Michelle Yeoh Is the Second Asian Woman to Be Nominated for Best Actress: 'It's Possible'
[Editor's note: On Tuesday, PEOPLE incorrectly stated that Michelle Yeoh had made history as the first Asian woman nominated for the Best Actress Oscar. The first Asian woman to be nominated for the award was in fact Merle Oberon, a biracial actress of South Asian origin, who was nominated in 1936 for her role in The Dark Angel. Oberon obscured her birthplace and biracial identity during her life.]
Michelle Yeoh is an Oscar nominee!
The Everything Everywhere All at Once star, 60, who nabbed her first Oscar nomination for Best Actress on Tuesday, also earned a special distinction as the second actress of Asian descent to do so.
Yeoh told Deadline following the Oscar nomination news: "I think what it means to me is all those Asians out there go, 'You see, it's possible. If she can do it, I can freaking well do it as well.' That is the most important thing. I'm very ordinary. I just work very hard. There are so many brilliant actresses, actors out there who know that they have a seat at the table. All they have to do is find an opportunity and get there."
The Malaysian-born actress — who is considered a Best Actress front-runner at the upcoming Academy Awards for her performance as Evelyn Wang in Everything Everywhere All at Once — told TIME last month that she has "thought about" the fact that no Asian woman has ever won Best Actress at the Oscars, adding, "And not just me — I feel like my full Asian community has thought about it."
"They come up to me and they say, 'You're doing it for us,'" Yeoh told TIME.
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Gilbert Flores/Variety via Getty
The Academy Awards have been criticized in the past for nominating primarily white actors. However, this year, several Asian actors have gotten nods from the Academy including Yeoh's costars Ke Huy Quan and Stephanie Hsu, as well as Hong Chau for The Whale. This marks the highest number of Asian acting nominees recognized by the academy in its history, according to Variety.
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She also told the publication that her desire for the recognition is "not about needing it," but instead feeling the "love from other people" for her work.
She added: "When you get an opportunity like this, you have to pour your heart and soul into it, because you don't know when the next chance is. I think that is my biggest fear: Please don't let this be the one and only."
David Bornfriend/A24 Michelle Yeoh in Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022)
Yeoh has picked up several honors on the awards trail this season, including a Golden Globe for best actress. She became only the second Asian actress to win the award (Awkwafina won the award in 2020 for her role in The Farewell).
RELATED: Michelle Yeoh Says She Wants — but Doesn't Need — an Oscar Win: 'My Arms Are Out Open'
She also accepted the Best Actress award from the National Board of Review, saying in her acceptance speech, "I am so incredibly proud to be the first Asian actress in 45 years to receive this honor."
"I hope it means that Hollywood and the filmmaking community recognizes what a watershed film this is, and all the things I've stood for and tried to accomplish in my four-decade career," she added.
Yeoh has also taken home best-actress accolades from the Saturn Awards and Hollywood Critics Association for her role in the movie, and was nominated for outstanding lead performance at the Gotham Independent Film Awards. She is also up for best lead performance at the Film Independent Spirit Awards, which will be held on March 4.
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Everything Everywhere All at Once became A24's first to cross $100 million at the global box office. The film also stars Jamie Lee Curtis, who also received a nod for her performance at the Academy Awards, Jenny Slate and Harry Shum Jr.
The 95th Academy Awards will air live ABC on March 12.