Why Halle Berry Presenting Michelle Yeoh With Her Best Actress Oscar Win Was So Significant

Oscar-winning actress Halle Berry was one of two presenters at the 2023 Oscars to bestow Everything Everywhere All at Once star Michelle Yeoh with her historic best actress award.

It was a significant moment for the 95th Academy Awards, Berry and Yeoh for a number of reasons, including a presenter change that was only possible because of a defining event of the 2022 ceremony (and a running joke during this year’s awards show).

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Yeoh became the first Asian woman to win the best actress Oscar and only the second woman of color to take home that award. She was presented with that honor by Berry, who was the first actress of color and first Black woman to win in the category more than 20 years ago.

Berry presenting was due in part to a break with Oscars tradition, which typically has the previous year’s best actor winner present that year’s best actress category. But 2022’s best actor winner was Will Smith, who was banned from attending any Film Academy events, including the Oscars, for 10 years after slapping Chris Rock onstage.

(According to Oscars executive producer Ricky Kirshner, presenter decisions are taken “seriously” with “a lot of discussions with the talent, and a lot of negotiations.” However, the decision to replace Smith with Berry was simply part of a new approach to pairing presenters for the show. “As far as Halle and Jessica, we also had Ari [Ariana DeBose] and Troy [Kotsur] give the two supporting awards together, we just tried to do things a little differently this year,” he told The Hollywood Reporter.)

Michelle Yeoh accepts the Best Actress award for Everything Everywhere All at Once from Jessica Chastain and Halle Berry onstage during the 95th Annual Academy Awards at Dolby Theatre on March 12, 2023 in Hollywood, California.
Michelle Yeoh accepts the best actress Oscar from Halle Berry at the 2023 Academy Awards.

Ahead of the ceremony, fellow best actress presenter Jessica Chastain — who has been a vocal advocate for gender equity in Hollywood herself — shared with Entertainment Tonight that while she was not at the rehearsals because of her Broadway play A Doll’s House, she was “so excited since they told me we were gonna present together,” before adding to Berry, who joined her for part of the interview, “I am so honored to do this with you.”

Berry herself noted during the carpet interview that going out onstage with Chastain to present the best actress winner “was gonna be a moment” and added that if Yeoh took home the trophy, she would likely be the most emotional onstage. “If she does, I get to give her that,” Berry said ahead of Yeoh’s win. “If I do, I’ll be a bigger mess than she is. Watch for it.”

That shared emotion of Yeoh’s win came to fruition and was ultimately captured onstage by the Oscars telecast cameras. It was a moment Yeoh said backstage was significant for Asian representation that “frickin’ broke that glass ceiling.”

“This is for the Asian community, but for anybody who’s been identified as a minority,” she said. “We deserve to be seen. We deserve to have equal opportunity so we can have a seat at the table. That’s all we’re asking for. Give us that opportunity; let us prove that we’re worth it.”

Yeoh’s comments echoed sentiment that Berry herself shared as she took the Oscars stage for her Monster’s Ball win two decades ago — a moment she described as “so much bigger” than heself while accepting her award. “It’s for every nameless, faceless woman of color that now has the chance because this door tonight has been opened.”

The night was ultimately a literal win for Yeoh and representation in Hollywood for the Asian community, but it could also be seen as a personal win for Berry, who has lamented that no other women of color had won in the category since her historic first. In 2017, the lack of fellow winners of color had Berry feeling like her win was “meaningless.”

“That moment really meant nothing,” Berry told Teen Vogue. “It meant nothing. I thought it meant something, but I think it meant nothing.”

And in a 2022 interview with GMA that marked 20 years since Berry’s win, she noted that she felt “completely heartbroken that there’s no other woman standing next to me in 20 years.

“I thought, like everybody else, that night meant a lot of things would change,” she added. “That there would be other women. I thought I would have the script truck back up to my front door and I’d have an opportunity to play any role I wanted. That didn’t happen. No other woman is standing there.”

March 13, 1:30 p.m. This story was updated with comments from Oscars producers about the decision to have Halle Berry co-present the best actress winner.

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