Michelle Yeoh had to wait 59 years to get her first leading part in a Hollywood movie. And it has taken 95 years for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to award the title of best actress to a woman who identifies as Asian.
The Malaysian-born performer, who rose to fame in Hong Kong's film industry before making a successful transition to the international arena, received her anticipated Academy Award nomination for her complex portrayal in A24's Everything Everywhere All at Once.
The 60-year-old revered icon, who is well-known in the United States for her supporting (yet scene-stealing) roles in movies like Crazy Rich Asians, Tomorrow Never Dies, and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, has received her first career Oscar nomination. The accomplishment, however, has even more significance for the Academy.
“It’s taken a long time. But I think this is more than me,” Yeoh told The Hollywood Reporter after the nominations were announced, speaking of the historic nod. “At the present moment, constantly, all the time, having Asians walking up to me saying, ‘You can do it, you’re doing it for us.’ It’s like, ‘I understand. I totally understand.’ All this time, they’ve not been recognized, they’ve not been heard.”
Historically, the Oscars' best actress category has been among the whitest and least diverse in the organization, at least among the four acting races. Sole a small percentage of nominees are women from the global majority, and Halle Berry, who won Monster's Ball more than 20 years ago, is the only one.
Only four Latinas have garnered nominations in the best actress category (beginning with Fernanda Montenegro in 1999), including Yalitza Aparicio, who is also one of only two Indigenous contenders, and hardly a dozen Black women have received nominations (the first was Dorothy Dandridge in 1955). (the first being Keisha Castle-Hughes in 2004).
Source: HollywoodReporter.com, People.com