KUALA LUMPUR— Family and friends of Malaysia’s Michelle Yeoh responded with screams, jubilation and pride on Monday at her winning the Academy Award for best lead actress, Asia’s first ever winner in the category.
There were ecstatic roars and fist-pumps as her triumph was announced at an Oscars viewing party in Malaysia’s capital Kuala Lumpur, with all eyes on her surprised and delighted mother, Janet Yeoh.
“She’s a very hardworking girl, you know. Everybody knows it,” she told a news conference afterwards, in front of a poster of her daughter that said “Pride of Malaysia”.
The actress’s niece, Vicki Yeoh, looked equally stunned as the announcement was made, clutching her face and letting out a huge scream as the tears welled up.
“Jaw dropping moment … I was speechless I cried, it happened so quickly and we are so happy that she won, that our auntie won,” she said.
Yeoh, 60, won the award for her portrayal of a Chinese American laundromat owner Evelyn Wang, dealing with family turmoil in the science-fiction kung fu comedy “Everything Everywhere All at Once”.
It was Yeoh’s first Oscar nomination and she had been widely regarded as the front-runner.
Yeoh made her Hollywood breakthrough when she was cast as the first ethnic Chinese Bond girl in 1997’s “Tomorrow Never Dies” opposite Pierce Brosnan. She has also starred in martial arts movie “Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon,” the 2005 period drama “Memoirs of a Geisha” and the 2018 romantic comedy “Crazy Rich Asians”.
Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim lauded Yeoh’s success and said her career was illustrious and exemplary and would continue to inspire Malaysians.
“In creating history by being not just the first Malaysian but the very first Asian actress to win in this category, we take enormous pride in her achievement, adding to a long list of successes and capping a critically acclaimed acting career spanning decades,” Anwar said in a statement on his Facebook page.
Family friend Derrick Lee described her as an inspiration.
“The efforts that she put in for this film is extraordinary,” he said at the party.
—Reporting by Ebrahim Harris; Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Robert Birsel