On Tuesday, the 60-year-old screen legend became the first actress of Asian descent to be nominated for Best Actress at the 2023 Oscars. The prestigious nod is for her critically acclaimed performance as laundromat owner and multiverse jumper Evelyn Wang in A24's Everything Everywhere All at Once, which has already earned her Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy at the 2023 Golden Globes.
Despite Merle Oberon being nominated in 1939 for her role in The Dark Angel, the India-born actress purposefully hid her heritage, meaning that the Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon star is the first self-identifying Asian woman to earn a leading actress nomination after 95 years. Not only that, but Yeoh's nomination is made even more significant given the well-documented dearth of on-screen Asian representation, with the very few examples that do exist being ridden with stereotypes and yellowface.
So even though on-screen Asian representation (especially when it comes to non-East Asians) still has a long way to go, Everything Everywhere All at Once will likely be a game-changer. After all, the film has dominated this year's awards circuit and Oscars are no exception, leading the pack with 11 total nominations, including for Best Picture, with Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan also up for Best Director. Meanwhile, Ke Huy Quan — who also won the Golden Globe and Critics Choice Award for his performance as Waymond Wang — is the current frontrunner for Best Supporting Actor, and both Jamie Lee Curtis and Stephanie Hsu have earned individual nods for Best Supporting Actress.
On the heels of the announcement, Yeoh told Deadline that she sees the nomination as a larger victory, saying that "you tell stories because it’s important for that story to be told" before adding that there's a "need for our Asians to turn around and say, ‘We need this,’ because it just validates that we deserve to have a seat at the table, and we deserve to be part of all this.”
"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," she said. "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."
Yeoh added, "All they have to do is find an opportunity and get there."
You can see all the nominations for the 2023 Oscars here.
Photo via Getty / Jamie McCarthy
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