Hell yes- Michelle Yeoh deserves it. The Malaysian actress has experienced a massive career boost in modern Western media since her performance in “Everything, Everywhere, All at Once.” Combining bombastic martial arts, humor, and heartfelt drama, Yeoh finds herself back in the mainstream. We can’t think of Time Magazine’s Icon of the Year going to anyone else.
Yeoh has experienced a fantastic career in Asian films. But that wasn’t the plan to start with. Yeoh originally had aspirations of becoming a ballet dancer. But an unfortunate spinal injury cut that path short. It wasn’t until her mother entered her into a Miss Malaysia pageant that her career in film began. From filming an ad with Jackie Chan to becoming a juggernaut of Asian cinema.
But it’s only been the last couple years Yeoh’s work has earned her bigger and bigger roles in Western film. Even after the critical and cultural success of Ang Lee‘s “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” 2000, it’s been a struggle for Yeoh to find mainstream leading roles. “It shouldn’t be about my race, but it has been a battle,” says Yeoh.
“I Hit The Jackpot”
“Everything, Everywhere, All at Once” brought her chops- both literal and figurative- to the forefront. With an Asian main cast, it showcased the talents of Yeoh and her co-stars, all delivering dramatic and amazing performances. But the emotional range of Yeoh was a breakout performance. She further proved representation not only matters, but can enrich movies with cultural significance and new perspectives.
What makes Yeoh happiest is the younger generations recognizing her talents, realizing that she’s more than just an actress to be typecast. In Asian film circles, she earned a reputation for nailing stunts and action sequences. That knowledge and skill, brought her to Marvel Studios’ “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” proving you can be a badass even at 60.
Her hard work and dedication to her craft haven’t gotten in the way of her compassion, either. She carries herself with a deep humility, kindness, and respect, knowing her spotlight in Western films been hard won. She’s content to ride this wave for as long as it will carry her, citing that nothing lasts forever. So she’s going to enjoy it while it lasts.
We’ll next be seeing Michelle Yeoh in “American Born Chinese” on Disney+, where she’ll be playing a literal Goddess. Hopefully, her “Star Trek: Discovery” spinoff series “Section 31” will actually happen. And hopefully again in a few weeks when the Academy Awards announces their nominations for the Oscars.