People in Malaysia have reacted with joy and jubilation after Michelle Yeoh became the first Asian to win the Best Actress Oscar, calling the Malaysian artist the “pride of Malaysia” and an “inspiration to all women and Malaysians”.
Yeoh’s family and friends at a viewing party in Kuala Lumpur screamed and cheered when her victory was announced on Monday.
All eyes were on her surprised and delighted mother, Janet Yeoh.
“She’s a very hard-working girl, you know. Everyone knows,” she said at a press conference afterwards in front of a poster of her daughter that read “Pride of Malaysia.”
The actress’s niece, Vicki Yeoh, looked momentarily stunned when the announcement was made, clutched her face and let out a huge scream as tears welled up.
“Stunning moment,” she said. “I was speechless. I cried. It happened so fast, and we are so happy that she won, that our aunt won.
Born to Chinese-Malay parents in the northern city of Ipoh, 60-year-old Yeoh won the award for her portrayal of Chinese-American laundromat owner Evelyn Wang, who deals with family unrest in the sci-fi comedy Everything Everywhere All at Once.
It was Yeoh’s first Oscar nomination and she was widely regarded as the front runner.
Yeoh made her Hollywood breakthrough when she was cast as the first ethnic Chinese Bond girl in 1997’s Tomorrow Never Dies opposite Pierce Brosnan. She also starred in the 2000 martial arts film Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, the 2005 historical drama Memoirs of a Geisha, and the 2018 romantic comedy Crazy Rich Asians.
In her acceptance speech, Yeoh called her victory a “beacon of hope and opportunity” for “all the boys and girls who are like me”. Dedicating her triumph to her mother and all the mothers in the world, she also said, “Ladies, don’t let anyone tell you that you’ve ever passed your peak. Never give up.”
Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim praised Yeoh’s success, calling her career illustrious and exemplary, and saying it would continue to inspire Malaysians.
“Making history by becoming not only the first Malaysian but the first ever Asian actress to win in this category, we are immensely proud of her achievement, which adds to a long list of achievements and culminates in a highly acclaimed acting career of decades,” Anwar said in a statement on his Facebook page.
March 13, 2023
The government along with the nation extends its warmest and heartiest congratulations to Tan Sri Michelle Yeoh for winning the coveted Best Actress in a Leading Role Oscar at the 95th Academy Awards in Los Angeles today.#MalaysiaMADANI pic.twitter.com/7uc3pbzEox
— Anwar Ibrahim (@anwaribrahim) March 13, 2023
Sports Minister Hannah Yeoh, who attended the viewing, immediately posted on social media: “Most inspiring quote for all of us aunts – ‘Ladies, don’t ever let anyone tell you you’re past your prime.'”
Most Inspirational Quote For All Of Us Aunts – “Ladies, Don’t Let Anyone Ever Tell You You’re Past Your Best Years” – Michelle Yeoh
— Hannah Yeoh (@hannahyeoh) March 13, 2023
Rozaidi Jamil, president of the Malaysian Artists Association, told the FMT website that Yeoh has set a new bar.
“Yeoh’s achievements serve as an inspiration and a reminder that talent and hard work can take you far, no matter your background or where you come from,” he said.
On Malaysian social media, Tan Sri Michelle Yeoh was trending. Yeoh was awarded the title of “Tan Sri” by the Malaysian king in 2013, one of the country’s highest honors for civilians.
“History made for Asia and Malaysia,” lawmaker Syed Saddiq wrote. “Such incredible talent is a testament to how great an inspiration she is to all women and Malaysians.”
Congratulations Tan Sri Dato’ Seri Michelle Yeoh on your win!
History made for Asia and Malaysia 🇲🇾
She is the first Asian woman to win the Best Actress award in Oscars!
Such an incredible talent is a testament to how great an inspiration she is to all women and Malaysians. pic.twitter.com/QqhsviXVub
— Syed Saddiq (@SyedSaddiq) March 13, 2023
Lawmakers Sim Tze Sin and Wee Ka Siong also thanked Yeoh for “breaking glass ceilings” for Asian and Malaysian women, praising her for being an icon of resilience and perseverance.
Twitter user @AreKayRK said Yeoh’s win was “well deserved” and wrote: “Thank you for making Malaysia proud.”
Twitter user @EmilyJaneDancer said the importance of the award went beyond Yeoh herself.
“As a Malaysian who is in the US for grad school and is a dancer in the tough competitive performing arts field, Michelle Yeoh’s win and speech mean EVERYTHING,” she wrote.