Michelle Yeoh Is The First Asian Woman To Be Nominated For A Best Actress Oscar

Michelle Yeoh’s first major job in a Hollywood film didn’t come up until she was 59 years old. Not only that, but it took the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences 95 years to award a best actress statuette to a woman who identifies as Asian.

The Malaysian-born actress, who rose to fame in Hong Kong’s film industry before making the transition to the international stage, was nominated for an Academy Award for her multifaceted performance in A24’s Everything, Everywhere, All at Once on Tuesday morning.

The revered icon, 60 years old, is most known in the United States for her supporting (yet scene-stealing) appearances in films like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Tomorrow Never Dies, and Crazy Rich Asians, and this is her first Oscar nomination. The significance of this victory, however, lies not just with the individual members but also with the Academy as a whole.

Michelle Yeoh nominated for Best Actress Oscar

On Tuesday, after the nominees were announced, The Hollywood Reporter mentioned the groundbreaking nomination. “Right now, I’m constantly, constantly being approached by Asians who tell me, ‘You can do it, you’re doing it for us.’ When you say this, people are basically saying, “I get it. I get it completely. Since the beginning, they have been ignored and their voices have not been heard.

The best actress Oscar category has always been one of the least diversified and most white categories in the whole awards show. Women from the world’s majority make up only a small fraction of the nominees, and Halle Berry is the only woman to have ever won Monster’s Ball (and that was over 20 years ago).

Only a dozen black women have been nominated for the best actress since Dorothy Dandridge in 1955, and only four Latinas have been nominated since Fernanda Montenegro in 1999. Yalitza Aparicio is one of only two Indigenous women to be nominated for best actress (the first being Keisha Castle-Hughes in 2004).

Asians make up the biggest single racial minority on the earth, but the Academy Awards have never honored a woman who identifies as Asian for the role of best actress. There are technicalities: Even though her mother was reputed of half Sri Lankan ethnicity, Merle Oberon (1936, The Dark Angel) passed as white and is credited with being the first Asian best actress nominee.

Similarly, Vivien Leigh, a two-time Oscar winner who was born in British-colonized India and whose mother may have had some Western Asian ancestry, was born in a country that was formerly a colony of the British Empire. In addition, none of the three has ever identified as Asian, even though Salma Hayek, Cher, and Natalie Portman have all claimed Western Asian ancestry (Lebanon, Armenia, and Israel/Russia, respectively) in the past.

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Star Michelle Yeoh Oscar Nomination Has Made History

The multiverse science fiction smash blockbuster Everything Everywhere All At Once swept the Oscar nominations of 2023. Including acting nods for Michelle Yeoh and her supporting actors Jamie Lee Curtis and Stephanie Hsu (who were snubbed at the Golden Globes) and Ke Huy Quan (who won a Golden Globe), the action comedy directed by Yeoh and starring Quan garnered a total of 11 nominations.

Yeoh, who was born in Malaysia, is the first Asian woman to be nominated for an Oscar as best actress. The Banshees of Inisherin, starring Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson, was the next most nominated film, followed by All Quiet on the Western Front, a terrible Netflix drama about an idealistic German soldier ordered to the trenches and directed by Edward Berger.

The 95th Oscars nominations were announced on Tuesday (Jan. 24) at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in California by Oscar winner Riz Ahmed and actor and producer Allison Williams. The nominations were announced in front of a live audience for the first time since 2016.

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