Michelle Yeoh and representation in Hollywood

by Katherine Winton (’25) | March 10, 2023

Art by Tessa Gross (’24)

Initially released by A24 on March 11, 2022, Everything Everywhere All At Once was an incredible success, grossing over $103 million and becoming the first A24 film to cross the $100 million mark. Starring Michelle Yeoh as Evelyn Quan Wang, the film encompasses elements of many genres but mainly fits into science fiction and comedy-drama. While many aspects of the film are widely praised, one of its most notable features is Yeoh’s spectacular performance. On January 10 of this year, Yeoh received the Golden Globe award for Best Actress in a Musical/Comedy Motion Picture, her first Golden Globe award of her forty-year career.

Yeoh’s acceptance speech was a well-told story of her time as an actress in Hollywood, specifically referencing her experiences as a minority in Hollywood and the importance of the diverse perspectives in Everything Everywhere All At Once. She said that as she grew older, she felt that opportunities were decreasing, until she was asked to star in the film. This statement, though already impactful as a testament to the fewer opportunities provided to older women in the film industry, was amplified when she spoke of her struggles as an Asian American immigrant. She described how when she first immigrated from Malaysia, people were surprised by the fact that she spoke English and told her that she was a minority because of her looks. In this simple anecdote, Yeoh called out Hollywood culture while simultaneously celebrating that a movie like Everything Everywhere All At Once could now be created.

In both her acceptance speech and an interview with Jimmy Kimmel, Yeoh discussed the honor of being able to play “a normal, aging, immigrant Asian woman as a hero” in the film. She said this was significant because people see these women everyday, “going to the supermarket or Chinatown,” but they go by unnoticed. It was “wonderful that [she] had the opportunity to give this woman a loud voice and let her be a superhero.” In an industry where most films do not feature Asian women as heroes of the story, let alone aging women, this movie gave them a voice and allowed them to be seen.

While I watched her speech, one of the most impactful moments was its conclusion, when she said, “This is also for all the shoulders I’ve [stood] on, all who came before me who loo[k] like me, and all who are going on this journey with me forward, so thank you for believing in us.” This is more than just an acknowledgement of thanks for the people and organizations that made the production of the film possible. It highlighted the difficult journey that minorities (specifically Asian American women) experience to receive recognition in popular media and serves as a thank-you to people who have continued to support this goal.

Clearly, Yeoh’s work to bring a voice to those who have not been afforded one in the past will serve as an inspiration for all aspiring actors and actresses in Hollywood. No matter where Yeoh’s career goes from here, her role in Everything Everywhere All At Once and work increasing the representation of minorities in Hollywood has made her career worth the forty years.

Categories: Entertainment

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