Michelle Yeoh made history on Sunday night at the Oscars. The actress became the first Asian woman to receive the Academy Award in the Best Actress category.
Yeoh won the award for her performance as Evelyn — a laundromat owner who is being audited by federal authorities while she attempts to navigate the multiverse — in “Everything Everywhere All at Once.”
Everything Everywhere All at Once has dominated this year’s Oscars, winning seven awards including best picture on a big night for Asian and Asian American representation.
Michelle Yeoh became only the second woman of color to win the best actress Oscar, following in the footsteps of Halle Berry in 2002.
“For all the little boys and girls who look like me watching tonight this is a beacon of hope and possibility,” she said, before adding: “Ladies don’t ever let anyone tell you you are past your prime.”
Experts say that the historic seven-Oscar haul is a major sign to an industry that has too often ignored, exoticized, or stereotyped Asian and Asian American characters.
As the New York Times illustrated in a dismayingly sparse interactive report, just 23 of 1,808 acting nominees in the entire history of the Oscars could be identified as Asian, and only four have won.
Everything Everywhere All At Once is hailed for being an unabashedly Asian American film. And now it has been crowned the past year’s best movie on Hollywood’s biggest night.
That would be significant in any year, but it’s especially momentous in a year with a record number of Asian nominees overall, across songwriting, producing, and writing in films spanning genres from animation to documentary.
Yeoh’s acceptance speech included an apparent jab at CNN host Don Lemon, who sparked criticism last month for saying that a woman is in her prime only up to “maybe her 40s.”
Lemon said Nikki Haley is not “in her prime” and shouldn’t be throwing stones about the age of candidates seeking political office.