Michelle Yeoh took home an award and made history at last night’s National Board of Review gala. The Oscar favorite received Best Actress honors for “Everything Everywhere All At Once,” a sci-fi comedy about a Chinese American woman who is forced to deal with the fallout of an interdimensional rupture. “I am so incredibly proud to be the first Asian actress in 45 years to receive this honor,” Yeoh said at the ceremony, per Indiewire.
The star announced, “My real name is Yeoh Choo-Kheng.” Yeoh was told she “needed to take a Western name.” Thus, “Yeoh Choo-Kheng became Michelle Yeoh. We were told it would make it easier to sell our films, tell our stories to the rest of the world,” Yeoh recalled. When “Hollywood came calling,” she considered it “an absolute dream come true.” “We all wanted to go to Hollywood — until I got there. Suddenly, I was a minority. How did that happen? There are more of me than you!” she said. “Thankfully, I did find visionary filmmakers who understood the importance of representation,” she added.
Yeoh described the opportunity to play her “Everything Everywhere All At Once” character, Evelyn Wang, as a “gift.” She emphasized, “I hope that Hollywood and the filmmaking community recognize what a watershed film this is and [that it represents] all the things I’ve stood for and tried to accomplish in my four-decade career. This award proves we can tell our own stories on our own terms and embrace something as simple and as important as our given names.”
Academy Award nominations will be announced January 24. Yeoh is considered a shoo-in to receive a Best Actress nom. If she wins, she’ll become the first Asian woman to top the category. Only one other Asian woman has been nominated for Best Actress: Merle Oberon for “The Dark Angel” in 1935.
With her 2021 supporting actress win for “Minari,” Youn Yuh-Jung became the first Asian actress to win an Oscar in 63 years.