Tan Sri Dato Michelle Yeoh has always been one of Malaysia’s biggest pride since she kickstarted her acting career in the early 80s. The actress reached new milestones after being the first Malaysian and first Asian actress to be nominated for an Academy Award.
For many fans, she has been and still is the representation of Malaysia and Southeast Asia in Hollywood. Many grew up seeing themselves on the big screen through her but one can’t help but wonder if the icon has seen someone like herself in movies. Has she ever felt represented? In a recent interview, Michelle shared more about growing up in Malaysia and how the Asian film industry differs from Hollywood.
Speaking to People, Michell Yeoh shared more about growing up in Ipoh, Malaysia, surrounded by different races and cultures. The 60-year-old revealed that she actually has always seen herself on the big screen as she grew up watching both local and international movies. “In Malaysia, we are a very multiracial society so I’ve always seen myself on the big screen, the only difference was I never thought that I [myself] would be on the big screen,” she said.
In the same interview, the Oscar nominee even shared the culture shock and discrimination she experienced when she first came to Hollywood after a successful career in Hong Kong. “I was a little taken aback to be told that I was a minority [in America]. What does that mean? I don’t have a place here or do I have to work harder to be heard and be given opportunities?” The former Miss Malaysia even faced a form of racism at the time as people in Hollywood assumed she couldn’t speak English.
After the success of the James Bond movie “Tomorrow Never Dies“, the actress revealed that she stopped working until she starred in “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” in 2000. “I didn’t work for almost two years, until ‘Crouching Tiger’, simply because I could not agree with the stereotypical roles that were put forward to me,” said the Golden Globe winner.
After going through a rough journey to prove her skills and talents, Michelle said that she’s grateful that things have changed over the years and promised to keep fighting for diversity in the film industry, especially in Hollywood. In other news, the Malaysian legend recently shared her mother’s advice in preparation for the Academy Awards ceremony later this month.
“She just called me the other day. ‘If you’re going to the Oscars, you must not wear pants’,” she said during an interview on NBC’s Today’s Sunday Sitdown. The Best Actress nominee responded, “I was so naughty. I left her a message – ‘Oh, Mum, no, we tailor-made the tuxedo for me. So I’m wearing pants to the Oscars’,”. Watch the full People’s interview here: