Client: Michelle Yeoh – Talent
“Everything Everywhere All at Once” star Michelle Yeoh has made history with her win for best performance by a female actor in a leading role at the Screen Actors Guild Awards, becoming the first Asian woman to win a leading film acting award.
“I think if I speak my heart will explode,” an emotional Yeoh said on stage while accepting her award. “SAG- AFTRA, to get this from you who understand what it is to get here… everyone of you know the journey, the roller coaster ride, the ups and downs. But most importantly we never give up. I thank you… This is not just for me, this is for every little girl who looks like me.”
The actress then paused, turning away from the podium to compose herself but eventually relenting with an excited litany of curses screaming “shit” and “fuck” to an elated crowd. “Thank you for giving me a seat at the table and tonight you’ve shown us that it is possible,” she said. “I’m grateful and my mom will be eternally grateful to all of you.”
Only the second Asian woman nominated as best actress after Ziyi Zhang for “Memoirs of a Geisha” (2005), Yeoh is also the second Asian woman ever to win a film acting prize after following Yuh Jung Youn’s supporting actress triumph for “Minari” (2020). Other Asian winners have come from the television categories, including two-time winner Sandra Oh (“Grey’s Anatomy” and “Killing Eve”) and “Squid Game” stars Lee Jung-jae and Hoyeon Jung at last year’s ceremony.
Yeoh isn’t the only Asian nominee (or winner) from this year’s ceremony. Her “Everything Everywhere” co-star Ke Huy Quan became the first Asian male to win an individual film acting award, and Stephanie Hsu was also nominated in supporting actress. Hong Chau from “The Whale ” was nominated alongside Hsu,” marking the first time in SAG history two Asians were nominated in the same category.
This year’s SAG best actress roster is the most ethnically diverse lineup in the 29-year history of the guild, marking the first time women of color were the majority, including Ana de Armas (“Blonde”), Viola Davis (“The Woman King”) and Danielle Deadwyler (“Till”). However, only de Armas and Yeoh translated to the Oscar lineup, which added Andrea Riseborough (“To Leslie”) and Michelle Williams (“The Fabelmans”). The major precursors have embraced Cate Blanchett (“Tár”), who won the Golden Globe for lead actress drama, Critics Choice and BAFTA prizes thus far.
Yeoh’s turn as laundromat owner Evelyn is among her film’s leading 11 Oscar nominations. She’s only the second Asian nominated for the best actress Oscar since Merle Oberon for “The Dark Angel” (1935). In 95 years of the Academy Awards, only five actors of Asian descent have won Oscars: Ben Kingsley (“Gandhi”) and F. Murray Abraham (“Amadeus”) for best actor, Haing S. Ngor (“The Killing Fields”) for supporting actor, and Miyoshi Umeki (“Sayonara”) and the aforementioned Youn in supporting actress
Final Oscar voting takes place from March 2-7.