Over the past 30 years, Michelle Yeoh, 56, has carved out a special space for herself among the Hollywood elite – a female action star recognized not only for her good looks, but for her impressive martial arts skills and compelling portrayal of complex characters on the big screen.
From geishas to martial arts warriors, Yeoh has built a prolific acting career with a diverse list of roles. Her most recent role in the newly released, Crazy Rich Asians, is yet another testament to the immense talent that Yeoh possesses as she delivered a potentially Oscar-worthy performance as a multifaceted and disapproving matriarch.
And after three decades of consistently showcasing her diverse talents as an actress, Yeoh is long overdue for all the recognition that she is receiving.
Despite appearing in countless action and drama blockbusters over the years such as Memoirs of a Geisha, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Tomorrow Never Dies, and Supercop, to name a few, Yeoh has never quite reached the level of prestige in America that many feel she deserves.
In Asia, Yeoh is well-known as one of the most accomplished actresses out there which is in sharp contrast to the level of fame that she’s achieved here in the U.S., likely due to Hollywood’s confounding reluctance to put Asian women in starring roles.
While there are, of course, a handful of Asian leading ladies, like Lucy Lui or Margaret Cho, there certainly seems to be an overall lack of representation for the demographic in general when it comes to Hollywood movies.
In fact, Crazy Rich Asians is the first non-period film released in 25 years that features an all-Asian cast, showing the lack of inclusion that exists for Asian actors and actresses in the business.
But none of this comes as a surprise to Yeoh as she was made aware early on of the struggles she might face due to her Malaysian background, as she told GQ Magazine, ““When I first came to do movies here, I remember very specifically someone said, ‘If we cast an African-American lead, there’s no way we can cast you, because we can’t have two minorities.’”
Clearly, Yeoh didn’t let her knowledge of this unfair precedent hold her back, though, as she has, and continues to take the film industry by storm.
The unexpected rom-com hit Crazy Rich Asians blew both critics and fans away as it took the number one spot opening weekend at the box office, raking in over $34 million in five days.
The film has received praise for its stunning costumes, illustrious set design, and authentic storytelling ability, in addition to the rave reviews that several of the cast’s performances have been receiving.
However, no cast member has received quite the same praise that Yeoh has for her work in the film, even generating Oscar buzz for Best Supporting Actress. Yeoh plays a disapproving matriarch who attempts to keep her son from marrying an Asian American woman that she finds to be terribly unsuitable for her son.
While many actresses may have approached the role with the often overplayed and too-typical overbearing Asian mother mentality, Yeoh adds an indescribable level of complexity, depth, and oh-so-many layers to the matriarchal character, inspiring viewers to both despise and deeply relate to the character – not an easy thing to accomplish.
Yeoh likens her character to a “dragon mom” rather than a villainess, a powerful yet compassionate creature, which she implicitly exudes on-screen.
One can only hope that the Academy will recognize Yeoh’s impeccable performance in the film by nominating her for an Oscar and giving her the recognition that she so deserves.
Have you seen Crazy Rich Asians yet, and if so, what did you think? Do you notice a lack of representation of Asian actresses in Hollywood? Share your thoughts and join the conversation below!