Here’s how actress Michelle Yeoh scored a big “first.” (Credit: Rita Molnár, Wikimedia Commons)

The 2023 Oscar nominations are out, and buzzed-about star Michelle Yeoh made the Best Actress list. She also made history in the process.

Yeoh is now the first Asian-American actress who identifies as such ever to receive a Best Actress nod – in the 95-year history of the Academy Awards. (It’s an important distinction – Indian actress Merle Oberon is the first Asian-American actress to receive this nomination, in 1935. But due to the prejudices of studios at the time, she was forced to hide her true identity, and presented herself as white at the time.)

Yeoh garnered the nomination for her starring role in “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” a time-bending sci-fi drama that saw Yeoh playing numerous incarnations of the same woman.


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The Best Actress category has consistently failed to honor women of color in years past, more so than any other category, The Hollywood Reporter found.

The Oscars have traditionally overlooked Asian actresses in general, though. This year, Hong Chau, who starred in acclaimed drama “The Whale,” earned a Best Supporting Actress nomination, making this year “the first time two Asian actresses nominated in any acting category,” sociologist Nancy Wang Yuen noted in a tweet. “If Michelle Yeoh … wins Best Actress, she’d be the first Asian [woman] and second” woman of color ever to do so (after Halle Berry earned the award in 2002 for her work in “Monster’s Ball.”)

When Yeoh recently won the 2023 Golden Globe for Best Actress, she spoke about Hollywood’s persistent representation problems in her speech. “When I first came to Hollywood, it was a dream come true — until I got here,” she recalled while accepting the award. “I came here and was told, ‘You’re a minority.’”

Born in Malaysia, Yeoh was a successful actress in Hong Kong for years, before finding international success. She’s been a respected Hollywood presence following supporting-but-standout turns in films like Oscars favorite “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” hit rom-com “Crazy Rich Asians” and late-90s James Bond film “Tomorrow Never Dies.”

Fans are thrilled that she’s receiving such high-profile recognition, at long last. As one Twitter user summarized it: “Mother deserves!!!!!!!”


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