The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has presented the Oscar for best actress in a leading role to an Asian woman for the first time in its 95-year history. Michelle Yeoh accepted the Oscar for her performance as Evelyn Wang, the Chinese first-generation immigrant proprietor of a laundry in the center of the film’s absurdist multiverse, in Everything Everywhere All at Once.
As she headed to the stage to claim her award, Yeoh received an extended standing ovation.
She held up the Oscar trophy and declared, “For all the young boys and girls who like me who are watching tonight, this is a light of hope and opportunity.”
“And ladies, don’t let anyone ever tell you you are past your prime.”
She devoted her victory to her mother, whom she described as a “superhero.”
Yeoh, who was born in Malaysia, rose to prominence in Hong Kong cinema before gaining international recognition in films such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Memoirs of a Geisha, Tomorrow Never Dies, and Crazy Rich Asians. This was her first nomination for an Oscar.
In an April 2013 interview with Alisa Chang of All Things Considered, Yeoh stated that she believed Asians may finally find a larger voice in Hollywood and society.
“All we have to do is rock the boat and demand attention,” she remarked. “Give us a chance, for guess what? We exist within your culture. We are members of society and an integral component of this entire community. This is the only way we will receive more opportunities: by fighting for them and refusing to say, “Well, I’ll turn the other cheek. Never longer will I turn the other cheek!”
Before tonight’s event, Yeoh’s efforts in Everything Everywhere All at Once earned her numerous honors, including a Golden Globe, an Independent Spirit Award, a number of local Film Critics Awards, a SAG Award, and nominations for a Critics’ Choice Award and a BAFTA Award.