Michelle Yeoh Says She 'Kung Fu'd' and 'Shattered' Glass Ceiling at Oscars 2023
Michelle Yeoh is reminding people to never give up on their dreams.
The Malaysia-born star, 60, became the first Asian woman in history to win the award for Best Actress at Oscars 2023 on Sunday — and was fully aware of the significance.
"This is actually a historical moment, and I have to thank the Academy for acknowledging, embracing diversity and true representation," Yeoh told reporters after her big win for her role in Everything Everywhere All at Once.
"I think this is something that we have been working so hard towards for a very long time, and tonight we freaking broke that glass ceiling," she added. "I Kung Fu'd it out and shattered it, and we need this because there are so many who felt unseen, unheard."
"It's not just the Asian community," she continued. "This is for the Asian community and anyone who has been identified as a minority."
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Mike Coppola/Getty Images Michelle Yeoh with her Academy Award
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"We deserve to be heard; we deserve to be seen; we deserve to have the equal opportunity so we can have a seat at table," said Yeoh. "That's all we're asking for. Give us an opportunity. Let us prove we are worth it."
As far as what advice she has for others who may want to follow in her footsteps, Yeoh said that people should "never be afraid" of trying to live out their dreams.
Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic Michelle Yeoh poses in the press room at the 95th annual Academy Awards
"If this is your passion, this is your love, you have to stand up for yourself and for what you believe in and for what you want to do," she said.
"I'm still here today. Finally, after 40 years, I get this," she added in reference to her Academy Award while urging people to "never give up."
"Light that fire in your soul and stay on the path. Believe. Dare to dream. Because if you don't dream, it's impossible," she reminded, saying the best thing her mother taught her was confidence. "Nothing is impossible. Look at me, I'm here."
Arturo Holmes/Getty Images Michelle Yeoh with Brendan Fraser, Ke Huy Quan and Jamie Lee Curtis
Yeoh beat out Cate Blanchett, Ana de Armas, Andrea Riseborough and Michelle Williams to claim Best Actress on Sunday. The award was presented to her by Halle Berry, who herself shattered a glass ceiling in 2001 by becoming the first Black actress to win Best Actress for her role in Monster's Ball.
"Thank you, thank you. 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, dream big, and dreams do come true. And ladies don't let anybody tell you you are ever past your prime," Yeoh said on stage at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood. "Never give up"
"I have to dedicate this to my mom, all the moms in the world, because they are really the superheroes. And without them none of us would be here tonight," she continued.
"She's 84, and I'm taking this home to her," Yeoh added. "She's watching right now, in Malaysia with my family and friends. I love you guys, and I'm bringing this home to you. And also to my extended family in Hong Kong where I started my career. Thank you for letting me stand on your shoulders, giving me a leg up, so I can be here today."
"And to my godchildren, to my sisters, all of them, to my brothers, to my family — thank you! Thank you! Thank you to the Academy, this is history in the making," she concluded.
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Yeoh had never been nominated for an Oscar before she won Sunday. She recently reflected on her 40-year career with PEOPLE, recalling how the landscape had changed since she first started acting in Hong Kong.
"When I started off in 1984, women were relegated to being the damsel in distress," she said. "We need to be protected, according to our guys. But then I would go, 'No, guys, I think we can protect ourselves pretty well. And if push comes to shove, maybe I can protect you too.' "