'Don’t let anyone say you're past your prime': Michelle Yeoh's epic win

‘Don’t let anyone say you’re past your prime’: Michelle Yeoh’s epic win and call to women and girls 

Michelle Yeoh

Michelle Yeoh’s history-making Oscar win saw the acting legend appealing to the needs of women and girls and the opportunity to better fight ageism.

Yeoh was recognised for her lead role in the Daniels’ film Everything Everywhere All at Once, becoming the first Asian woman to take home the Best Actress in the Oscars’ 95 award ceremonies.

The 60-year old Malaysian legend used her speech to remind women to not let other people dampen your ambitions.

“Ladies, don’t let anybody tell you you are ever past your prime,” she said. “Never give up.”

Yeoh become only the second woman of colour to be awarded Best Actress — twenty-one years after Halle Berry won for her role in Marc Forster’s 2001 film, Monster’s Ball.

Yeoh began her speech with inspiring advice. 

“For all the little boys and girls who look like me watching tonight, this is a beacon of hope and possibilities. This is proof that dreams — dream big, and dreams do come true.” 

Yeoh dedicated her golden statue to her mother, Janet Yeoh, and to “all the moms in the world because they are really the superheroes. And without them, none of us would be here tonight.”

“She’s 84 and I’m taking this home to her. She’s watching right now in Malaysia, KL, with my family and friends. I love you guys, I’m bringing this home to you.”

At an Oscars watch party in Kuala Lumpur, Janet’s reaction was captured on film as the room exploded into applause. 

“I’m proud of my daughter,” Yeoh’s mother told reporters after her daughter was announced as the winner. “I love my daughter. My daughter is a very hard-working girl.”

Yeoh also used her speech to thank her extended family in Hong Kong where she began her career more than 35 years ago.

“Thank you for letting me stand on your shoulders, giving me a leg up so that I can be here today,” she said.

She acknowledged the cast and crew of the film, Everything Everywhere All at Once, which was the evening’s biggest winner — taking home seven Oscars, including Best Editing, Best Director (for Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert) Best Original Score and Best Original Screenplay. 

The last time a film scored as many Oscars was back in 2009, when Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire took home eight awards, including Best Picture, Best Directing, Best Adapted screenplay and Best Cinematography. 

Yeoh also used her win to highlight the need for women’s voices and leadership, especially as humanitarian crises continue to ravage parts of the world. 

Writing a personal Op Ed in the New York Times, Yeoh platformed her role as a United Nations Development Program goodwill ambassador to draw attention to the disproportionate burden women and girls face during a crisis. 

“Crises aren’t just moments of catastrophe: They expose deep existing inequalities,” she wrote.

“Those living in poverty, especially women and girls, bear the brunt. In the immediate aftermath of a disaster, lack of sanitation, health facilities and safety disproportionately affect women. In my time as a goodwill ambassador, I have seen up close how women and girls are often the last to go back to school and the last to get basic services like clean water, vaccines, identity cards and counselling.”

“I’m 60 years old, and I just won my first Oscar. I know something about perseverance, and I am all too aware of what society expects of women. I’m also well aware that my experience can’t compare at all with that of the women heroes I met who are on the front lines of crises.”

“But if I can do one thing with this moment of my professional joy, it would be to point the spotlight on those who all too often go unacknowledged, the women who are rebuilding their communities, taking care of children and older people and putting food on the table. Let’s make sure they are not missing from the room when decisions are being made that affect them the most.”

Everything Everywhere All at Once nabbed two other major acting awards on Sunday, including Jamie Lee Curtis, who took home Best Supporting Actress. 

The 64-year old Hollywood royalty thanked the moviegoers who have supported her during her career since the 1970s, when she began starring in the “Halloween” films. 

“To all of the people who have supported the genre movies that I have made for all of these years, the thousands and hundreds of thousands of people, we just won an Oscar together,” she said. 

It was a big night for Asian American performers, who were recognised in more than one Oscars category in a single year — a first.

Curtis’ co-star Ke Huy Quan became the first Vietnamese-born actor to win an Oscar, taking home Best Supporting Actor for his role as Yeoh’s husband in Everything Everywhere All at Once.

Continuing his streak of heart-felt, authentic acceptance speeches this awards season, the 51-year old described his win as “the American dream.”

“My journey started on a boat,” he said. “I spent a year in a refugee camp. And somehow, I ended up here on Hollywood’s biggest stage. They say stories like this only happen in the movies. I cannot believe it’s happening to me. This, this is the American dream.”

Quan made an emotional gesture to his wife, saying “I owe everything to the love of my life, my wife Echo, who month after month, year after year for 20 years, told me that one day my time will come.”

Quan becomes only the second Asian actor to win Best Supporting Actor — 38 years after the first — which was won by Cambodian American performer, Haing S. Ngor for Roland Joffé’s 1984 biographical drama, The Killing Fields.

The host on Sunday night, Jimmy Kimmel, also made a touching tribute to one of the Best Picture’s stars – 94-year-old Chinese American James Hong, explaining to audiences his 650+ film and TV credits. 

Kimmel told audiences that Hong began working as a civil engineer before turning to acting at the age of 25. 

“James, allow me to say, you are one of our great living actors and one of our worst civil engineers,” Kimmel said. “The roads are unconscionable. But we salute you, James.” 

Other major wins for women on Sunday night include Sarah Polley, who won Best Adapted Screenplay for her adaptation of Miriam Toews’ 2018 best seller Women Talking.

She said in her speech, “I just want to thank the Academy for not being mortally offended by the words ‘women’ and ‘talking’ put so close together like that.”

Costume designer Ruth Carter took home her second Oscar for her work in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, making her the first Black woman ever to win two Oscars. 

“Nice to see you again,” Carter began her acceptance speech. “Thank you for recognising the superhero that is a Black woman.”

The legendary costume designer dedicated the award to her late mother, who passed away earlier in the week. 

“She endures, she loves, she overcomes. She is every woman in this film,” she said. “She is my mother.” 

One of our favourite moments of the evening came from  Pakistani activist for girls’ education and the Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Malala Yousafzai, who had the best response to Kimmel’s silly question: “Do you think Harry Styles spit on Chris Pine?

Yousafzai replied, straight-faced: “I only talk about peace.”


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