Michelle Yeoh Is the First Asian Woman to Win a Best Actress Oscar

The “Everything Everywhere All at Once” star is also the first woman of color to triumph in the category since Halle Berry in 2002

It turns out the Academy really liked doing laundry and taxes with “Everything Everywhere All at Once” star Michelle Yeoh, who completed her recent sweep of best actress prizes with a thunderous, history-making win at the 95th Oscars for Best Actress in a Leading Role. She is the first-ever lead actress of Asian descent to win in all 95 years of the Academy Awards.

Yeoh, a titan of Asian cinema who famously performed a number of stunts in death-defying action classics such as “Supercop” and “Yes, Madam” before finding her way into the Bond movie “Tomorrow Never Dies,” the Ang Lee classic “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” “Memoirs of a Geisha,” and “Crazy Rich Asians.” She is a beloved industry legend and the Daniels wrote the role of Evelyn Wang in “Everything Everywhere All at Once” especially for her.

During her time on the awards campaign trail, she has been vocal about the challenges of finding three-dimensional roles in Hollywood throughout her career. Ever the boundary-breaker, she will soon add musicals to her filmography: She plays Madame Morrible in Jon M. Chu’s upcoming big-screen adaptation of “Wicked.”

Merle Oberon, a mixed raced actress born in India who came up in the Golden Age of Hollywood, is the first woman of Asian descent to receive an Oscar nomination, for 1935’s “The Dark Angel.” But fears of the industry ostracizing her led her to conceal her heritage for a great deal of her career.

The last woman of color to win the Oscar for Leading Actress was Halle Berry in 2002, for “Monster’s Ball.” (It was a historic night during which she and “Training Day” Best Actor winner Denzel Washington became the first Black leading actor co-winners ever.) Yeoh’s win continues a growing embrace of Asian stories by the Academy, as she joins recent winners such as “Parasite” writer-producer-director Bong Joon-ho, “Minari” actress Youn Yuh-jung and just this evening, Ke Huy Quan, who won Supporting Actor for his portrayal of Evelyn’s husband Waymond.