The 95th Academy Awards were a major night for Asian representation on the silver screen with a series of milestones, including the first Asian woman to take a best actress gong and the first ever Oscar wins for Indian productions.
Michelle Yeoh made history with her role as Evelyn Quan Wang in “Everything Everywhere All At Once,” which dominated by taking home a total of seven awards, including the Oscar for best picture and best supporting actor for co-star Ke Huy Quan.
Telegu-language historical fantasy film “RRR” became the first Indian feature film to win an Oscar with “Naatu Naatu” taking home the award for best original song.
And India also won another Oscar this year, with the award for best documentary short film going to “The Elephant Whisperers.”
‘Bringing this home’
Yeoh’s win makes her the first woman of Asian descent to win an Oscar for best actress and the second woman of color to receive the award. Actress Halle Berry, the only other woman of color to receive the best actress award, presented Yeoh with the Oscar.
She is also the first person of Asian descent to win in a lead acting category, the fifth person of Asian descent to win in any acting category and the first actress to win for portraying a Mandarin Chinese and Cantonese-speaking character.
The historical significance was not lost on Yeoh as she gave an impassioned and defiant acceptance speech.
“For all the little boys and girls who look like me watching tonight, this is a beacon of hope and possibilities,” she said holding her statue aloft.
Yeoh dedicated her award to her 84-year-old mother.
“I’m taking this home to her. She’s watching right now in Malaysia, KL, with my family and friends. I love you guys. I’m bringing this home to you,” she said.
Yeoh also thanked her “extended family in Hong Kong,” for “letting me stand on your shoulders, giving me a leg up so that I could be here today.”
Born in Ipoh, Malaysia, the actress got her start in a series of Hong Kong action films.
She rose to international fame after starring in the 1997 James Bond movie “Tomorrow Never Dies” and Ang Lee’s Oscar-winning “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” in 2000.
Recently, she gained additional prominence for her roles in “Crazy Rich Asians” and Marvel’s “Shang-Chi,” but “Everything Everywhere All at Once” was her first Oscar nomination.
Stunt director Jacky Yeung, 58, who worked with Yeoh on “Tomorrow Never Dies,” told CNN she was particularly tenacious.
“One time, she was so tired she could no longer raise her leg. So she got a masseur in to massage her so that she could do the kick for the scene, but then she was in pain for the rest of the day,” he recalled.
“She is no other ordinary girl,” Yeung added.
Dorothy Lau, who specializes in film studies at Baptist University, home to one of Hong Kong’s top media schools, called Yeoh’s victory “very significant.”
“It’s a celebration for Asian actors and actresses battling for their presence in Hollywood,” she told CNN.
Yeoh was among four Asian actors nominated for Oscars this year, the most ever.
Her “Everything Everywhere All at Once” costar, Ke Huy Quan, also won the Oscar for best supporting actor, and, like Yeoh, became the first actor to win an Oscar for portraying a Mandarin Chinese and Cantonese-speaking character.
In his own emotion-filled acceptance speech, the former child star, who for years worked behind the camera after roles for him dried up, recalled his remarkable path to the silver screen.
“My journey started on a boat. I spent a year in a refugee camp and somehow