Forever proud of what Michelle achieved
Published on: Sunday, March 19, 2023
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The significance of her achievement in becoming an Oscar luminary is immeasurable when appreciated within the context of the pride of Malaysia, Asia, and non-white Hollywood stars. It happened after 95 years of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) – five years shy of a century! 
THE enormity of Tan Sri Michelle Yeohs success at the very peak of the world’s entertainment industry is not easy to fathom and fully appreciated on the first take. 

Winning the best actress award in the Golden Globes, Screen Actors; Guild and the independent Spirit Awards, and to top it up magnificently with a firm clutch of the universally-coveted Oscar – all within a couple of months and as the very first Asian to do so – is towering, historic victory by any measure.

No amount of applause and accolades will suffice to give full justice to her humongous success as an international actress now glowing as a veritable megastar, which, to quote her, “is a beacon of hope and possibilities” – and what possibilities indeed!

Her story is a perfect example of a struggle with true grit made possible by good genes, talent and hard work. 

Coming into the public space in 1983 after winning the Miss Malaysia pageant at the age of 21, she went through an acting career beyond the borders of Malaysia facing quite a lot of odds. 

After (fortunately) failing in her ambition to be a ballet dancer due to a back injury, she went on to star in advertisements and movies in Hong Kong in the early 1980s. To date she has totalled 51 movies, by far exceeding Elizabeth Taylor’s 44!

Those who had followed career only casually over the years would have missed the fact that she had been nominated for best actress award by various lesser film organisations numerous times, and had won around 30 times! 

Her latest outing with “Everything Everywhere All At Once” was the step that eventually exalted her to the Oscar glory. We may notice that the film’s title is coincidently so apt and descriptive of Michelle’s triumphant position at this moment! KFC Genting which celebrated her triumph posted online: “When you’re Michelle, you can surely conquer everything everywhere all at once. Congratulations to our Malaysian Bond Girl, we’ll always be proud of you in every universe.”

The significance of her achievement in becoming an Oscar luminary is immeasurable when appreciated within the context of the pride of Malaysia, Asia, and non-white Hollywood stars. It happened after 95 years of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) – five years shy of a century! 

It was only recently that Asian stars had found strong footing in white-dominated Hollywood, thanks to the pioneering impact of the entrance of Bruce Lee, Chow Yun Fatt and Jackie Chan. 

In the non-white characters were whitewashed with white actors.

Under all the glitters of tinseltown, there is the dog-eat-dog struggle for success even among the top echelons of actors. 

And that is not yet looking into the struggles of the estimated 100,000 qualified actors, most of whom never find work in Hollywood in which 98pc of actors are out of work!

Congratulatory messages for Yeoh had come from people of many walks in Malaysia, including no less than the Yang DiPertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah and Raja Permaisuri Agong Tunku Hajah Azizah Aminah Maimunah Iskandariah. 

The king posted felicitations on Instagram, expressing the royal couple’s “pride and joy over Michelle’s achievement that has placed Malaysia on the world map. 

This is proof that with dedication, high fighting spirit and hard work, Malaysians are capable of competing and succeeding at the international level,”

The prime minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, who acknowledged that the Oscar win had put Malaysia on the map. He posted jubilantly in Twitter and Facebook: “The Government joins the nation in expressing warmest and heartiest congratulations to Michelle for winning the highly coveted Oscar … creating history by being not just the first Malaysian but the very first Asian actress to win in this category, we take enormous pride in her achievement, adding to a long list of successes and capping a critically acclaimed acting career spanning decades.”

But none was more excited and prouder than Datin Janet Yeoh, Michelle’s mom, when her daughter (who she referred to as “my little princess”) was announced as best actress. 

Still in profuse outpouring of joyful tears in DADI Theatre in Kuala Lumpur’s Pavillion mall, she later said to the press, “I so love my daughter and she has made Malaysia proud. Malaysia boleh! I’m very excited, I’m proud of my daughter I love my daughter. My daughter is a hardworking girl.”

It’s also significant that Hong Kong actor Chapman To Man Chak has highlighted the fact that Michelle is a Malaysian, lest it slips the mind, saying, it was “A reminder to the Hong Kong government [that] Michelle Yeoh is Malaysian. Don’t take advantage and claim she is a Hong Konger,” 

The reason for having to make this reminder is perhaps the long neglect to emphasise Yeoh’s nationality in her long pursuit of success in the film industry. There was even a time when a large segment of Malaysians had no inkling about her Malaysian citizenship.

But now, at the age of 60, yet at times looking like she is still in her 40s, Yeoh has secured full recognition for herself facially and in terms of citizenship, as she glows in fame throughout the globe as a goddess in Hollywood, the world’s undisputed capital of the entertainment industry. 

To a certain extent this historic win at the Dolby Theatre at Ovation Hollywood should inspire many young Malaysians to pursue their respective dreams with aroused enthusiasm. But we can believe that her triumph may not be easily repeated by another aMalaysian, in the many years to come.

Raymond Tombung

- The views expressed here are the views of the writer Raymond Tombung and do not necessarily reflect those of the Daily Express.

- If you have something to share, write to us at: [email protected]


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