Michelle Yeoh won the best actress Oscar at Sunday night’s ceremony for her role as a beleaguered wife, mother and laundromat owner whose life is turned upside down when she is thrown into multiple parallel universes in A24’s genre-bending hit “Everything, Everywhere All at Once.” The victory makes her the first Asian star to win best actress in the 95-year history of the Academy Awards.
“For all the little boys and girls who look like me watching tonight, this is a beacon of hope and possibilities,” she said in accepting her award. “This is proof that dreams — dream big, and dreams do come true. And ladies, don’t let anybody tell you you are ever past your prime. Never give up.”
This was her first Oscar nomination and win after a venerated career that toggled between action-heavy roles (“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”) and performances of regal self-containment (“Crazy Rich Asians”). Tonight, she beat out Andrea Riseborough (“To Leslie”), Cate Blanchett (“Tar”), Michelle Williams (“The Fabelmans”) and Ana de Armas (“Blonde”).
Yeoh’s biggest competition came from Blanchett, who won the best actress trophy at the BAFTAs but saw her path to the winner’s circle narrow after Yeoh’s historic win at the SAG Awards, where she became the first Asian star to win the guild’s best actress prize for a film.
All season long, Yeoh has spoken of the obstacles she and other Asian performers have faced in Hollywood. After the Oscar nominations were unveiled in January, she told The Times, “Of course, I’m over the moon, but I feel a little sad because I know we know there have been amazing actresses from Asia that come before me, and I stand on their shoulders.” She added, “I hope this will shatter that frigging glass ceiling to no end, that this will continue, and we will see more of our faces up there.”
Here’s the full text of her acceptance speech on Sunday:
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 dreams — dream big, and dreams do come true. And ladies, don’t let anybody tell you you are ever past your prime. Never give up.
I wouldn’t be standing here tonight without the Daniels [directors of “Everything Everywhere”], without A24, without my amazing cast and crew, without everyone who was involved with “Everything Everywhere All at Once.” 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 will be here tonight. She’s 84. And I’m taking this home to her. She’s watching right now in Malaysia, K.L., with family and friends. I love you guys. I’m bringing this home to you. And also 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 that I can be here today. And to my godchildren, to my sisters, all of them, to my brothers. Oh God. To my family, thank you. Thank you.
Thank you to the Academy. This is history in the making. Thank you.