Michelle Yeoh makes history as first Asian Best Actress winner at Oscars 2023

Born in Malaysia, her win marks the first time an actress from the continent has won in the category in the awards' 95-year history

Malaysian actress Michelle Yeoh accepts the Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role for Everything Everywhere All at Once. AFP
Powered by automated translation

Michelle Yeoh made history on Sunday night, becoming the first Asian woman to win a Best Actress Oscar in the awards’ 95-year history.

Malaysia-born Yeoh took the award for her role in Everything Everywhere All at Once, the absurdist comedy-drama, directed by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert. She plays Evelyn Wang, an ageing Chinese immigrant, who is swept up in a bizarre and magical adventure that has her exploring and connecting with parallel universe versions of herself.

Accepting the award, the actress said: “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, dream big. And dreams do come true. And ladies, don’t let anyone ever tell you you are past your prime. Never give up.”

While there have been other winners in the Best Oscars category who have been of Western Asian descent, such as Vivien Leigh, Yeoh is the first winner to identify as Asian.

Yeoh rose to fame as a star of Hong Kong cinema, before landing roles in global films such as Tomorrow Never Dies, Crazy Rich Asians, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Memoirs of a Geisha.

In January, Yeoh also won the Golden Globe for Best Actress, during which she jokingly told Golden Globe producers to "shut up" after music began playing midway through her acceptance speech.

"I can beat you up," she said, amid laughter from the crowd. "And that's serious."

“I’m just going to stand here and take this all in,” she said, grasping the golden statuette. “Forty years … I’m not letting go of this.”

Everything Everywhere All at Once came to the Oscars as the most-nominated film with 11 nods, and has ended the night with the most wins, a total of seven, including the night’s biggest award, Best Picture.

Yeoh’s co-star, Ke Huy Quan, took the award for Best Supporting Actor, fighting through tears in an emotional acceptance speech.

Taking to the stage, he shouted out his mother, 84, who was watching at home. “Mum, I just won an Oscar!” he said.

“My journey started on a boat. I spent a year in a refugee camp. And somehow, I ended up here on Hollywood’s biggest stage. They say stories like this only happen the movies. I cannot believe it’s happening to me. This — this is the American dream!”

Find all the action from the Oscars as they happened here.

Oscar winners 2023 - in pictures

Updated: March 13, 2023, 7:29 AM