Michelle Yeoh became the first Malaysian and the second Asian actress to win a Best Actress Comedy/Musical Golden Globe at Tuesday night’s 80th Golden Globe Awards held at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills. She also shut down the time warning music to make sure she got all her thank you’s in.
In all, six women of Asian descent have been nominated for this category. The first woman of Asian descent to win this category was Awkwafina for “The Farewell.” Previously nominated were Machiko Kyo to the 1956 “The Teahouse of the August Moon,” Miyoshi Umeki for the 1961 “Flower Drum Song,” Japanese American hapa Yvonne Elliman for the 1973 “Jesus Christ Superstar,” Filipina American Hailee Steinfeld for the 2016 “The Edge of Seventeen,” and Constance Wu for the 2018 “Crazy Rich Asians.” Umeki was the first woman of East Asian descent to win an Oscar for acting in 1957 (“Sayonara”).
I’m just going to stand here and take this all in. Forty years. Not letting go of this. So just quickly, thank you Hollywood Foreign Press (Association) for giving me this honor. It’s been an amazing journey, an incredible fight to be here today but I think it’s been worth it.
I remember when I first came to Hollywood. It was a dream come true until I got here. (chuckles) because look at this face. I came here and was told, “You’re a minority.” And I said, “No, that’s not possible.”
And then, someone said to me, “You speak English.” I mean forget about their not knowing Korea, Japan, Malaysia, Asia, India.
I said, “Yeah, the flight here was about 13 hours long so I learned.” As time when by, I turned 60 last year, and I think all of you women understand this, the days, the years, the numbers get bigger, it seems like opportunities start to get smaller as well. I was probably at a time where I thought, “Well, hey, come on girl. You’ve had a really, really, really good run. You worked with some of the best people: Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, Danny Boyle, so it’s good. It’s alll good. Then along came the best gift: “Everything Everywhere All at Once.”
Shut up please (as music began to signal her time was up). I can beat you up and that’s serious. And I thank you A24, Leyline (Entertainment) for believing in these two goofy, insanely smart wonderful geniuses: The Daniels, who had the courage to write about a very ordinary immigrant Asian mother, daughter who was doing the worst thing–trying to do her audit. She was being audited by the IRS, by the most amazing Jamie Lee Curtis. I was given the gift of playing this woman who so deeply resonated with me and so many people. Because at the end of the day, in whatever universe she was at, she was just fighting, fighting for love, for her family. And Evelyn Wong was nobody without Ke Huy Quan‘s Waymond Wong. There was no Joy in her life without Stephanie Hsu (who played Evelyn’s daughter), the most amazing Stephanie Hsu and my hotdog lover, Jamie Lee Curtis. To Jonathan Wong, my producer, for being there with us every step of the way, my managers David Unger and Kit Wong who believed in me. And this is also for all the shoulders I stand on, all those who came before me who look like me and all those who are going with me on this journey forward. So thank you for believing in us. Thank you so much.
Backstage, Yeoh answered one question.
Q: What advice do you have specifically for the Asian diaspora who have unfulfilled dreams from different versions of themselves from different timelines and universes?
A: Hey, good evening. I hope you all are having a good time. It must be tough out here. I hope you have drinks under your chair. That’s a great question. Look at me. I mean I’ve been in the business for 40 years and finally I get to be number one on the call sheet. I think it simply goes to say it’s like if you believe in yourself, you believe and you have passion in what you do you don’t give up, right? I do believe that times are changing. There is much more inclusivity. There’s more diversity and it’s not lip service any more. Whatever that glass ceiling was, we just ninja kicked it out. You know we shattered it and we have to keep it that way. But we have enough and many extraordinary filmmakers not just in movies but also TV that are forward thinking, to understand the importance of inclusivity, the importance of diversity, the importance of telling stories about different cultures, different looks and embracing them all in the right way, simply because our audience demands it. So we are on this cusp of big change. I think the change has already started occurring. I’m just to happy that I’m still here when this change has happened, you know. I’m not in my rocking chair and go like, well, I didn’t get that chance then. So I am overwhelmed at this moment, but at least, I am here.
So I’m going t work hard that this is not just going to be the only time I’m here and for all that looks like us, we are going to move forward and find bigger and better opportunities. Thank you.
“Everything Everywhere All at Once” received six nominations, and scored two wins. Ke Huy Quan won a Best Supporting Actor, becoming the second Asian and first Vietnamese-born actor to win in that category. The first actor of Asian descent to win in this category was Dr. Haing S. Ngor for the 1984 “The Killing Fields.” There was one other win for people of Asian descent: M. M. Keeravani and Chandrabose won for Best Original Song, “Naatu Naatu” for the film “RRR.”