asian community in the entertainment industry.

In the press room after receiving her award, Yeoh talked about the historic win.

“I think this is something we have been working so hard towards for a very long time and tonight, we freaking broke that glass ceiling!

“I kung fu-ed it out and shattered it,” she told the international media.

ALSO READ: Michelle Yeoh on breaking glass ceiling at Oscars: 'I kung fu-ed it out and shattered it'

Yeoh’s Oscar achievement came exactly a year after Everything Everywhere All At Once premiered at the popular South by Southwest Film Festival in the United States on March 11, 2022.

The Ipoh-born actress swept many accolades on the awards circuit for her role as Evelyn Wang, a harassed laundromat owner who has the ability to hop through multiverses in the movie directed by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, collectively known as The Daniels.

“Playing Evelyn Wang has been one of the great privileges of my 40-year career. It is truly the role of a lifetime. I will forever cherish this moment,” Yeoh said on social media in January.

Everything Everywhere All At Once, made with a budget of US$14.3mil (RM64mil) has grossed more than US$100mil (RM447mil) worldwide.

Initially, the role of the movie’s protagonist was written for Jackie Chan with Yeoh playing his wife.

But when the Hong Kong star turned it down, the role was re-written with Yeoh as the lead.

It marks the first time Yeoh was No.1 on the call sheet.

ALSO READ: Michelle Yeoh wins Best Actress at the Oscars: 'I'm bringing this home'

“I remember Jackie texting me and saying, ‘Congratulations! You know, did you realise that your boys (referring to The Daniels) came to see me first?’

“And I’m like, ‘Thank you, bro, you did me a huge favour!’,” Yeoh told CNN in an interview.

Even before she became the toast of Tinseltown, she was already a big star here at home and in Asia.

Yeoh’s showbiz career began after being crowned Miss Malaysia World in 1983.

She traded her sash for film scripts when she moved to Hong Kong where she carved a name for herself as an action star in movies such as Yes, Madam; Police Story 3: Supercop; and The Heroic Trio.

“I got myself into action films because I didn’t believe that women were damsels in distress. Their stories need to be told correctly,” Yeoh told the BBC.

Hollywood took notice of Yeoh’s work and she was offered the part of Bond girl Wai Lin opposite Pierce Brosnan in 1997’s Tomorrow Never Dies. The actress then starred in a string of Hollywood films such as Sunshine, Memoirs Of A Geisha, The Mummy 3 and Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2.

While she was steadily working, it wasn’t until her turn as the ice-cold Eleanor Young in 2018’s Crazy Rich Asians that Hollywood started to take notice of Yeoh again.

Her profile skyrocketed: between 2021 and 2022, she had seven projects out including Everything Everywhere All At Once and Marvel’s Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings.

Last year, she was named Time magazine’s Icon of the Year.

Suddenly, Yeoh found herself with a new kind of fame, and a new set of fans.

“Teenagers will come up to me at the supermarket and say, ‘You’re cool! Can we have a picture with you?’ Outwardly, I’ll smile and say, ‘Of course!’ But inwardly, I’m pumping my fist, screaming, ‘Yes! Finally! I’m cool!’,” she said last year.

Currently, Yeoh is working alongside Ariana Grande and Cynthia Erivo in the musical adaptation of Wicked.

She will next be seen in the thriller A Haunting In Venice, an adaptation of an Agatha Christie novel directed by Kenneth Branagh.

Yeoh is also set to appear in the US TV series American Born Chinese opposite another Malaysian actress, Yeo Yann Yann.

Everything Everywhere All At Once was nominated for 11 Oscars and took home seven, including Best Supporting Actor for Ke Huy Quan, Best Supporting Actress for Jamie Lee Curtis, Best Director and, the top prize, Best Picture.

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